Neanderthals cared for elder, burial site shows

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2013 (AFP) – New findings at an old Neanderthal burial ground in France have bolstered the notion that cavemen cared for their elders, researchers said Monday. The research is based on excavations around the skeleton of an elderly Neanderthal man who could barely walk and had lost his teeth, and who was painstakingly buried after he died.

The burial pit at La Chapelle-aux-Saints was first found in 1908, containing the remains of a man with spinal deformities. An initial misinterpretation of his bones gave rise to the popular legend of the dim-witted, hunched and shuffling Neanderthal.

But over the years, a more careful analysis of his burial site, and the discovery of apparently intentional grave sites elsewhere in Europe, suggested that Neanderthals had a greater capacity for reverence and caring than previously thought.

The report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is based on 13 years of research at an excavation site in southern France.

Researchers have now ruled out the possibility that the cave floor under the man — who was old by Neanderthal standards and may have been in his late 30s or early 40s — was a natural

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