A symbolic Neanderthal accumulation of large herbivore crania



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Baquedano, Enrique and Arsuaga, Juan Luis and Pérez-González, Alfredo and Laplana Conesa, César and Márquez, Belén and Huguet, Rosa and Gómez Soler, Sandra and Villaescusa, Lucía and Galindo Pellicena, María Ángeles and Rodríguez, Laura and García González, Rebeca and Cruz Ortega, M. and Martín Perea, David Manuel and Ortega, Ana I. and Hernández Vivanco, Alicia and Ruiz Liso, Gonzalo and Gómez Hernanz, Juan and Alonso Martín, José I. and Abrunhosa, Ana and Moclán, Abel and Casado, Ana Isabel and Vegara Riquelme, Marina and Álvarez Fernández, Ana and Domínguez García, Ángel C. and Álvarez-Lao, Diego J. and García García, Nuria and Sevilla, Paloma and Blain, Hugues Alexandre and Ruiz Zapata, María Blanca and Gil García, M. José and Álvarez Vena, Adrián and Sanz, Teresa and Quam, Rolf and Higham, Thomas (2023) A symbolic Neanderthal accumulation of large herbivore crania. Nature Human Behaviour . ISSN 2397-3374

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01503-7


This work examines the possible behaviour of Neanderthal groups at the Cueva Des-Cubierta (central Spain) via the analysis of the latter’s archaeological assemblage. Alongside evidence of Mousterian lithic industry, Level 3 of the cave infill was found to contain an assemblage of mammalian bone remains dominated by the crania of large ungulates, some associated with small hearths. The scarcity of post-cranial elements, teeth, mandibles and maxillae, along with evidence of anthropogenic modification of the crania (cut and percussion marks), indicates that the carcasses of the corresponding animals were initially processed outside the cave, and the crania were later brought inside. A second round of processing then took place, possibly related to the removal of the brain. The continued presence of crania throughout Level 3 indicates that this behaviour was recurrent during this level’s formation. This behaviour seems to have no subsistence-related purpose but to be more symbolic in its intent.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
Humanities > History > Archaeology
ID Code:76850
Deposited On:01 Mar 2023 17:00
Last Modified:01 Mar 2023 17:04

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