Neanderthal Skeleton Discovered In 'burial Site' Hints At Elaborate Ceremonies

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Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers, claim scientists, who discovered the skeleton's rib fragment contaminated with pollen.

Written By Zaini Majeed | Mumbai | Updated On:
Neanderthals

A Neanderthal skeleton has reportedly been excavated from Shanidar cave in Iraqi Kurdistan that was buried 70,000 years ago. The primitive era specimen, which is the first of its kind discovery in 25 years, has revealed that flowers may have been used in burial rituals by the extinct humans, confirmed reports.

According to the reports, scientists discovered a well-preserved upper body skeleton of an adult Neanderthal, dubbed as Shanidar Z in his 40s or 50s. The cave was a pivotal site in the mid-20th century where archaeologist Ralph Solecki found the remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and infants in the 1950s. The fossils had offered the scientists an insight into physical characteristics and were transported to Baghdad Museum in 1960.

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Published in the Journal Antiquity, the study has revealed that clusters of flower pollen in soil samples were found by the scientists. These pollens were confirmed to be associated with one of the skeletons, said reports. This unique discovery has prompted scientists involved in fossil research to propose that Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers.

Critics, however, have raised speculation on the “flower burial”. According to reports, critics have argued that the pollen could also be modern contamination from people working and living in the cave, or from burrowing rodents or insects. They indicated that Neanderthal mortuary practices needed further investigation.

Shanidar Z’s rib fragments contain pollen

The scientists have addressed this by saying that the analysis has found that Shanidar Z’s bones and rib fragments contained ancient pollen and mineralized plant remains, said the report. They further added that this confirmed the possibility of flower burials. Scientists are also examining the material to determine the fossil’s age and the plants the pollens represented.

Emma Pomeroy, osteologist and paleoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the research published in the journal Antiquity, told the media that from initially being a sceptic based on other published critiques of the flower-burial evidence, she was coming round to think this scenario was much more plausible. She said that she is waiting for the full results of the new analyses.

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