Homo neanderthalensis and Cannibalism

Krapina Cannibalised Bones

Neanderthal extinction is one of the most widely debated topics
in Eurasian prehistory. Most of the proposed scenarios in the past
have related the extinction of the species with the spread of
Anatomically Modern Homo sapiens (AMHS) throughout Europe.
According to this scenario, AMHS would have benefited from some
kind of cultural or biological advantage over Neanderthals (Pettitt,
2000; Hockett and Haws, 2005; Svodoba, 2005; Kuhn and Stiner,
2006). At the opposite extreme, other authors have proposed a
purely climatic scenario in which Neanderthals retreated due to
environmental changes, leaving an empty space in which AMHS
flourished as a consequence of having less strict ecological
restrictions (Finlayson, 2004; Finlayson and Carrion, 2007). An intermediate
position proposes a mixed scenario in which the climatic
oscillations of OIS 3 would have favoured the expansion of
AMHS over that of Neanderthals (Mellars, 1998; d’Errico and
Sanchez Go~ni, 2003; Banks et al., 2008; Barton et al., 2011). In
any case, all these scenarios are based on cultural, biological or
climatic assumptions which are the subject of heated debate. Here
we propose a much simpler scenario, taking into account only one
of the traits that seems to characterize a number of Neanderthal
populations: cannibalism.

Cannibalism has been documented in a number of Neanderthal
sites: Kaprina (Russell, 1987; Patou-Mathis, 1997; White and Toth,
2007), level 25 from Combe Grenal (Garralda and Vandermeersch,
2000), Moula-Guercy (Defleur et al., 1999) Pradelles (Maureille
et al., 2007), Cueva del Boquete de Zafarraya (Barroso et al.,
2006), El Sidron (Rosas et al., 2006).

The above two paragraphs were taken from the July 2017 article on modelling cannibalism in Homo neanderthalensis. Check it out here.

List of Archaeological Sites with evidence of Cannibalism

Croatia – Krapina


  • Combe-Grenal
  • Moula-Guercy
  • Pradelles


  • Cueva del Boquete de Zafarraya
  • El Sidron

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