A recent French study attests to the discovery of traces of Neanderthal man in the waste products of large carnivores who had devoured them, around 50,000 years ago.
In an excavation of the Pradelles site in Marillac-le-Franc (Charente, France), archaeologists discovered teeth that they could not easily identify. They initially believed them to be milk teeth of cattle or deer, but in fact it turned out that they were human teeth, which had belonged to Neanderthal man.
The conclusions were drawn by Bruno Maureille’s team, a paleontologist and director of research at the French National centre for scientific research (CNRS) and co-author of the study. In a communication from the research unit in the University of Bordeaux (PACEA), it is stated that:
“Some human teeth had been partially digested, probably by large carnivores such as cave hyenas.”
In fact, the scientists analysed the teeth and realised that they had passed through the digestive tube of a large animal. The teeth had suffered the effects of acidity and enzymes found in gastric juices. Furthermore, the morphological modifications of the teeth following the death of their owners were also studied and the researchers were able to define numerous criteria, allowing for easier identification in the future.
“There could be partially digested human teeth in all deposits from the beginning of human history to when large carnivores ceased to exist less than 12,000 years ago”, explains Bruno Maureille.
The Pradelles site is important in that it has been identified as a “butcher’s” for Neanderthal man who did not live there. The researchers estimate that reindeer carcasses were brought to the site in order to extract their resources, but sometimes it was used as a place to treat the remains of other humans.
In fact, it has been claimed that Neanderthals practiced cannibalism, although the human remains could also have been consumed by carnivores, or at least what remained of them.