Recent findings have shed more light on our extinct cousins, the Neanderthals. Much like us, they seem to be a complex people.
Some few years ago, it was a general assumption that they were uncultured, stupid and wiped out by the success of our own species. That's all changed
in the recent past as we've discovered evidence to suggest they used jewellery
and buried their dead with flowers.
also found the remains of a withered male
in the caves of
. This individual lived into adulthood. The fact that he lived so long with disabilities is
taken by some as evidence that they looked after each other in similar ways to us. Others have taken these burials and signs of care to imagine
Neanderthals as some spiritual race of harmless wanderers cruelly destroyed by Man's inhumanity to Man.
The discovery of a mass-murder site has provided more evidence that Neanderthals killed each other and cannibalised the dead. The remains of twelve
bodies have been cut, carved and bludgeoned to get at the marrow.
In a cave in Northern Spain, researchers have discovered clues to the identity of the victims of a mass murder committed 49,000 years ago. The
butchered bones of 12 men, women, and children protruding from the floor may be the remains of an extended Neandertal family that were killed and
eaten by their fellow Neandertals. Now, DNA analysis of the bones is providing rare clues into the family structure of these close cousins of modern
humans. Grisly Scene Gives Clues to Neandertal
This image is from the cave were they were killed. Can you imagine sitting in there in the dark silence? Imagine all the lives that passed through
that cave over 50000 years and then imagine the scene as 12 bodies were carved and crushed and eaten by the others.
It isn't the first time Neanderthal bones have been found with signs of cannibalism. They've been found often and before we start shaking our heads
at the primitive ignorance of a species that eats itself...we did too. What catches my imagination is why? Why did they use cannibalism? These were
physically strong individuals and capable of foraging or hunting. They had spears, hand axes and sharp tools, if they hit someone with a rock, they'd
know about it.
If we look back to '49 000' years ago, we find the world a very different place with huge ice sheets covering the Northern parts of Europe. Times
were cold, but the Mediterranean was manageable
at the time.
If they weren't eating each other out of necessity; why were they eating each other? Could it have been symbolic or spiritual? There's long been a
tradition amongst humans from the Moche Culture of Peru to the original Caribs of cannibalism. Eating the dead was to take their strength and spirits.
Then of course there are the possibilities of madness. Maybe pockets of isolated Neanderthals became mentally ill from inbreeding? Whatever the
reasons, it's getting to the point that the more we know about them is like looking in a mirror. They were no more cuddly or spiritual than we can