Evidence for Neanderthal Cannibalism in Spain

MORE NEANDERTHAL CANNIBALISM! Two recent research papers document that Neanderthal remains from El Sidron in Spain and BMG Cave in France show evidence of cannibalism by other Neanderthals. Dating at both sites tie to times of rapid shifts in climate that may have lessened the availability of large game animals leading to malnutrition and starvation.

El Sidron in northern Spain has yielded 2500 fossils from at least 13 individuals who lived there about 49,000 years ago. Cut marks and evidence of percussion indicate the bodies were processed for food. The victims’ teeth show hypoplasia indicating that food was scarce. DNA in the plaque gives evidence that they were eating mushrooms and moss, with no sign of meat in their diet. Life doesn’t get much worse than starving on moss, then being eaten by your neighbors. Wow.

At the BMG (Baume Moula-Guercy) Cave in SE France, much older remains show a similar setup: rapid climate change > fewer game animals > starvation > cannibalism. The 120 bones from six Neanderthals who lived 125,000 years ago have the telltale cut and percussion marks of cannibalism.

Other evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism has been found at Goyet Cave in Belgium, Krapina Cave in Croatia and other sites. At Krapina, fossils of at least 80 individuals have been found, some of which had been butchered, cooked and eaten. The bones indicated that most died between the ages of 16 and 24. Be glad for the times we live in.

1) The Neanderthal Diet – From Teeth to Guts – Anna Goldfield, SAPIENS, August, 2019
2) Grisly Cave Discovery Suggests Climate Change Turned Neanderthals Into Cannibals – Peter Dockrill, ScienceAlert, April, 2019
3) The First Evidence of Neanderthal Cannibalism in Northern Europe is Discovered – EurekAlert, July, 2016
4) Neanderthal Cannibalism is Less Surprising Than You Think – Kiona Smith, ARS Technica, March, 2019
5) Neanderthals Resorted to Cannibalism in the Face of Climate Change – Sarah Pruitt, HISTORY, April, 2019
6) El Sidron, 50,000 Year Old Neanderthal Site – Kris Hirst, ThoughtCo, June, 2018

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