Madrid (EFE).- Neanderthals already had symbolic capacity, as demonstrated by a team of scientists at the Des-Cubierta cave site in Pinilla del Valle (Madrid), where they verified that this human species already used skulls of large herbivores as hunting trophies.
The research work, whose conclusions are published today in the journal Nature Human Behavior, has been directed by the archaeologist Enrique Baquedano; paleontologist Juan Luis Arsuaga, scientific director of the Museum of Human Evolution and co-director of the Atapuerca sites; and the geologist Alfredo Pérez-González.
The remains that have been examined in what is known as the “Valley of the Neanderthals” in Pinilla del Valle make this archaeological site an “exceptional” place in scientific terms, have highlighted the research centers that have participated in the work, which have prolonged for the last fourteen years.
Experts from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) at 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 have participated in the research. among other institutions.
Neanderthals already used skulls as hunting trophies
The analysis of the remains of these hominids that lived in the region 40,000 years ago has shown that they used the remains of large herbivores as hunting trophies and thus verified that they already had symbolic capacity.
The investigation focused on the Neanderthal site that was discovered in 2009; the “Uncovered Cave” is a long gallery of caves with fallen 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, a 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 the Neanderthals following the same pattern: they removed the mandible and 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 have been able to verify that the activity was maintained throughout at least several generations, which introduces the concept of cultural tradition that would have passed from generation to generation,” explained the paleontologist from the Complutense University. Juan Luis Arsuaga in the press release released today by the institutions that have participated in the discovery.
Along with these skulls, Mousterian stone tools, typical of Neanderthals, also appeared, as well as anvils and the hammers used to fracture them.
Our species, the only one with the ability to attribute concepts to symbols so far
The researcher from the University of Valladolid Enrique Baquedano has observed that this behavior of Neanderthals from a little over 40,000 years ago “is not related to subsistence activities, but rather to others that provide information on aspects that are quite unknown to this hominin species.” ”.
“Until now, our species had been considered the only one with the ability to attribute concepts to symbols, a theory that, based on these findings, forces us to share this intellectual attribute with Neanderthals,” Baquedano asserted.
The research centers that have intervened in the discovery have ensured that there is no other archaeological site to date in the entire territory through which the species Homo neanderthalensis was distributed that is similar to that of Pinilla del Valle.
The findings of the Des-Covered Cave make it an “exceptional” place that is allowing us to unravel the keys to the behavior of this species that lived with Homo sapiens, the researchers have highlighted.
“This study opens doors to a new concept about this species of hominin and questions our role as the only sapiens in the evolution of life on the planet”, Baquedano has had an impact.
An archaeological zone protected as an Asset of Cultural Interest
Since the investigation began 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 have led to this finding are carried out.
The excavations and research work at the Calvero de la Higuera sites 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.