Neanderthals cared for their elderly, researchers say

Neanderthals likely took care of their elderly, new study claims.
Eric Cabanis

Even Neanderthals cared for their elders, a new study says.

Researchers based their conclusions on 13 years of excavations at a site in southwest France, Agence France-Presse reports. The findings are just the latest in a series to challenge the perception of Neanderthals as dim-witted brutes.

At the site of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, excavators found the body of a Neanderthal man who had already lost his teeth and could most likely barely walk.

Researchers believe his body was deliberately buried, indicating that he was treated with care and respect when he died, according to The New York Times

His injuries and lack of teeth, combined with old age, is said to show that he was taken care of by the community, which kept him alive against the odds.

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Friends or relatives were even said to have likely chewed his food for him. Now that's saying you care.

"His companions not only took care of his body in death, but they took care of him while he was alive, especially in his final months," lead study author William Rendu told AFP.

"If they had wanted to just get rid of this man's body, they could have left it outdoors in nature, where carnivores would have quickly eaten it up.

"This group of Neanderthals showed a high level of conscience for others," Rendu added.

The findings were published in the latest edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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