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Palaeontology

Starving Neanderthals turned to cannibalism

April 3, 2019 | Comment icon 6 comments



Neanderthals were not above eating their own kind. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Paul Hudson / Flickr
Researchers have determined why some Neanderthals may have resorted to butchering one another for food.
Back in the 1990s, the excavation of Moula-Guercy cave in southeastern France revealed the discovery of Neanderthal remains exhibiting clear signs of butchery by other Neanderthals.

"When numerous human remains are discovered on an undisturbed living floor, with similar patterns of damage, mixed with animal remains, stone tools, and fireplaces, they can legitimately be interpreted as evidence of cannibalism," wrote researchers Alban Defleur and Emmanuel Desclaux.

Now, more than 20 years on from the original discovery, scientists have finally been able to determine what it was that likely lead these particular individuals to resort to cannibalistic practices.

The study involved examining layers of sediment from the cave to learn more about the environment.
The findings suggested that the climate from around 120,000 to 130,000 years ago warmed up much faster than anyone had expected, resulting in a significant decline in the animals which once dominated the landscape and leaving the Neanderthals with an ever-dwindling food supply.

Starved of their food source - some of the surviving Neanderthals resorted to eating one another.

Cannibalism is actually rife throughout the fossil record, with early humans and their ancestors engaging in the practice when alternative sources of food were sparse.

It is also a practice that has been documented in over 1,500 non-human species.

Source: Live Science | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Piney 3 years ago
Recycled data and old news. This has been happening a lot in academia due to short memories and pure laziness. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by sci-nerd 3 years ago
My mom used to say: You can't be choosy until you've tried it!
Comment icon #3 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
Taste like chicken !
Comment icon #4 Posted by Eldorado 3 years ago
From 1999; a PDF, for those interested. "Neanderthal Cannibalism at Moula-Guercy, Ardeche, France" https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alban_Defleur/publication/277469924_Neanderthal_Cannibalism_at_Moula-Guercy_Ardeche_France/links/576908ff08ae7f0756a3365d.pdf
Comment icon #5 Posted by mdbuilder 3 years ago
I'd call it fascinating, but it's actually an affirmation of basic human instinct. Imagine trying to keep your family alive using the very rudiments of stone age weaponry. Watching your children die of starvation would be as unthinkable then as it is now. Furthermore, cannibalism was an intrinsic part of human survival in every area of the inhabited world, for tens of thousands of years.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Captain Risky 3 years ago
everything tastes like chicken but the chicken. 


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