Experts Suggest That After The Last Global Warming, Neanderthals Turned To Cannibalism

Studies on human remains from several Neanderthal archaeological sites have realized that the last global warming could have forced Neanderthals to turn to cannibalism for survival.

As far back as I can remember, we have always been frightened by global warming. The greenhouse effect, the destruction of the ozone layer, the growth of harmful emissions, and other extremely unpleasant things.

Meanwhile, 120,000 years ago, in the late Pleistocene, there was no trace of any harmful emissions, and global warming still happened. The temperature in Europe began to rise steadily, animals, accustomed to a slight chill, began to move north, the Neanderthals who inhabited Europe at that time tried to follow their deer (something needed to be eaten), but for some reason, it did not happen.

Or some managed to move while some simply did not have time – the global warming happened rapidly, during the life of two or three generations: a trifle in geological and even historical terms.

And those that did not have time were forced to eat their own kind.

How did global warming force Neanderthals to cannibalism?

Neanderthal tooth found in Les Cottes in France. Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/A. Le Cabec
Neanderthal tooth found in Les Cottes in France. Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/A. Le Cabec

This is the conclusion reached by French scientists who studied human remains in a cave in southeastern France. Back in 1999, more than 300 bones were found in the Mula-Gvertsi cave, belonging to men, women, and children who lived in these lands, presumably 128-118,000 years ago. Scientists were able to determine that some of these people were eaten by their neighbors.

The reason for the cannibalism of the Neanderthals was not understood for a long time until further studies in the cave helped to model the ecological situation in these places during the late Pleistocene.

Anthropologist Emmanuel Desclos and her colleagues from the University of Nice, having examined various layers of the earth, managed to determine that the climate had changed noticeably in a relatively short period of time – it had become much warmer and drier than it was before.

This allowed scientists to hypothesize that due to global warming, the animals that the Neanderthals from Mula-Gvertsi and surrounding places ate partly died out, partly went to cooler and wetter regions. And the cruel feeling of hunger, which our short and muscular ancestors suddenly felt, could have forced some of them to eat their own kind as breakfast.

The Neanderthal bone collection discovered in Goyet, Belgium. These bones should have belonged to a minimum of 5 individuals. Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
The Neanderthal bone collection discovered in Goyet, Belgium. These bones should have belonged to a minimum of 5 individuals. Credit: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

In recent years, more and more excavations of Neanderthal bones from Europe suggest that cannibalism was not a single act in the caves of France but rather something that happened more than we think. As an example, go back to the featured image at the top of this article. The bones you see there were discovered in Belgium a few years ago and once again, signs of cannibalism are present on some of the bones.

There are even more daring speculations that say that the sudden global warming and the massive cannibalism that followed (although there is no evidence that it was massive yet!) led to the extinction of the Neanderthals as a species.

Maybe? Probably. Although the extinction of the Neanderthals did not happen until much later – about 40 thousand years ago, when the Cro-Magnons appeared in Europe – the direct ancestors of modern humans and direct competitors of the Neanderthals in the struggle for the Earth. And, interestingly, they were more resistant to both hunger and climatic fluctuations.

If you think that Neanderthals were cannibals because they were so wild, or that cannibalism was their only trait, I will disappoint you. Hunger has forced people to such extreme measures on many occasions in modern history too.

Here is an example from European history, and, specifically, one of the episodes of the First Crusade that has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. After the capture of Antioch in 1098, the crusaders rushed to the city of Maara (modern Syrian Maarat-en-Nu’man ).

The siege was long, the storming of the city was merciless, and as a result, after the storm, there was such devastation that neither the surviving Arabs nor the victorious crusaders had food. As a result, there were also cases of cannibalism.

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Sources: 

• Staff, S. (2016, December 30). The caves that prove Neanderthals were cannibals. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-caves-neanderthals-cannibals.html

• Culotta, E. (1999, October 01). Neanderthals Were Cannibals, Bones Show. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://science.sciencemag.org/content/286/5437/18.2

• Pruitt, S. (2019, March 29). Neanderthals Resorted to Cannibalism in the Face of Climate Change. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.history.com/news/neanderthal-cannibalism-baume-moula-guercy-discovery

Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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