Neanderthal man inhabited Europe and Asia before Homo sapiens. The former and our ancestors shared the European continent for at least 14,000 years. With a larger brain than modern man, evidence suggests that they were intelligent and able to solve problems - contrary to popular belief. Moreover, they are our closest extinct relatives,even after 40,000 years.
With "cultural customs" similar to those of modern man, Neanderthals also buried their dead and lived in society; each group was made up of 20 or fewer individuals. Thus, from a discovery, it was possible to state that a group of adults and children died in a hunting camp 50,000 years ago.
Researchers found the remains of close relatives, along with bones from other individuals, in a cave in the snowy Altai Mountains of Siberia. Fragmented bones and teeth reveal a Neanderthal family and give archaeologists the most complete genome set of Neanderthals known to date.
In 2019, excavators found about 90,000 artifacts, tools made from bones, animal and plant remains and 74 Neanderthal fossils in the Chagyrskaya cave. Because of the organic remains, it is reasonable to assume that the cave was a camp site for hunting bison. By radiocarbon dating, the finds are believed to be between 51,000 and 59,000 years old.Another evidence is with regard to the climate: from the presence of animal remains and pollen, the climate was very cold when the Neanderthals occupied the cave.
The journal Nature recently released a new analysis regarding the genetic makeup of Neanderthals in Chagyrskaya. The study brought surprising results, as it produced 13 genomes - almost twice as many complete sequences of the existing Neanderthal genome. With the new genomic research it was possible to test the hypothesis that Neanderthals lived in small communities, no more than20 people, with biologically related individuals; that is, who possessed some degree of kinship.
Neanderthal family relationships
According to the study, genetic data from 11 Neanderthals found in the cave were the substantial and incontrovertible proof of close kinship or family relationships. A first-degree relationship was taking shape: an adult man and a teenage woman. Would they be siblings, father and daughter? Until then there was no proof.
However, from the DNA investigation it was feasible to reach a conclusion: their mismatched mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is usually transmitted from mother to child, ruled out the chance that they were siblings. They were, therefore, the father and his teenage daughter. The father also shared mtDNA with two other men, who were probably close maternal relatives: "for example, they could haveshared a grandmother," the study authors suggested.
Another conclusion reached by the researchers is that the size of the local community of Chagyrskaya neanderthals was small, since, in fact, they had biological family ties. In this context, female migration was "an important factor in the social organization of the Chagyrskaya neanderthal community," as the authors of the research wrote.
Naturally, women tended to remain in the communities in which they were born, however, the behavior was not unanimous, as some women left their communities and eventually joined others. What researchers do not know is whether the group size (consisting of a maximum of 20 Neanderthals) also applied in other communities, especially outside Altai.
Thus, it is believed that isolation led to the death of this group, which may have been motivated by famine or overwhelming storms.