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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XI: Neanderthals:Part 2

The well-fed foodie. Studies suggest that Neanderthals were quite sophisticated gourmands. The mixed wild peas, lentils and other v and flavored their stews with wild mustard.

Shanidar Cave, Iraqi, Kurdistan. Four levels of excavation. During the first excavation, Dr. Ralph Solecki discovered ten Neanderthal skeletons. One was of a mature male with a withered arm and other serious injuries. This skeleton inspired Jean Auel's character, The Mog-ur (Creb the shaman) in her 1980 novel, Clan of the Cave Bear.
Despite his injuries, the man survived well into his maturity A demonstration of Neanderthal empathy? Many think so. Another skeleton showed evidence of a projectile wound, providing the first documented evidence of conflict in prehistoric times.
The grave of one of the Shanidar skeletons, a 35-40-year-old male (Shanidar IV), was associated with pollen from six different flower species. Initial claims that this was evidence of a symbolic burial by the first flower children were extremely controversial. Additional remains (Shanidar 6 & 8) found at this dig were also associated with plant material but provided nothing definitive. Did Neanderthals decorate their graves? Was this an ancient cemetery? Neanderthals returned to this cave time after time. Precise dating has proved elusive. The remains appear to be at the outer limits of Radio Carbon dating. Leading to a stated range of 35,000-60,000 BP.
Another interesting find at this site. Upon examination, Shanidar 3, a middle-aged male, showed a deep scratch on his ninth rib, indicating a projectile wound. Was this a hunting accident or the result of a duel with another Neanderthal or perhaps a modern human? According to experimental archeologist Steven Churchill, the wound is most consistent with a lightweight, l, spear such as those used by our direct ancestors.  Is it the first evidence of conflict in the Upper Paleolithic? 


The Neanderthal residents were sophisticated foodies. Analysis of charred food remains indicates that they mixed wild peas, vetch, nuts and edible seed pods along with lentils. Wild mustard was used as a flavoring—the true Paleolithic diet.

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