Remains of Neanderthals hunted by hyenas are found in Italy

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Ricky Joseph

In 1939, workers found the Guattari cave by chance, under a construction site. At the time paleontologists found a Neanderthal skull with a hole in its head, leading some researchers to assume a cannibal ritual. However, new evidence shows that hyenas were actually the cause of the injury.

To understand this it is necessary to remember that Neanderthals inhabited Eurasia between about 250,000 and 40,000 years ago, when they became extinct probably by the activity of the Homo sapiens However, early hominids were not top predators and were often hunted by other large animals such as lions and hyenas.

Researchers even think that this is exactly what happened in Guattari. This is because archaeologists have found numerous fossils of Neanderthals, some between 50,000 and 60,000 years old, others older, up to 100,000 years old. These fossils, therefore, have injury marks, such as the skull from 1939.

Part of the fossils in the cave. Image: Italian Ministry of Culture

To further collaborate with the hyena hypothesis, several fossils of these predators were also in the cave, along with those of elephants, giant deer, and other animals of the prehistoric megafauna.

The research team believes that the cave may also have been home to Neanderthals themselves, as well as other animals. However, Mario Rolfo (an archaeologist at the University of Tor Vergata) tells The Guardian that the cave may have been sealed off by an earthquake, remaining isolated for almost 60,000 years.

The fate of Guattari's hyenas

The property where the cave currently stands is home to a hotel which is for sale, but Italian state cultural institutions have already applied to the European Union for funds to turn the cave into a study centre. In this way, the Italian government is seeking to increase tourism in the area and also to promote scientific research on Neanderthals.

Hyena jaw from Guattari's cave. Image: Italian Ministry of Culture

As the 1939 interpretations show, much of the human view of Neanderthals may be completely wrong, even if cannibalism really existed among hominids. In this sense, previous studies show that Neanderthals had cultural manifestations, social relationships of their own, and even buried their dead in rituals, more or less like us humans.

This is important because the Homo neanderthalensis have lived on the planet much longer than we have, Homo sapiens Therefore, they may be one piece of the puzzle to understanding human evolution. Moreover, this type of discovery may provide important evidence regarding the sudden and relatively mysterious extinction of these older cousins.

With information from Smithsonian Magazine.

Ricky Joseph is a seeker of knowledge. He firmly believes that through understanding the world around us, we can work to better ourselves and our society as a whole. As such, he has made it his life's mission to learn as much as he can about the world and its inhabitants. Joseph has worked in many different fields, all with the aim of furthering his knowledge. He has been a teacher, a soldier, and a businessman - but his true passion lies in research. He currently works as a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, where he is dedicated to finding new treatments for diseases that have long been considered incurable. Through diligence and hard work, Ricky Joseph has become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and medicinal chemistry in the world. His name is known by scientists everywhere, and his work continues to improve the lives of millions.