Did Neanderthals bury their dead?

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The remains of a Neanderthal in France may not have been buried ceremonially, as archaeologists had suggested.

John Reader/SPL

A previous analysis of a nearly complete Neanderthal skeleton, found in a cave at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, concluded that the burial was intentional, noting that the depression looked dug-out and that the remains were well preserved.

Harold Dibble at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and his colleagues now question this evidence. They found that the hole containing the skeleton (skull pictured) is much larger than would have been needed to hold a body. The hollow is also similar to brown-bear hibernation nests and to a second, smaller depression in the cave that holds bison remains. The researchers say that natural differences in weathering may explain why the Neanderthal remains in the cave are better preserved than those of other animals.

J. Archaeol. Sci. (2014)

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