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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ancient cave art with Mounted Hunter

Ancient cave art discovered in Somaliland
by Sean McLachlan (RSS feed) on Sep 18th 2010 at 11:00AM

Somaliland is little-known as an adventure travel destination. The breakaway region of northern Somalia isn't even recognized as a nation, but traveling in Somaliland I found it to be a fascinating and friendly country. Its biggest draw for visitors is the well-preserved cave art at Laas Geel, shown above.

Now Somaliland has even more ancient attractions with the announcement that archaeologist Dr. Sada Mire has discovered rock art at almost a hundred more sites in Somaliland. The Somali-born archaeologist says the paintings date to various periods from two to five thousand years ago. Images include animals, the moon in various phases, and a remarkable four-thousand-year-old depiction of a mounted hunter.

Ten of the sites are so outstanding that they'll be candidates for UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list. Her findings will appear in the next issue of Current World Archaeology.

I met Dr. Mire last year in London, and while she was anxious to promote archaeological tourism to her country, she warned that a lack of funding and education meant ancient sites such as Laas Geel were under threat. Perhaps her spectacular finds will encourage UNESCO and other organizations to take an interest in Somaliland and help foster a sustainable tourism that will be protect and showcase the caves.Source

5000 year old navigation system discovered

5000 year old navigation system discovered
by Kraig Becker (RSS feed) on Sep 15th 2009 at 11:30AM

A primitive, yet highly effective, navigation system was used by ancient man to navigate their way across England and Wales historians claim, proving once again that ancient civilizations were far more sophisticated in their approach to engineering than was once thought.

According to this story from the Daily Mail, the 5000 year old "sat nav" system used stone monuments, often erected atop high hills, to point the way to similar points, sometimes as far as 100 miles away. This intricate network of stone monoliths, which includes Stonehenge, created a system that would allow ancient travelers to navigate across long distances with an accuracy of within 100 meters.

British Historian Tom Brooks used modern GPS systems to examine more than 1500 historical sites, and his findings were astounding. Each of the sites was connected to one another by vast geometric grid made of of isosceles triangles, in which each triangle has two sides of the same length, and pointed to the next settlement, thus allowing for simple and effective navigation across the landscape.

If Brook's assertion that the system was created over 5000 years ago is correct, the use of geometry predates that of the Greeks, who were thought to have discovered that branch of mathematics. He also claims that it is the "world's biggest civil engineering project" as well.

The implications of this theory are very interesting, and it does help to explain what the purpose of sites such as Stonehenge were used for, although their method of construction still remains a mystery. This is a fascinating story of how prehistoric man may have found their way across long distances.Source

Stonehenge burial may be prehistoric tourist

Stonehenge burial may be prehistoric tourist
by Sean McLachlan (RSS feed) on Sep 29th 2010 at 11:30AM

Archaeologists call him the "Boy with the Amber Necklace", and ever since he was discovered in 2005 they've known he was special. Not only would his jewelry have been rare and expensive back when he was buried 3,550 years ago, but the choice of his grave site was significant too--just three miles from Stonehenge.

Now chemical analysis on his teeth has revealed something else special about him--he isn't from England at all, but from the Mediterranean. Tooth enamel forms in early childhood and retains oxygen and strontium. Different isotopes of these elements are found in different ecozones and regions, and show where an individual grew up. When scientists analyzed the teeth of the Boy with the Amber Necklace, they found he'd grown up around the Mediterranean. The "boy" was actually about fourteen or fifteen years old, and it's unclear exactly why he came to southern England and the sacred site of Stonehenge.

This isn't the first time a burial near Stonehenge has turned out to be from somewhere else. The "Amesbury Archer", a grown man buried with some of the oldest gold and copper artifacts ever found in the UK, grew up in the foothills of the German Alps some 4,300 years ago.

So were these prehistoric tourists? Well, more like prehistoric pilgrims, or perhaps immigrants coming to work at one of the most sacred and dynamic places in the prehistoric world. People often assume international travel is a new thing, starting in the age of luxury liners and really getting going when international flights became cheap, yet daring individuals and groups have been making long journeys for thousand of years. The Boy with the Amber Necklace and the Amesbury Archer could have taken boats along the coastline and rivers, and would have had to do a lot of walking too. They may have been helped along by a simple yet effective prehistoric navigation system. In the days when the waters teemed with fish and not plastic, and the forests were filled with wildlife and berries instead of discarded soda cans, the trip wouldn't have been as hard as we think.

