Monday, April 10, 2017

Neanderthals Eating Neanderthals

Neanderthals Eating Neanderthals

The exact relationship between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens has never been truly understood. As more and more scientific evidence comes pouring in, it becomes more and more apparent that it is nearly impossible to draw a clear line between us and them. According to John Shea, an archaeologist, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens performed so many similar tasks and both survived and thrived under conditions that would have killed off people nowadays, even with the incredible extent of our technology. One thing that is for certain is that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred to some extent, and people from areas like the Middle East tend to have some amount of Neanderthal DNA within their genomes.

Image result for neanderthals cannibalism

Recently, new evidence has been found that adds a new dimension to the presumed lifestyles and habits of Neanderthals, as it has become seemingly "irrefutable" that they partook in cannibalistic behavior.

In the caves of Goyet, an archaeological site in Southern Belgium, the bones of at least 4 adults have been found and studied to show signs and markings that "provide clear evidence for butchery activities." These bones displayed signs of cutting that were indicative of flesh being stripped from them, and they were broken in ways similar to those of horses and reindeer, presumably in attempts to access the nutritious marrow within.

It doesn't stop there, though. Apparently, Neanderthals also used the bones of their kin's remains to make tools, with clear indications that they were used to sharpen stone.

According to Antonio Rosas, this practice was not limited to the Neanderthals of Belgium, as many other populations have shown signs of cannibalistic behavior.

Ultimately, the precise reasons behind why Neanderthals were participating in such behavior remains unknown. There were definitely some periods of intense starvation that would have potentially driven them to eat their peers for food, though it cannot be ruled out that they may have been doing so symbolically as some form of ritual.

Posted by Peter Makhoul (3)

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121012-neanderthals-science-paabo-dna-sex-breeding-humans/
http://www.livescience.com/55343-neanderthal-cannibalism-northern-europe.html
http://www.livescience.com/1187-neanderthals-cannibals-study-confirms.html
http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/irrefutable-proof-that-neanderthals-were-cannibals/

9 comments:

  1. Wow! Isn't it so strange that Neanderthals are potentially so similar to Homo sapiens but have such odd practices. There are some cannibalistic tribes today, though, so it would be interesting if they were doing it for similar reasons. I think that if it were about starvation, then we might be able to date the remains back to particular dates that were known to be especially hard for survival. I wonder if these practices continued throughout their history and whether they were lost at some point for any particular reason. If Neanderthals came into contact with Homo sapiens, is it also possible that Homo sapiens may have taken some of these practices from them and used them for their own interests?

    Posted by Angela Driscoll (Group A)

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an extremely interesting topic; Angela brings up a great point as well, I wonder if since there is evidence that neandrathals could have been canibals, if early homo sapiens could have also been partaking in these practices. I wonder if there is some sort of evidence that archaeologists could find that could absolutely rule out ritualistic reasons for cannibalism. Or a way to prove the canibalism was purely for survival reasons. It's always really neat to learn about our species past, great post Peter!

    Posted by Jenna Lansbury (Group B)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is fascinating to try and understand why these Neanderthals were partaking in these actions. You and Angela bring up great points. If the homo sapiens did learn these rituals or habits, did they lose them along the way? Are they practices that modern day cannibals might have inherited?

      Most cannibalism these days barring that of a few sociopaths is ritual driven, especially in hunter-gatherer tribes. It would make sense to me that Neanderthals would do the same, but im unsure if theres a particular way to prove it. Either way, it's a really interesting thing to look into!

      Posted by Peter Makhoul (C)

      Delete
  3. I actually have learned about this phenomenon in my Evolution class. My professor made it seem like archeologists have decided it was most likely a means for survival instead of ritual. During the time period these bones are from, there was an extreme shortage of food in comparison to the population trying to thrive. It is most likely that the people that were eaten were already dead and their remains were sacrificed to provide nutrients to others in their group! Seems grisly, but it's all about survival of the fittest.

    Posted by Caitlin Lohr

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thats actually very interesting! It's intruiging that they only ate individuals that had already passed away, which makes you feel like they did have at least some sort of empathy for one another and some standards and rules that they didn't want to transcend. I was wondering whether there was starvation correlated with the time the bones were found, and it seems like it!
      Thanks for clearing that up!

      Posted by Peter Makhoul (C)

      Delete
  4. Wow, the fact that neanderthals had cannibalistic behavior is astounding. To think that the humans of the past were eating each other is a scary thought especially considering all the evidence stating that we have evolved from them. Hopefully this stays as a ritual of the past though, because if we had cannibalistic humans around today, the world would be a lot scarier and dangerous. I guess you have to do what is necessary when you have limited resources but still, cannibalism is a very drastic measure to take, all things considered. Regardless, this blog was very informative and enjoyable to read.

    Posted by Nicolas Baltayan (Group A)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thats true, its really really hard to wrap your head around just what it means to be able to eat another person/member of the same species. Cannibalism is found in a number of species of snakes and spiders, but it isnt something you usually associate with primates. There are some cannibals around the place, so make sure you dont go running into forests on your own (Dont mean to scare you!)

      Posted by Peter Makhoul (C)

      Delete
  5. I find it so amazing that archaeologists are able to deduce that Neanderthals were partaking in cannibalistic behaviors. The Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years ago and the fact that we can know this much about them is absolutely amazing. That being said, it is also a bit of a disturbing thought, especially because you stated that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals lived during the same period. Because these species are so similar in behavior and habitat, how can the archaeologists conclude that it was only the Neanderthals that were involved in these cannibalistic behaviors and not Homo sapiens? From what I understand Neanderthals are a completely different species from humans which can be confusing because they were so similar to us. So if a Neanderthal were to eat a Homo sapiens, would that still be considered cannibalism? Or does one species have to consume another individual of their own species in order for it to be considered cannibalism?

    Posted by Taylor Irwin (B)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are really good questions. I think that they were considered separate species, which is actually still hard to really prove because there was some degree of interbreeding for sure, and usually different shouldnt be able to reproduce normally with one another. I think that if they are entirely separate I'd think about it like a gorilla eating a chimpanzee. Strange to think about, but probably not cannibalism. But yeah i loved what you brought up and its making me wonder whether Neanderthals ever saw homo sapiens as a food source of some sort. Scary thoughts.


      Posted by Peter Makhoul (C)

      Delete