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Did Neanderthals bury their dead with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues



WASHINGTON: A Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in an Iraqi cave already well-known for fossils of those extinct cousins of our species is offering recent proof that they buried their lifeless – and intriguing clues that flowers could have been utilized in such rituals.

Scientists mentioned on Tuesday they’d found in Shanidar Cave within the semi-autonomous Kurdistan area of northern Iraq the well-preserved higher physique skeleton of an grownup Neanderthal who lived about 70,000 years in the past. The particular person – dubbed Shanidar Z – was maybe in his or her 40s or 50s. The intercourse was undetermined.


The cave was a pivotal web site for mid-20th century archaeology. Remains of 10 Neanderthals – seven adults and three infants – had been dug up there six many years in the past, providing perception into the bodily traits, habits and weight loss program of this species.

Clusters of flower pollen had been discovered at the moment in soil samples related to one of many skeletons, a discovery that prompted scientists concerned in that analysis to suggest that Neanderthals buried their lifeless and carried out funerary rites with flowers.

That speculation helped change the prevailing common view on the time of Neanderthals as dimwitted and brutish, a notion more and more discredited by new discoveries. Critics forged doubt, nevertheless, on the “flower burial,” arguing the pollen may have been trendy contamination from folks working and residing within the cave or from burrowing rodents or bugs.

But Shanidar Z’s bones, which seem like the highest half of a partial skeleton unearthed in 1960, had been present in sediment containing historical pollen and different mineralized plant stays, reviving the opportunity of flower burials. The materials is being examined to find out its age and the crops represented.

“So from initially being a skeptic based mostly on lots of the different revealed critiques of the flower-burial proof, I’m coming spherical to suppose this state of affairs is rather more believable and I’m excited to see the total outcomes of our new analyses,” mentioned University of Cambridge osteologist and paleoanthropologist Emma Pomeroy, lead creator of the analysis revealed within the journal Antiquity.


Scholars have argued for years about whether or not Neanderthals buried their lifeless with mortuary rituals a lot as our species does, a part of the bigger debate over their ranges of cognitive sophistication.

“What is vital right here is the intentionality behind the burial. You may bury a physique for purely sensible causes, with a view to keep away from attracting harmful scavengers and/or to cut back the scent. But when this goes past sensible parts it will be significant as a result of that signifies extra complicated, symbolic and summary pondering, compassion and look after the lifeless, and maybe emotions of mourning and loss,” Pomeroy mentioned.

Shanidar Z seems to have been intentionally positioned in an deliberately dug despair minimize into the subsoil and a part of a cluster of 4 people.

“Whether the Neanderthal group of lifeless positioned round 70,000 years in the past within the cave had been a number of years, a number of many years or centuries – and even millennia – aside, it appears clear that Shanidar was a particular place, with our bodies being positioned simply in a single half of a big cave,” mentioned University of Cambridge archeologist and examine co-author Graeme Barker.

Neanderthals – extra robustly constructed than Homo sapiens and with bigger brows – inhabited Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the Ural Mountains from about 400,000 years in the past till a bit after 40,000 years in the past, disappearing after our species established itself within the area.

The two species interbred, with trendy non-African human populations bearing residual Neanderthal DNA.

Shanidar Z was discovered to be reclining on his or her again, with the left arm tucked beneath the top and the correct arm bent and protruding to the aspect.

The publish Did Neanderthals bury their lifeless with flowers? Iraq cave yields new clues appeared first on The Himalayan Times.


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