Our ancestors’ past isn’t visibly rosy. According to a recent study, a band of Neanderthals could have been driven to cannibalism… Because of the brutally changing climate.
This is a very chilling discovery. In the south east of France, bones belonging to a band of Neanderthals were discovered in the 1990s, on a prehistoric site at Baume Moula-Guercy to be more precise. They have just been reexamined by a team of researchers from CNRS and their discoveries have just shed some light about the dark history of our ancestors.
According to archaeologists, these bones belonged to two adults, two teens and two children who lived between 120,000 and 130,000 years ago. And they show clear signs of hunger and traces of brutality. But why? According to experts, because this group of Neanderthals could have been forced to turn to cannibalism.
‘The climate change from the glacial period to the last interglacial period was very abrupt,’ confirms Emmanuel Desclaux, researcher at CNRS.
‘We’re not talking in terms of on a geological scale, but more of a human scale. Maybe within a few generations, the landscape totally changed.’
Adapting to a quickly transforming climate
As the scientists explain, in just a few years, our planet heated up and the sea levels rose. As a result, the plants and animals changed as well. Communities of hunter gatherers who had previously become perfectly adapted to extremely cold conditions over tens of thousands of years, were no longer adapted.
‘Cut marks are spread over 50 percent of the human remains and distributed over the entire skeleton from the cranium and mandible to the metapodials and phalanges,’ explained the scientists.
‘Furthermore, none of the remains are in anatomical relationship to one another, indicating the bodies were completely dismembered.’
Although this theory is still just that, it is nevertheless likely judging from what we already know about Neanderthals.
‘This cannibalism we’ve seen at Baume Moula-Guercy is not a mark of bestiality or sub-humanity,’ explains the scientists. According to them, this was probably an isolated episode of endo-cannibalism ‘in response to nutritional stress induced by rapid and radical environmental changes.’
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