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Archaeologists Unearth 12 Neanderthals Eaten By Cannibals

December 22, 2010

Archaeologists in Spain have discovered the remains of a possible family of 12 Neanderthals who were killed 49,000 years ago.

The researchers say that markings on the bones show the unmistakable signs of cannibal activity, with the group probably being killed by their peers.

The remains were found in a cave in the Asturias region of Northern Spain. 

Scientists believe that the six adults and six children who were found in a cave probably lived and died on the surface before the ground collapsed beneath them naturally after their death.

The researchers said that distinct markings on the bones show that they fell victim to cannibalism.

“They all show signs of cannibalism. They have cut marks on many bones including skulls and mandibles,” Professor Carles Lalueza-Fox of Barcelona’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology, who lead the research, told BBC.

“The long bones have been fragmented to obtain the marrow so all the signs of cannibalism that have been described… in other Neanderthal sites are present in all these individuals.”

The researchers analyzed the group’s mitochondrial DNA to determine that they were a family.

The genetic data suggested that while the three adult males in the group shared the same maternal lineage, the three females had different maternal origins.

The researchers say that the women came from outside the group, while the men remained within the family group of reaching maturity.

Lalueza-Fox said that this model of what is called “patrilocality” is often seen among modern humans, where the men remain in the family home in many societies across the world.

Image Caption: A Neanderthal Family. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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