Over 100 years ago, the skeleton of a neanderthal was discovered in a French cave, sparking international interest and wonder. Now, researchers at Binghampton University, working in collaboration with Dr. Asier Gomez-Olivencia of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) have applied modern techniques to the skeleton, revealing more about the famous find, called La Ferrassie 1. Learn more about the study, which was reported in the Journal of Human Evolution, from the following video.
"New technological approaches are allowing anthropologists to peer even deeper into the bones of our ancestors," said Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam. "In the case of La Ferrassie 1, these approaches have made it possible to identify new fossil remains and pathological conditions of the original skeleton as well as confirm that this individual was deliberately buried."
This Neanderthal skeleton was a man, probably over the age of 50, who had suffered various health problems in his lifetime, including several broken bones and respiratory problems. After his death, he was probably interred, likely by members of his community, in La Ferrassi rock shelter. Many Neanderthals lived there over time, with the skeleton placing them there between 40,000 and 54,000 years ago.
The scientists used modern techniques like high-resolution microCT scanning to get a look inside of the skull. That enabled the researchers to see a collarbone fracture, mild scoliosis and spinal arthritis. New bone fragments belonging to La Ferrassie 1 were also found after a fresh assessment of the stuff gathered by the original archeological team. Modern forensic tools showed that the Neanderthal's bone fractures happened after death, due to the weight of the sediment building on top of it.
This new evidence has confirmed the observations made so long ago; La Ferrassie 1 was buried by members of its social group, intentionally.
"This insight has figured prominently in subsequent debates, still ongoing in the field, surrounding Neanderthal cultural practices," noted Quam. "The application of new technological approaches to the study of La Ferrassie 1 demonstrates that, over a century after its discovery, this iconic individual is still revealing new insights into Neanderthal anatomy and behavior."