Theory: Neanderthals Hunted/Eaten to Extinction by Modern Man

The mysterious disappearance of Neanderthals about 30,000 years ago has baffled scientists for centuries.

But now, according to a leading fossil expert, it seems the race may have met a rather grisly end. They were eaten by our ancestors, the modern humans.

The basis for the claim is the markings on a Neanderthal jawbone found in Les Rois, south-west France during a study conducted by the Journal of Anthropological Sciences.

The cuts to the bone are similar to those left on those of deer and other animals butchered by humans in the Stone Age. It is believed that the flesh was eaten by humans and the teeth used to make a necklace.

Leader of the research team, Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, said: 'Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them.

'For years, people have tried to hide away from the evidence of cannibalism, but I think we have to accept it took place.'

Mr Rozzi believes the jawbone provides evidence that Neanderthals were attacked and sometimes killed by humans, who then brought their bodies back to caves to eat or used their teeth and skulls as trophies.

Neanderthals lived across Europe around 300,000 years ago. They managed to survive several ice ages before dying out around 30,000 years ago, around the same time as human beings arrived on the continent from Africa.

They had a jutting nose set in a large face with massive brow ridges and no chin.

One theory for the Neanderthals disappearance is that they couldn't compete with humans, who had better brains and more sophisticated tools, for scarce resources such as food.

Other scientists believe they were more susceptible to the impact of climate change.
Crucial evidence: Previous excavations revealed bones that were thought to be exclusively human but Fernando Rozzi's team found one jawbone to be Neanderthal

The controversial cannibalism claim is sure to divide opinion within the science community

The controversial cannibalism claim is sure to divide opinion within the science community.

Francesco d'Errico, of the Institute of Prehistory in Bordeaux, disagrees with the theory. He said: 'One set of cut marks does not make a complete case for cannibalism.'

He added that humans could have found the bone and used its teeth as a necklace.

Professor Christ Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London, said: 'This is a very important investigation.

'We do need more evidence, but this could indicate modern humans and Neanderthals were living in the same area of Europe at the same time, that they were interacting, and that some of these interactions may have been hostile.

'This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or that we regularly ate their flesh.

'But it does add to the evidence that competition from modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction.'

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