According to today’s Observer the disappearance of the Neanderthals may have been solved (or perhaps not). Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.
The suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone that had apparently been butchered by modern humans. The leader of the research team believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.
Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age.
Some researchers believe Neanderthals may have failed to compete effectively with Homo sapiens for resources, or were more susceptible to the impact of climate change. But others believe our interactions were violent and terminal for the Neanderthals. According to Rozzi, the discovery at Les Rois in France provides support for that argument. "For years, people have tried to hide away from the evidence of cannibalism, but I think we have to accept it took place," he said
But not every team member agreed. "One set of cut marks does not make a complete case for cannibalism," said Francesco d'Errico, of the Institute of Prehistory in Bordeaux. It was also possible that the jawbone had been found by humans and its teeth used to make a necklace, he said.
"This is a very important investigation," said Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. "This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or that we regularly ate their flesh. But it does add to the evidence that competition from modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction."
Hmm One jaw does not a banquet make. I wonder if we will ever see more evidence or perhaps it was all eaten....