| 2 December 2017
Evidence grows that Neanderthals lived in a caring society
In 1957 a team of archaeologists working in the Shanidar caves in Iraqi Kurdistan, discovered the bones of a 50,000 year old Neanderthal, nicknamed Shanidar 1. Nothing extra remarkable in that you may think, however the individual was aged between 40 and 50 (from dental analysis) and had several things wrong, including a fractured skull, amputated forearm, together with other multiple signs of ageing. These all made the fact that he had survived into his 40s quite a considerable achievement.
Now a new team headed up by the French National Centre for Scientific Research has conducted some more investigations on the remains, with astounding results. They examined the skull in minute detail and noticed some serious deformities in the bones of both ears.
As Sebastien Villotte, from the Research centre explains "It would have been essentially impossible for Shanidar 1 to maintain a sufficiently clear canal for adequate sound transmission. He would therefore have been effectively deaf in his right ear and he likely had at least partial CHL [conductive hearing loss] in his left ear".
Couple this with his other physical disabilities and survival in a brutal environment was near impossible without the help and assistance of other tribe members. So he must have received some social support. This theory is given credence by other Neanderthal traits such as burying their dead, which shows that they lived in socially caring and supportive groups.
Edited from PhysOrg (23 October 2017) and Gizmodo (24 October 2017)
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