Neanderthal cannibalism evidence found in Belgium

A cave in Belgium has produced remains with signs of cannibalism among Neanderthals in the region, according to a new study. The bones were found in the Troisieme cavern in Goyet; it is the largest cache of Neanderthal bones found in Northern Europe, and it comprises four adults and one child. Of these remains, about 30-percent of the bones are broken in a way that would have been used to extract marrow and they show cut marks from tools that only human could wield.

The tool marks on the bones, of course, indicate that the Neanderthal remains were cut by fellow living members, and is the primary sign of cannibalism. Similar breaks and cut marks have been found in reindeer and horses remains found at Neanderthal sites, indicating that some Neanderthal remains were prepared and consumed the same way as animals.

Furthermore, researchers found evidence that some of the Neanderthal bones were used to help shape stone tools, likely to sharpen the edge of knives (due to the relative softness of bones compared to stone). This marks the third instance in which evidence of Neanderthals shaping tools with bones have been discovered.

The cave discovery is notable not only for the high number of bones discovered, but also because of its location — while past examples of Neanderthal cannibalism and non-cannibalistic treatments of the dead have been found elsewhere, this is the first instance of Neanderthal cannibalism being found in Northern Europe, helping shed light on practices in that region.