"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," says William Rendu. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Like us, Neanderthals buried their dead

Neanderthals, forerunners to modern humans, intentionally buried their dead, according to a 13-year study of remains discovered in southwestern France.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirm that burials took place in western Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans.

The findings center on Neanderthal remains first discovered in 1908 in a cave at La Chapelle-aux-Saints (above). (Courtesy: PNAS)
The findings center on Neanderthal remains first discovered in 1908 in a cave at La Chapelle-aux-Saints (above). (Courtesy: PNAS)

“This discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them,” says 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.

CIRHUS is a collaborative arrangement between New York University and France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

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.

But those 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.

Pristine remains

Beginning in 1999, Rendu and colleagues, 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, more Neanderthal remains were found, including 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,” says 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.”

The study was supported, in part, by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and supervised by the Regional Archaeological Service of the Limousin region.

Source: New York University

chat2 Comments


  1. Babu G. Ranganathan

    Neanderthals Were Fully Human

    APES ARE QUITE COMFORTABLE IN HOW THEY WALK, just as humans are quite comfortable in how they walk. Even a slight change in the position of a muscle or bone, for either, would be excruciatingly painful and would not be an advantage for survival. There’s no hard evidence that humans evolved from ape-like creatures anymore than there’s hard evidence that apes evolved from four-legged-pawed dog-like creatures. All the fossils that have been used to support human evolution have been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not non-human and human (i.e. Neanderthal Man was discovered later to be fully human). Textbooks and museums still continue to display examples and illustrations supporting human evolution which most evolutionists have rejected and no longer support. Many diagrams of ape-man creatures over the years were reconstructed according to evolutionary interpretations from disputable bones that have now been discredited but still being taught in school textbooks.

    ACQUIRED CHARACTERISTICS CAN’T BE PASSED ON: Many people have wrong ideas of how evolution is supposed to work. Physical traits and characteristics are determined and passed on by genes – not by what happens to our body parts. For example, if a woman were to lose her finger this wouldn’t affect how many fingers her baby will have. Changing the color and texture of your hair will not affect the color and texture of your children’s hair. So, even if an ape’s muscles and bones changed so that it could walk upright it still would not be able to pass on this trait to its offspring. Only changes or mutations that occur in the genetic code of reproductive cells (i.e. sperm and egg) can be passed on to offspring.

    GENETIC AND BIOLOGICAL SIMILARITIES: Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Also, “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. These “non-coding” segments of DNA have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed). Read my popular Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    HUMAN-CHIMP DNA MYTH: The actual similarity is between 70-87% not 99.8% as commonly believed. The original research stating 99.8% similarity was based on ignoring contradicting evidence. Read the article, “Evaluating the Human-Chimp DNA Myth–New Research Data” at the Institute for Creation Research Site. Whatever similarities exist are better explained due to a common Designer Who designed similar functions for similar purposes, rather than chance common ancestry. Read my Internet article: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS!

    NATURAL LIMITS TO EVOLUTION: Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How did species survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented evolution across kinds! Read my Internet article: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! (2nd Edition).

    I discuss: Punctuated Equilibria, “Junk DNA,” genetics, mutations, natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities between species.

    Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits are possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION


    Babu G. Ranganathan*

    (B.A. theology/biology)


    *I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science. I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterward) before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges/universities.

  2. Rob N

    Babu, I know I could speak to the many fossils that have been found of intermediate species that no longer exist, of a tribe in Africa with many members who are born with only 2 toes on each foot, yet still survive just fine in a hunter/gatherer community, of the fact that the concept of “acquired characteristics” is first seen in the Bible and has been refuted by scientists since the time of Mendel, and on and on. Do you really think that Pygmies contain all the genetic information needed to grow a Swede? If not, your statements on inheritance of traits fall apart.

    But I know I can’t break your shell of denial, so I’ll just take comfort in the knowledge that truth exists, whether you acknowledge it or not, and that science will continue to make advancements in medicine, paleontology and agriculture (which all rely heavily on knowledge of evolution and genetics). So go ahead, damage young minds, you will only slow the advancement of knowledge, not prevent it.

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