Neanderthals buried their dead in a relatively “human” manner according to a new detailed analysis conducted by an international team of archaeologists led by William Rendu, a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City, that was reported in the Dec. 16, 2013, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers examined the Neanderthal site in La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France that was originally discovered in 1908. The 13-year endeavor employed instrumentation and techniques that were not available when the site was first discovered.
The researchers focused on a depression in the cave where a Neanderthal skeleton was unearthed in 1908. The researchers propose that the depression was made by Neanderthals based on geological analysis.
An examination of the Neanderthal remains found in 1908 show a high state of preservation that indicates the early human ancestor was buried and covered with earth soon after his demise. Comparison with animal bones found in the site that are of the same age showed less wear from exposure in the Neanderthal skeleton.
The scientists cannot conclude that burial was a form of respect for the dead or a part of a ritual. The practice at this site may have been purely pragmatic.
The research does uphold conclusion made in 1908 that Neanderthals in this part of France buried their dead at least 50,000 years ago.