The human race’s ancestors were cannibals – at least, those found in Belgium were, a new study has discovered.
Neanderthal bones unearthed in Belgium were dated back to between 40,500 and 45,500 years old, and showed unmistakable signs of cannibalism, scientists say. Like the stuff horror and thriller movies are made of, the ancient bones bore certain indentations that scientists believe were made when the Neanderthals hammered to open and harvest bone marrow within. The rib cages were also pried open, and the bones exhibited marks that were made by primitive tools to cut flesh away from the bone, The Inquisitr reports.
The human bones found in Belgium were in a cave, found amidst the remnant bones of other animals that had the same marks and indications of what would be the equivalent of modern-day field dressing.
The scientists working on the Neanderthal bones put them back together and were able to recreate one child and four adults – all of which showed signs of having been cannibalized.
This discovery of cannibalism is not rare in prehistoric humans. Similar finds have been made in France, Portugal and Spain. However, the journal Scientific Reports states that the Neanderthal site in Belgium is farther north than the others, and asks more questions than it answers. Were these ancient humans killed and consumed out of hunger and self-preservation, or were they part of some rituals? Were these Neanderthals a warrior culture that reveled in eating their enemies?
Scientists are unsure. But other researchers have argued that evidence showed Neanderthals had funeral practices for their dead, sometimes burying them. Others counter this by saying that the bones had been scattered among animals, so a burial site and ritualistic funerals would be contrary.
The bones in Belgium dated to just before the time when the Neanderthal species was estimated to have gone extinct. So far, other sites in the region where Neanderthal bones have been found, such as two skeletons buried side by side less than 25 miles away, did not display any evidence of cannibalization.
Researchers theorize that Neanderthals lived in small groups, and their behavior could have very well varied among these groups. So to speak, one group might have had funeral rites in place while another could have seen cannibalism as no more than routine. Some groups might have even hunted others down.
The evidence is still lacking, and scientists are working to give the world more information. As of now, the experts studying the prehistoric Belgian bones are sticking to their facts and findings, not making any claims as to whether or not the cave was indeed a burial site.