New evidence: Neandertals buried their dead


Graphic: Examining content from the 1970s excavations at the Musée d’archéologie nationale, France. 1000’s of bone stays were sorted and 47 new fossil continues to be belonging to the Neandertal kid ‘La Ferrassie…
view more 

Credit: © Antoine Balzeau – CNRS/MNHN

Was burial of the dead practiced by Neandertals or is it an innovation distinct to our species? There are indications in favour of the very first hypothesis but some researchers remain sceptical. For the to start with time in Europe, nevertheless, a multi-disciplinary team led by researchers at the CNRS and the Muséum countrywide d’histoire naturelle (France) and the University of the Basque Nation (Spain) (1) has demonstrated, employing a range of requirements, that a Neandertal little one was buried, probably about 41,000 many years ago, at the Ferrassie website (Dordogne). Their analyze is printed in the journal Scientific Studies on 9th December 2020.

Dozens of buried Neandertal skeletons have been found out in Eurasia, leading some scientists to deduce that, like us, Neandertals buried their useless. Other gurus have been sceptical, having said that, supplied that the vast majority of the ideal-preserved skeletons, discovered at the commencing of the 20th century, have been not excavated using modern archaeological procedures.

It is inside of this framework that an intercontinental team (1) led by paleoanthropologists Antoine Balzeau (CNRS and Muséum countrywide d’histoire naturelle, France) and Asier Gómez-Olivencia (College of the Basque Country, Spain), analysed a human skeleton from 1 of the most famed Neandertal web pages in France: the La Ferrassie rock shelter, Dordogne. Immediately after six Neandertal skeletons had been identified at the starting of the 20th century, the web-site shipped a seventh concerning 1970 and 1973, belonging to a boy or girl of about two several years old. For practically half a century, the collections connected with this specimen remained unexploited in the archives of the Musée d’archéologie nationale.

Not too long ago, a multidisciplinary workforce, assembled by the two researchers, reopened the excavation notebooks and reviewed the materials, revealing 47 new human bones not determined in the course of excavation and without doubt belonging to the identical skeleton. The scientists also carried out a extensive evaluation of the bones: state of preservation, research of proteins, genetics, dating, and so on. They returned to La Ferrassie in the hope of finding further fragments of the skeleton although no new bones were found, employing the notebooks of their predecessors, they were being capable to reconstruct and interpret the spatial distribution of the human remains and the uncommon linked animal bones.

The researchers showed that the skeleton experienced been buried in a sedimentary layer which inclined to the west (the head, to the east, was increased than the pelvis), when the other stratigraphic layers of the site inclined to the north-east. The bones, which have been reasonably unscattered, experienced remained in their anatomical place. Their preservation, better than that of the bison and other herbivores found in the exact same stratum, suggests a swift burial soon after dying. Furthermore, the contents of this layer proved to be before than the surrounding sediment (2). Eventually, a little bone, determined as human by the proteins and as Neandertal by its mitochondrial DNA, was straight dated working with carbon-14. At all around 41,000 several years previous, this can make it one of the most latest right dated Neandertal continues to be.

This new information proves that the human body of this two-calendar year-outdated Neandertal kid was purposefully deposited in a pit dug in a sedimentary layer close to 41,000 years in the past having said that, even further discoveries will be vital to fully grasp the chronology and geographical extension of Neandertal burial practices.



(1) The other contributors to this analyze perform at the Institut de recherche sur les archéomatériaux – Centre de recherche en physique appliquée à l’archéologie (CNRS/Université Bordeaux Montaigne), the Géosciences Rennes laboratory (CNRS/Université Rennes 1), De la Préhistoire à l’actuel : lifestyle, environnement et anthropologie laboratory (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Ministère de la Culture), the Musée d’archéologie nationale and the Musée national de Préhistoire des Eyzies-de-Tayac in France at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany at the College of Bologna in Italy at the College of Copenhagen in Denmark.&#13

(2) Dated by thermoluminescence. The outcome suggests how long it is since the sediment past noticed light-weight and for that reason the date of the burial.&#13

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of information releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing establishments or for the use of any info through the EurekAlert system.