Madrid (EFE).- The Neanderthals already had a symbolic capacity, as demonstrated by a team of scientists from the site of the Des-Cubierta cave in Pinilla del Valle (Madrid), where they verified that this human species already used skulls of large herbivores as hunting trophies. .
The research, whose findings are published today in the journal Nature Human Behavior, was led by archaeologist Enrique Baquedano; paleontologist Juan Luis Arsuaga, scientific director of the Museum of Human Evolution and co-director of the Atapuerca sites; and geologist Alfredo Pérez-González.
The remains that have been examined in the so-called “Valley of the Neanderthals” in Pinilla del Valle make this archaeological site an “exceptional” place on a scientific level, have highlighted the research centers that participated in the work , which extended for fourteen years.
Experts from the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) of the Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid (MNCN), the University of Valladolid, the Complutense University of Madrid and the Archaeological and Paleontological Museum of the Community of Madrid participated looking. among other establishments.
Neanderthals already used skulls as hunting trophies
Analysis of the remains of these hominids that lived in the region 40,000 years ago showed that they used the remains of large herbivores as hunting trophies and thus verified that they already had a symbolic capacity.
The investigation focused on the Neanderthal site discovered in 2009; the “discovered cave” is a long gallery of caves with collapsed ceilings -which does not retain its original cover- in which an exceptional set of skulls of large herbivores has been recovered, some of them associated with small fires, he explained Alfredo Pérez González, geologist from the Complutense University.
All the skulls in this hunting sanctuary, including those of bison (Bison priscus), aurochs (Bos primigenius), deer (Cervus elaphus) and two rhinos of the species Stephanorhinus hemitoechus, were prepared by Neanderthals according to the same pattern: they removed the mandible and the upper jaw, consumed the brains and left the part of the skull with the horns or antlers as a hunting trophy.
“An important fact is that we were able to verify that the activity was maintained for at least several generations, which introduces the concept of a cultural tradition that would have been transmitted from generation to generation”, explained the paleontologist from the University. Complutense Juan Luis. Arsuaga in the press release issued today by the institutions that participated in the discovery.
Alongside these skulls, Mousterian stone tools typical of Neanderthals also appeared, along with anvils and the hammers used to fracture them.
Our species, the only one capable of assigning concepts to symbols so far
University of Valladolid researcher Enrique Baquedano observed that this behavior of Neanderthals from just over 40,000 years ago “is not related to subsistence activities, but rather to others that provide information about little-known aspects of this species of hominids”. ”.
“Until now, our species was thought to be the only one able to attribute concepts to symbols, a theory which, based on these findings, compels us to share this intellectual attribute with Neanderthals,” Baquedano asserted.
The research centers that intervened in the discovery have assured that there is no other archaeological site to date on the whole territory through which the species Homo neanderthalensis was distributed that is similar to that from Pinilla del Valle.
The discoveries of the Des-Covered cave make it an “exceptional” place which makes it possible to unravel the keys to the behavior of this species which lived with Homo sapiens, underlined the researchers.
“This study opens the doors to a new concept on this hominid species and questions our role as the only sapiens in the evolution of life on the planet”, had an impact on Baquedano.
An archaeological area protected as a Property of Cultural Interest
Since the start of the investigation in 2002 by the current investigation team in the Calvero de la Higuera de Pinilla del Valle, an archaeological area protected as a Site of Cultural Interest (BIC), every summer, for at least one month , the excavations that led to this finding are carried out.
The excavations and research work on the sites of Calvero de la Higuera are financed by the Ministry of Science and by the Community of Madrid, which has built the Museum of the Valley of the Neanderthals -promoted by the Archaeological and Paleontological Museum of Madrid- , It is expected to open in 2025.