Starvation and cannibalism were part of everyday life for
a population of Neanderthals living in northern Spain 43,000 years ago, a
Bones and teeth from the underground cave system of El
Sidron in Asturias bear the hallmarks of a tough struggle for survival,
Analysis of teeth showed signs of starvation or malnutrition
in childhood and human bones have cut marks on them.
Details appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Some bones appeared to have been dismembered and broken open,
possibly to allow access to marrow and brains.
'Given the high level of developmental stress in the sample,
some level of survival cannibalism would be reasonable,' the scientists
wrote in their research paper.
The team, led by Dr Antonio Rosas from the National Museum of
Natural Sciences in Madrid, also found that the bones shared physical features
with other European Neanderthals from the same period.
Dr Rosas and colleagues found a north-south variation in
Neanderthal jaw bones, suggesting that populations from southern
parts of Europe had wider, flatter faces.
The findings may help shed light on the life and death of the
Neanderthals, which became extinct about 12,000 years after the
arrival of modern humans in Europe around 40,000 years ago.
Many experts believe they were not able to compete with the
moderns for food and shelter.
Eight Neanderthal skeletons have been found at El Sidron since