Neanderthals Made Own Tools

September 27, 2010
Neanderthals’ Tools Were Their Own Work

Neanderthals living in southern Italy 42,000 years ago developed bone
and stone tools, decorative ornaments and pigments on their own, not
through interactions with Homo sapiens, according to Julien Riel-
Salvatore, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Until now, tools and ornaments used by Neanderthals were thought to
have come about because of contact with the species that replaced
them. But Dr. Riel-Salvatore said his paper in the Journal of
Archaeological Method and Theory “counters the persistent idea about
Neanderthals and shows that they were really able to innovate.” Dr.
Riel-Salvatore spent several years studying artifacts from Neanderthal
communities in southern and central Italy as well as human artifacts
from the same time period in northern Italy.

Humans in northern Italy developed a diverse set of tools unique from
those found in the Neanderthal community of southern Italy.

Meanwhile, Neanderthals in central Italy used the same large,
primitive stone tools for 100,000 years, taking no inspiration from
their neighbors to the north or south, Dr. Riel-Salvatore said

“If humans introduced tools to southern Italy, you would have found
these new tools in central Italy first; that would be the natural
geographic progression,” he said.

Because Neanderthals in central Italy were so primitive, it is likely
that the innovations in the north and south occurred independently, he

Until recently, it was also unclear whether Neanderthals and humans
interbred, but earlier this year, researchers determined that
Neanderthals mated with some modern humans.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hyenas, Cave Bears, and Hunter-Gatherer Mobility

Neandertals, Hyenas Fought for Caves, Food, Study Says
Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
May 3, 2005
Neandertals not only fought for their lives against hyenas and other large predators but also battled with them for caves and food.

That's the conclusion drawn by scientists who found a 41,000-year-old Neandertal leg bone in a European cave littered with bones. The bones had been gnawed on by large carnivores or showed the cut marks of stone tools—or both.

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The debris provides evidence that Neandertals (also spelled Neanderthals) and large carnivores, mostly hyenas, both used the Les Rochers-de-Villeneuve cave in central western France for shelter.

"The Neandertals and large carnivores occupied the cave in rapid succession," said Erik Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "We have the bones of herbivores like bison and deer being chewed or processed by both Neandertals and hyenas, and they're both only going to do that if the meat is reasonably fresh, and if there's still something on there to get off."

"We have this idea that once humans became reasonably successful as hunters that they walked with impunity on the landscape, and that's just not so," Trinkaus said. "I'm not saying they were having fights at the mouths of caves with the hyenas, but I'm sure there were plenty of times when the hyenas came and, not being stupid, the Neandertals said 'see ya later, guys.'"

The human femur found in the cave had been gnawed on, probably by hyenas, but there is no way of knowing whether the Neandertal was a victim of the hyenas, or a human body that the hyenas scavenged.

"Any time during the middle Paleolithic and even the upper Paleolithic (time periods), when humans aren't living in caves, there's some kind of cave predator living in there; either cave bear or cave hyena or something," said Fred Smith, a paleontologist at Loyola University Chicago. "I'm sure that Neanderthals and hyenas would have competed for good cave sites."

Around 40,000 to 35,000 years ago, Neandertals and modern humans were beginning to dominate the landscape.

"Once you get well into the upper Paleolithic, you'll find that there's a clear separation in most cases of human debris and the debris from carnivores [animals that eat only meat]," Trinkaus said.

Biology of the Femur

The newfound thighbone may also reveal more than the struggle between Neandertals and carnivores during the middle Paleolithic period (100,000 to 40,000 years ago). According to the researchers, the femur shows signs that Neandertals made some surprising advances prior to the arrival of modern humans in Europe.

"On the one hand, the Neandertals are still competing, and not all that effectively, with large carnivores for space and resources," Trinkaus said. "On the other hand, we're starting to see evidence of changes in their behavioral pattern that are taking place within the late middle Paleolithic being reflected in their biology."Source

Neanderthals Had Now division of Labor Among Sexes?

Sex-Based Roles Gave Modern Humans an Edge, Study Says
Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
December 7, 2006
A division of labor according to sex and age gave modern humans an advantage over Neandertals, a new study says.

