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    Neanderthal Burial Practices Unearthed
    By News Staff | December 16th 2013 04:38 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Neanderthals buried their dead, according to an international team of archaeologists after a 13-year study of remains discovered in southwestern France which seeks to end a long-standing controversy.

    They say it confirms that burials took place in western Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans.


    The findings center on Neanderthal remains first discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France. The well-preserved bones led its early 20th-century excavators to posit that the site marked a burial ground created by a predecessor to early modern humans. However, their conclusions have sparked controversy in the scientific community ever since, with skeptics maintaining that the discovery had been misinterpreted and that the burial may not have been intentional.

    "This discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them," explains William Rendu, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City, a collaborative arrangement between France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and New York University.

    Beginning in 1999, Rendu and his collaborators, including researchers from the PACEA laboratory of the University of Bordeaux and Archéosphère, a private research firm, began excavating seven other caves in the area.

    In this excavation, which concluded in 2012, the scientists found more Neanderthal remains—two children and one adult—along with bones of bison and reindeer.

    While they did not find tool marks or other evidence of digging where the initial skeleton was unearthed in 1908, geological analysis of the depression in which the remains were found suggests that it was not a natural feature of the cave floor.

    As part of their analysis, the study's authors also re-examined the human remains found in 1908. In contrast to the reindeer and bison remains at the site, the Neanderthal remains contained few cracks, no weathering-related smoothing, and no signs of disturbance by animals.

    "The relatively pristine nature of these 50,000-year-old remains implies that they were covered soon after death, strongly supporting our conclusion that Neanderthals in this part of Europe took steps to bury their dead," observes Rendu. "While we cannot know if this practice was part of a ritual or merely pragmatic, the discovery reduces the behavioral distance between them and us."

    Citation:William Rendu, Cédric Beauval, Isabelle Crevecoeur, Priscilla Bayle, Antoine Balzeau, Thierry Bismuth, Laurence Bourguignon, Géraldine Delfour, Jean-Philippe Faivre, François Lacrampe-Cuyaubère, Carlotta Tavormina, Dominique Todisco, Alain Turq, and Bruno Maureille
    Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints
    PNAS December 16, 2013 doi:10.1073/pnas.1316780110.Source: New York University

    Comments

    Is burying an evolution symptom? Understanding that the earth is the definite mother, the last womb? But, is there evolution if there is no time? How will evolutionary biology meet new physical paradigms about time, space and so on? Will new conceptual changes deny evolution? Or on the contrary, will it become a more extraordinary process, full of astonishing implications? Therefore, will human being and the rest of life beings become different as science progresses? Can knowledge change the nature of things, can it change yours? Is life and its origin, its evolution and its actuality, something fix-finite-defined? That is, can one understand it with its limited brain and words? Along these lines, a serious-funny book recommendation, a preview in goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another leisure suggestion, far away from dogmas or axioms.

    For a more critical take on this research, I'd recommend the following blog posts by Rob Gargett (who has studied the 'evidence' for Neanderthal burial practices for decades). Part 1: http://www.thesubversivearchaeologist.com/2013/12/omfg-i-dont-know-wheth... and Part 2: http://www.thesubversivearchaeologist.com/2013/12/still-no-evidence-that...