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Anatomy of a Cannibal: New Research Analyzes Ancient French Neanderthals

Monday, November 4, 2013 8:08 am EST

Archeologists studying the remains of a community of cannibal Neanderthals in France believe the remains are a rare example of a cross section of Neanderthal society from a precise time period.

In two papers published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the team studied the skeletons of a range of individuals from the Moula-Guercy cave, in Ardèche, central France. The sample included a large adult male, a smaller adult, possibly female, a young individual of 10–12 years, and a younger immature individual of 4 years of age. The team also studied 10 hand and 14 foot bones found among the skeletal remains, a rare discovery due to acts of cannibalism in the community.

The team believes the remains date from the Eemian inter-glacial period, which ended 114,000 years ago. A family range of skeletons from this period gives archeologists a rare snapshot in time, which they can use to trace the development of Neanderthal morphology. The analysis also revealed similarities between the European remains and discoveries of West Asian Neanderthals, which the team link to climatic and behavioral similarities between the two regions at this time.

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