It's a fascinating finding that, while grim, could help us understand our earliest relatives.
Scientists have made a morbid discovery, but one that could improve our understanding of early mankind.
Archaeologists excavating caves in Belgium found evidence that Neanderthals were cannibals in northern Europe — or, at least, some of them, according to a University of the Basque Country statement.
Scientists dated the remains at between 40,500 and 45,500 years old, and it appears to show that Neanderthals may have butchered other Neanderthals and even used their bones as tools.
The research team examined 99 bone fragments from Neanderthals to come to their conclusions. They found markings like cuts and notches that seem to indicate that human hands had marred them.
What does the cannibalism indicate? It could be for food, it could be a ceremonial ritual — scientists aren’t sure. But it adds an intriguing new chapter in our search for answers on what the earliest humans were like.
What’s interesting is that the human remains were treated in the same was as other animals.
“What is more, five human Neanderthal remains display signs of having been used as soft percussors to shape stone,” the statement reads. “The Neanderthals used boulders to shape stone tools and also used bone in some cases to sharpen the cutting edges (one example closer to home can be found in the bone retouchers, mainly belonging to deer, recovered on the Azlor site in Dima, Bizkaia). So far, there have been three sites in which the Neanderthals are known to have used the bones of a fellow Neanderthal to shape stone tools: a femur fragment in the case of Krapina in Croatia and Les Pradelles, and a skull fragment at La Quina in France. Goyet has provided 5 sets of human remains used as retouchers, which almost doubles the record known so far on a single site.”