Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Neanderthals that 43.000 years ago lived in the Asturian site Sidrón practiced the cannibalism

The prestigious magazine of the Academy of Sciences of the United States, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has published an article about the excavations that are carried out in the Asturian archaeological site El Sidrón where it is confirmed that 43.000 years ago the Neanderthals that lived in this place practiced the cannibalism, because the bones have marks of cut produced by the lithic instruments during the process of disarticulation of the individuals, and also have signals of the knocks carried out to fragment the bones with the aim of obtaining the marrow.

Among the signers of the article, titled "Paleobiology and comparative morphology of in beats Neanderthal sample from El Sidrón, Asturias, Spain", figure Rosa Huguet, who has a scholarship of the Foundation Atapuerca, of the Area of Prehistory of the University Rovira i Virgili of Tarragona, and who also has carried out the zooarchaeological and taphonomical analysis of the human remains found in this site. Therefore, "I have identified and characterized identified and characterized -she assures- the marks of court that make evident the cannibalism, as well as the different activities of disarticulation documented. Besides, the taphonomic study has allowed to see that some remains have been modified for small carnivores and for rodents".

What the researches do not know yet are the exact causes of this cannibalism, a practice that, on the other hand, although with different chronologies and which has been played the lead by different species, has been documented in other archaeological sites as Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain), the cave of Aragon and at Moula-Guercy, both in France, and in Krapina (Croatia). Rosa Huguet comments: "in some of these cases it has been indicated that the cannibalism is gastronomic, but it does not have to be related to periods of stress by the lack of foods, but the hominids might be part of the usual diet of the past inhabitants of the Pleistocene".

The Sidrón is the most important Neanderthals' archaeological site of the Iberian peninsula with regard to the number of bone remains that has been found (more than 1.300), and the only Neanderthal site of the Iberian peninsula of which ADN has been extracted from different hominids.

The scientific works developed in El Sidrón are carried out under the direction of Antonio Rosas, paleoanthropologist of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), and Javier Fortea, from the University of Oviedo, responsible for the archeological part of the site.