The emergence of "female labor roles" played an important role in human evolutionary history, because it allowed early-human hunter-gatherer societies to draw on more food resources and live in larger communities, researchers say.

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The Genographic Project
Neandertals Turned to Cannibalism, Bone Cave Suggests (December 5, 2006)
Neandertals, Modern Humans Interbred, Bone Study Suggests (October 30, 2006)
It may help explain why the Neandertals (also spelled "Neanderthals"), who occupied Europe until modern humans arrived some 45,000 years ago, went extinct.

"The competitive advantage enjoyed by modern humans came not just from new weapons and devices but from the ways in which their economic lives were organized around … roles for men, women, and children," said Steven Kuhn, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Kuhn co-authored the study with University of Arizona colleague Mary Stiner. It appears in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology.

Out of Africa

Some research has suggested that the practice of dividing labor according to sex dates back as far as two million years.

But the new study suggests the changes didn't occur until the upper Paleolithic period, which lasted from about 45,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago.

"We argue that the typical patterns of labor division emerged relatively recently in human evolutionary history," Kuhn said.

At sites dating back to the upper Paleolithic, researchers have found evidence of an emergence of skill-intensive crafts, such as bone awls and needles used to make clothes. They have also found small animal and bird remains.

As in hunter-gatherer societies of the recent past, men likely hunted large animals while women gathered small game and plants, enabling a more efficient use of available food sources.

When small game and plant foods were scarce, women and older children were often involved in other vital activities, such as producing clothing and shelter.

Human Killed this Neanderthal?

Human Likely Killed Neanderthal, Weapons Test Shows
Ker Than
for National Geographic News
July 22, 2009
A Neanderthal man who lived as recently as 50,000 years ago may have been killed by a modern human armed with an advanced projectile weapon, a new study suggests.

If confirmed, the Paleolithic "murder" would be the first compelling case for an anatomically modern human using a weapon against a member of the extinct human species.

The Neanderthal, dubbed Shanidar 3, was discovered in an Iraqi cave in 1959. His remains show that he likely died of a clean wound to his left side that nicked one rib but left the others relatively unharmed.

"People have been speculating about this injury for about 50 years," said study leader Steven Churchill of Duke University in North Carolina.

Experts have suggested that the Neanderthal may have fallen on his own spear, been fatally poked by a fellow hunter—or been killed by a projectile weapon, which only modern humans were known to use.

CSI: Paleolithic

To test these theories, Churchill and his team used a crossbow that could be calibrated to create different kinds of injuries in pig carcasses, which have body structures similar to humans'.

The team then examined the wounds created by the equivalent of a thrusted spear and one thrown from a distance using an ancient projectile weapon.

"When we replicated the lower energies involved with projectile weapons, we tended to get the nice clean incisions that we see in Shanidar," Churchill explained.

By contrast, "injuries caused by a thrusting spear usually involved at least two ribs, and there was massive collateral damage."

Also, whatever nicked the Neanderthal's rib entered the body at a 45-degree downward angle, which is consistent with the curved "ballistic trajectory" of a thrown weapon, Churchill said.

Better Date Needed

Shanidar 3 is one of only two known Neanderthal skeletons bearing evidence of a weapons-related death.

The other remains, found in France, date back to around 36,000 years ago and show a skull injury caused by a stone tool. But it's less clear whether the weapon that caused the blow was a thrown projectile, Churchill said.

Better dating of Shanidar 3's remains could further bolster that case for an interspecies murder.

Age estimates for the Neanderthal's remains range from 50,000 to 75,000 years ago. Modern humans are thought to have spread from Africa into what is now Iraq around 50,000 years ago.

"If Shanidar 3 is as young as 50,000 years old," Churchill said, "he's in the right time period" to have had contact with modern humans.

Findings appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.Source

Red Haired Pale Skin Neanderthals

Some Neandertals Were Pale Redheads, DNA Suggests
Brian Handywerk
for National Geographic News
October 25, 2007
Some Neandertals may have had red hair and pale skin, just as some modern humans do, according to a new genetic study.

The traits were likely more common in European Neandertals (often spelled Neanderthals), just as they are often seen in modern humans of European descent.

"I am quite sure this variant arose like the red hair variants in modern Europeans," said the study's lead author Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the University of Barcelona.

In the cases of both Neandertals and modern Europeans, he said, the gene mutation that caused fairer complexions spread only after the respective populations migrated from Africa.

