Evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism found in Spanish cave

Archaeologists conducting excavations in the Coves del Toll de Moià have uncovered evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism from more than 52,000-years-ago.

The Coves del Toll de Moià is a cave system in between the municipalities of Moià and Tona in the province of Barcelona, Spain. Situated in the Torrent Mal Valley, the cave was formed by dissolving Neogene limestone that created a 2km system.

Previous studies have found several faunal remains from the Late and Middle Pleistocene, including cave bears (Ursus spelaeus), hyenas (Crocuta crocuta spelaea), as well as remains of horses (Equus ferus), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and aurochs (Bos primigenius).

During the Middle Palaeolithic, the cave was inhabited by groups of Neanderthals, evidenced by previous discoveries of three Neanderthal children and stone tools.

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In a recent study by archaeologists from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), and the CERCA Institute, the researchers have found fragments from the skull of a Neanderthal juvenile and a collarbone.

The remains have several cut marks, indicating that they were processed by other Neanderthals, and were possibly eaten by their relatives in activities related to cannibalism. Other identified remains are fragmented, possibly in order to access the marrow and other nutrients contained in the bones.

The finds have been dated to just before 52,000-years-ago, which were scattered over the surface at the entrance of the cave and mixed with the bones and teeth of other animals hunted by the Neanderthals inhabitants.

According to the researchers: “This is not the first documented case of cannibalism among Neanderthals, but it is the first identified in Southern Catalonia. Although anthropophagy does not seem to have been a common occurrence among these early humans, there are some sites in Europe that suggest similar practices.”


Header Image Credit : IPHES

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is an award winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education and the BCA Medal of Honour.

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