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100,000-Year-Old Neanderthals ‘Killed By Hyenas’ Discovered In Italian Cave

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 09 May 2021 17:13
100,000-Year-Old Neanderthals 'Killed By Hyenas' Discovered In Italian CaveNeanderthal-Museum, Mettmann/Wikimedia/PA Images

The remains of Neanderthals thought to have been killed by hyenas have been discovered in a cave in Italy.

Archaeologists in Italy discovered the remains of nine people, thought to have been Neanderthals, which date back as far as 100,000 years.

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Discovered in the prehistoric Guattari Cave in the coastal town of San Felice Circeo, south-east of Rome, archaeologists identified skull fragments and broken jaw bones.

Neanderthals were close relatives to homo sapiens, and share some of the same DNA to this day.

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Eight of the remains are thought to date from between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago. Italy’s culture ministry said that the ninth one could be between 90,000 to 100,000 years old, BBC News reports.

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As to how the Neanderthals died, Mario Rolfo, a professor of archaeology at Tor Vergata University, believes it was a result of hyena attacks.

He said, as per The Guardian:

Neanderthals were prey for these animals. Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals.

He added that it’s likely the animals then dragged the Neanderthals to their cave, where they’d meet their undeniably gruesome death.

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Rolfo further described the discovery as ‘a spectacular find’. Neanderthal remains were first discovered in the Guattari Cave in 1939, but no other similar remains have been found since.

Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, added, ‘It is an extraordinary discovery that the whole world will talk about. These findings will help to enrich studies on Neanderthals.’

Explaining how the fossils have lasted as long as they had, Rolfo said, ‘A collapse, perhaps caused by an earthquake, sealed this cave for more than 60,000 years, thereby preserving the remains left inside for tens of thousands of years.’

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The Guattari Cave has since been dubbed as ‘one of the most significant places in the world for the history of Neanderthal man’, BBC News reports.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Discovery, fossils, Italy, Now, World News

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BBC News and 1 other
  1. BBC News

    Neanderthal remains unearthed in Italian cave

  2. The Guardian

    Italian archaeologists believe most of Neanderthals were killed by hyenas then dragged back to den Fossilised remains of nine Neanderthals in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, south of Rome, Italy. Fossilised remains of nine Neanderthals in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, south of Rome, Italy. Photograph: Italian culture ministry/AFP/Getty Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo @lorenzo_tondo Sat 8 May 2021 15.19 BST 1751 Italian archaeologists have unearthed the bones of nine Neanderthals who were allegedly hunted and mauled by hyenas in their den about 100km south-east of Rome. Scientists from the Archaeological Superintendency of Latina and the University of Tor Vergata in Rome said the remains belong to seven adult males and one female, while another are those of a young boy. Experts believe the individuals lived in different time periods. Some bones could be as old as 50,000 to 68,000 years, whereas the most ancient remains are believed to be 100,000 years old. The Neanderthal remains, which include skullcaps and broken jawbones, were found in the Guattari cave, which had already gained notoriety for the presence of fossils of these distant human cousins, which were found by chance in 1939. Since then, no further human remains had been uncovered in Guattari. A frontal view of a female skull and a right hand thumb metacarpal bone are among the fossilised remains. A frontal view of a female skull and a right hand thumb metacarpal bone are among the fossilised remains. Photograph: Italian Ministry of Culture/AFP/Getty “It is a spectacular find,” said Mario Rolfo, professor of archaeology at Tor Vergata University. “A collapse, perhaps caused by an earthquake, sealed this cave for more than 60,000 years, thereby preserving the remains left inside for tens of thousands of years.” Researchers found traces of vegetables alongside human remains and those of rhinoceroses, giant deer, wild horses and, of course, ferocious hyenas. Advertisement According to the researchers, most of the Neanderthals had been killed by hyenas and then dragged back to the cave they had transformed into their den. Once inside, the animals consumed their prey. Ancient human migration into Europe revealed via genome analysis Read more “Neanderthals were prey for these animals,” said Rolfo. “Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals.” Even before these ferocious predators took possession of the cave, experts do not exclude the possibility that Neanderthals had at one time made it their home. Rolfo has announced that his team of researchers intended to analyse the DNA of these individuals to understand their ways of life and history. A preliminary analysis of dental tartar has revealed that their diet was varied. They primarily consumed cereals, which contributed to the growth of their brains. The Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, south of Rome. The Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, south of Rome. Photograph: Italian Ministry of Culture/AFP/Getty “It is an extraordinary discovery that the whole world will talk about,” said Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini. “These findings will help to enrich studies on Neanderthals.” Neanderthals inhabited Eurasia, from the Atlantic coast to the Ural mountains, from about 400,000 years ago until a little after 40,000 years ago, disappearing after our species established itself in the region. Last year, remains and tools found in Bulgaria, revealed that modern humans and Neanderthals were present at the same time in Europe for several thousand years, giving them ample time for biological and cultural interaction. Often portrayed as the simple, stocky relatives of modern humans, Neanderthals had, in fact, similar brains and developed a rich culture. Beyond their complex stone tools and painted jewellery, the Neanderthals used to adorn caves in art, leaving hand stencils behind for modern humans to ponder long after they died out. You've read 14 articles in the last year … as it’s our birthday month, we have a small favour to ask. It’s not every day you turn 200. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating two centuries of independent, high-impact Guardian journalism, as we gear up for centuries more. Since 1821, tens of millions have placed their trust in our quality reporting, turning to us in moments of crisis, uncertainty, solidarity and hope. And we’re just getting started. Thanks to funding from more than 1.5 million Guardian supporters in 180 countries, we’ve remained open to all, and fiercely independent. With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we set our own agenda and provide truth-seeking journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence. When it’s never mattered more, we can investigate and challenge without fear or favour. Unlike many others, Guardian journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of global events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Over the past 200 years, we have reported on the most critical issues and events of the day, and published countless exclusives that have held the powerful to account and exposed incompetence, injustice and impropriety. From Windrush to Wikileaks, Snowden to Cambridge Analytica, and from the climate crisis to racial discrimination, our journalists investigate wrongdoing in the hope that revealing it will help put it right. If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and sustains our future. Support the Guardian from as little as £1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you. Support the Guardian Join the party Accepted payment methods: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and PayPal Topics Neanderthals Archaeology Italy Anthropology Europe Evolution news Reuse this content