Gene Keys Complexion Change

While studying Neandertal DNA samples, Lalueza-Fox's team found an unknown mutation in a key gene called MC1R.

Also present in modern humans, the gene regulates a protein that guides the production of melanin, which pigments hair and skin and protects from UV rays.

Variations in this gene's sequence limit melanin production in people with pale skin and red hair, although the particular mutation found by the researchers is not known to occur in modern humans.

The team tested the gene in living cells to see what effect the previously unknown variant would have had on the Neandertals who carried it. The test tube experiment showed that the variant suppressed the production of melanin, and thus likely gave the Neandertals who carried it red hair and pale skin.

Although it is not easy to find intact DNA from 230,000 to 30,000 years ago, Lalueza-Fox and his colleagues were able to study two separate samples unearthed in Italy and Spain.

The study was published today by the journal Science.

Skin Changes Similar in Humans, NeandertalsMore

Volcanoes Killed Neanderthal?

Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published September 22, 2010

Catastrophic volcanic eruptions in Europe may have culled Neanderthals to the point where they couldn't bounce back, according to a controversial new theory.

Modern humans, though, squeaked by, thanks to fallback populations in Africa and Asia, researchers say.

About 40,000 years ago in what we now call Italy and the Caucasus Mountains, which straddle Europe and Asia, several volcanoes erupted in quick succession, according to a new study to be published in the October issue of the journal Current Anthropology.

It's likely the eruptions reduced or wiped out local bands of Neanderthals and indirectly affected farther-flung populations, the team concluded after analyzing pollen and ash from the affected area. (See volcano pictures.)

The researchers examined sediments layer from around 40,000 years ago in Russia's Mezmaiskaya Cave and found that the more volcanic ash a layer had, the less plant pollen it contained.

"We tested all the layers for this volcanic ash signature. The most volcanic-ash-rich layer"—likely corresponding to the so-called Campanian Ignimbrite eruption, which occurred near Naples (map)—"had no [tree] pollen and very little pollen from other types of plants," said study team member Naomi Cleghorn. "It's just a sterile layer."

The loss of plants would have led to a decline in plant-eating mammals, which in turn would have affected the Neanderthals, who hunted large mammals for food.

"This idea of an environmental cause for the Neanderthals' demise has been out in the literature. What we're trying to do is point out a specific mechanism," said Cleghorn, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, Arlington.

Other theories propose that modern humans played a vital role in the fall of the Neanderthals, either through competition, warfare, or interbreeding. (See "Neanderthals, Humans Interbred—First Solid DNA Evidence.")

If the volcanoes theory is correct, the Neanderthals' end was much more tragic: dying slowly in a cold and desolate landscape bereft of food sources.

"It's hard to say what it would have been like to be the last few groups out there, seeing other groups less and less over the years," Cleghorn said.

(See pictures of a reconstructed Neanderthal and take a Neanderthals quiz.)

Uniquely Powerful Eruption

The Neanderthals were a hardy species that lived through multiple ice ages and would have been familiar with volcanoes and other natural calamities. But the eruptions 40,000 years ago were unlike anything Neanderthals had faced before, Cleghorn and company say.

For one thing, all the volcanoes apparently erupted around the same time. And one of those blasts, the Campanian Ignimbrite, is thought to have been the most powerful eruption in Europe in the last 200,000 years.

"It's much easier to adapt to something that's happening over a couple of generations," Cleghorn said. "You can move around, you can find other places to live, and your population can rebound.

"This is not that kind of event," she said. "This is unique."

(Related: "Climate Change Killed Neanderthals, Study Says.")

Neanderthals Had Short Bench?

There may also have been small bands of Homo sapiens living in Europe at the time, Cleghorn said. They too would have been affected by the eruptions.

But modern humans likely avoided extinction because they had larger populations in Africa and Asia, she said, while most Neanderthals were in Europe around this time. (Related: "Neanderthals Ranged Much Farther East Than Thought.")

"With their small population groups, Neanderthals did not really have a great source population," Cleghorn said.

"They didn't really have the numbers and the density" to rebuild their populations after the eruptions.

"Not Convinced" by Volcanoes Theory

The researchers acknowledge that there are gaps in the volcanoes theory. For instance, the time line needs to be better defined—did the volcanic eruptions occur in a period of months, years, or decades?

