LA FERRASSIE, FRANCE — Researchers recently analyzed the remains of a Neanderthal child and found that the two-year-old was probably buried by its tribe, casting new light on the way these ancient cousins of humans treated their deceased.
According to the research paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the child's skeleton was first unearthed in 1973 from a rock shelter at the La Ferrassie dig site in southwest France.
Much of the evidence for Neanderthal burial practices comes from digs undertaken in the early 20th century, before today's rigorous archaeological standards.
This led to initial scepticism as to the veracity of the purported burial sites.
The new researchers re-examined the remains and re-visited the original excavation site.
They concluded that 41,000 years ago, the child had been laid carefully in a grave that was then covered with fresh soil.
This would make it the first evidence for a Neanderthal burial in Europe, adding further support to the notion that funerary practices are not unique to our species.
The team radiocarbon dated one of the skeleton's smaller bones, placing it at around 41,000 years old.