"At this point, it's impossible to pin down a reliable date" for the eruptions, Cleghorn said. "We can't say, This eruption happened 50 years before the next eruption. We just don't have that kind of resolution."

It's also unknown exactly how long it took the Neanderthals to die out—or how long after the eruptions modern humans began settling Europe in force, she said.

Anthropologist John Hoffecker, though, suggests that modern humans had already begun crowding out Neanderthals in Europe long before the eruptions in question.

Judging from discoveries of modern-human artifacts in former Neanderthal strongholds, Hoffecker said, "Neanderthals were clearly in trouble well before 40,000 years ago, because modern humans were occupying certain places, such as Italy, where Neanderthals had been present. So something clearly had gone wrong there."

Perhaps, he added, the volcanic eruptions just dealt the final blow.

"I'm not entirely convinced that's the case either," said Hoffecker, of the University of Colorado. "But at least that's a plausible scenario that's consistent with the chronology."

Study co-author Cleghorn counters that the modern human populations living in Europe 40,000 years ago were small and isolated, and only after the Neanderthals were gone did Homo sapiens populations explode.

"If modern humans were making any forays into European Neanderthal territory prior to this, they were doing it only on the very margins," Cleghorn said.

"What was keeping them from moving very quickly into the heart of Europe? We think Neanderthals were still holding their own and might have held out for much longer, if it hadn't been for the devastating impact of these eruptions."Article

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hunting Weapons of Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans in South Africa: Similarities and Differences

Hunting Weapons of Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans in South
Africa: Similarities and Differences
Paola Villa, Sylvain Soriano. Journal of Anthropological Research.
Albuquerque: Spring 2010. Vol. 66, Iss. 1; pg. 1
Abstract (Summary)
Recent research has shown that Neanderthals were not inferior hunters
and that their hunting weapons were similar to those used by broadly
contemporaneous early modern human populations of South Africa. The
oldest known spears are from the site of Schoningen, Germany (about
350-300 kya). However, the hunting equipment of Neanderthals was not
limited to simple wooden spears. In western Europe, lithic spear
points date as far back as Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6 (ca. 185-130
kya) and are documented from four sites. In South Africa, four Upper
Pleistocene Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites (from 75 to 38 kya) have
provided assemblages of unifacial and foliate points comparable in
shape and hafting position to the European ones. Both kinds of
assemblages indicate the use of hand-delivered spears. The backed
pieces of Howiesons Poort (65 to 59 kya) are a type of composite
weapon armature that has no equivalent in the Neanderthal hunting
equipment, at least until the Chatelperronian (35 kya). The smaller
pieces are suggested to have been used as transverse arrowheads. Based
on detailed technological, morphometric, and impact scar analyses of
backed pieces from Klasies River Main Site Cave 1A, Sibudu, and Rose
Cottage, we suggest instead that the backed pieces were an innovative
way of hafting spears but are not evidence of the invention of bows
and arrows. Stronger evidence for the use of bows and arrows seems to
occur only about 20,000 years later, in South Africa and in the Near

Neanderthals More Advanced Than Previously Thought: They Innovated, Adapted Like Modern Humans, Research Shows

Neanderthals More Advanced Than Previously Thought: They Innovated,
Adapted Like Modern Humans, Research Shows

Model of Neanderthal man. (Credit: iStockphoto/Klaus Nilkens)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2010) — For decades scientists believed
Neanderthals developed `modern' tools and ornaments solely through
contact with Homo sapiens, but new research from the University of
Colorado Denver now shows these sturdy ancients could adapt, innovate
and evolve technology on their own.

The findings by anthropologist Julien Riel-Salvatore challenge a half-
century of conventional wisdom maintaining that Neanderthals were
thick-skulled, primitive `cavemen' overrun and outcompeted by more
advanced modern humans arriving in Europe from Africa.

"Basically, I am rehabilitating Neanderthals," said Riel-Salvatore,
assistant professor of anthropology at UC Denver. "They were far more
resourceful than we have given them credit for."

His research, to be published in December's Journal of Archaeological
Method and Theory, was based on seven years of studying Neanderthal
sites throughout Italy, with special focus on the vanished Uluzzian

About 42,000 years ago, the Aurignacian culture, attributed to modern
Homo sapiens, appeared in northern Italy while central Italy continued
to be occupied by Neanderthals of the Mousterian culture which had
been around for at least 100,000 years. At this time a new culture
arose in the south, one also thought to be created by Neanderthals.
They were the Uluzzian and they were very different.

Riel-Salvatore identified projectile points, ochre, bone tools,
ornaments and possible evidence of fishing and small game hunting at
Uluzzian archeological sites throughout southern Italy. Such
innovations are not traditionally associated with Neanderthals,
strongly suggesting that they evolved independently, possibly due to
dramatic changes in climate. More importantly, they emerged in an area
geographically separated from modern humans.

"My conclusion is that if the Uluzzian is a Neanderthal culture it
suggests that contacts with modern humans are not necessary to explain
the origin of this new behavior. This stands in contrast to the ideas
of the past 50 years that Neanderthals had to be acculturated to
humans to come up with this technology," he said. "When we show
Neanderthals could innovate on their own it casts them in a new light.
It `humanizes' them if you will."

Thousands of years ago, southern Italy experienced a shift in climate,
becoming increasingly open and arid, said Riel-Salvatore. Neanderthals
living there faced a stark choice of adapting or dying out. The
evidence suggests they began using darts or arrows to hunt smaller
game to supplement the increasingly scarce larger mammals they
traditionally hunted.

"The fact that Neanderthals could adapt to new conditions and innovate
shows they are culturally similar to us," he said. "Biologically they
are also similar. I believe they were a subspecies of human but not a
different species."

The powerfully built Neanderthals were first discovered in Germany's
Neander Valley in 1856. Exactly who they were, how they lived and why
they vanished remains unclear.

Research shows they contributed between 1 and 4 percent of their
genetic material to the people of Asia and Europe. Riel-Salvatore
rejects the theory that they were exterminated by modern humans. Homo
sapiens might simply have existed in larger groups and had slightly
higher birthrates, he said.

"It is likely that Neanderthals were absorbed by modern humans," he
said. "My research suggests that they were a different kind of human,
but humans nonetheless. We are more brothers than distant cousins."

Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory
DOI: 10.1007/s10816-010-9093-9Online First™
A Niche Construction Perspective on the Middle–Upper Paleolithic
Transition in Italy

Julien Riel-Salvatore

This paper presents an overview of the Middle–Upper Paleolithic
transition in Italy in light of recent research on the Uluzzian
technocomplex and on the paleoecological context of the transition.
Drawing on the realization that human niche construction can be
documented in the pre-agricultural archaeological record, niche
construction theory is used as a conceptual framework to tie together
facets of the behavioral, biological, and ecological dimensions of the
transition interval into formal models of their interaction over time
and in diverse contexts. Ultimately, this effort shows how foragers of
the transitional interval in the Italian peninsula were active agents
in shaping their evolutionary history, with consequences of some
adaptive systems being felt only much later and directing the forces
responsible for the ultimate disappearance of the Mousterian and
Uluzzian technocomplexes in favor of the proto-Aurignacian industry,
the exact nature of which clearly appears to vary on a regional level.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early man 'butchered and ate the brains of children as part of everyday diet'

Early man 'butchered and ate the brains of children as part of everyday diet'

By Niall Firth
Last updated at 3:50 PM on 1st September 2010

A model of a homo antecessor female scooping out the brains of human head

A model of a homo antecessor female scooping out the brains of human head

Early cavemen in Europe ate human meat as part of their everyday diet, new research suggests.

A new study of fossil bones in Spain shows that cannibalism was a normal part of daily life around 800,000 years ago among Europe’s first humans.

Bones from the cave, called Gran Dolina, show signs of cuts and other marks which will have been made by early stone tools.

Among the bones of bison, deer, wild sheep and other animals, scientists discovered the butchered remains of at least 11 human children and adolescents.

The bones also displayed signs of having been smashed to get the nutritious marrow inside and there was evidence that the victims’ brains may also have been eaten.

Striek marks on the bone at the base of the skull also indicated that the humans had been decapitated according to the study’s co-author José Maria Bermúdez de Castro.

Bermudez de Castro, of the National Research Center on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, told National Geographic: ‘Probably then they cut the skull for extracting the brain. The brain is good for food.’

Scientists believe that early man ate fellow humans both to fulfill his nutritional needs and to kill off neighbouring enemy tribes.

Bones of humans that had been eaten spanned a period of around hundred thousand years, indicating that the practice was not just confined to times when food was scarce.

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