Paleolithic Bones Show Signs of Ritualistic Cannibalism

When archaeologists first began exploring Gough’s Cave in southern England in the late 1800s, they found human bones mixed with animal bones and other artefacts. Excavation of the cave was finally completed in 1992, and scientists have been studying what was found there ever since. A recent paper by researchers at the Natural History Museum of London and University College London is now bringing to light the rather gruesome practices of our Paleolithic ancestors.

The research focuses on human bones that were discovered in 1987. The bones, which are between 14,000 and 17,000 years old, showed signs of having been chewed on by other humans. In 2015, though, anthropologists and archaeologists began scrutinizing some zig-zag lines that had been carved into the bones. They now believe that these ancient humans practiced some sort of ritualistic cannibalism, and that the practice of eating their fellow humans wasn’t purely out of necessity.

3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net

Current imaging techniques, like electron scanning microscopes, allowed the researchers to study the lines in ways that weren’t possible when the bones were found. The imaging showed that the lines were not the result of butchering, but had actually been carved sometime between removing the meat and breaking the bone to extract the marrow inside. This means the person or persons eating the meat had to pause to make the carvings before finishing their meal. This is a strong indication of ritualistic cannibalism.

Further strengthening this theory is the fact that the marks were artistic, rather than functional, and are similar to engravings found at other archaeological sites associated with ritual. The fact that they also found human skulls that had been made into cups and bowls also shows that there was most likely a ritualistic element to the cannibalism.

Why these people engaged in these practices has yet to be determined. Since the bones appear to have been buried, and not meant to be carried around, one theory is that this was some kind of funerary practice. It is possible that they ate their dead in an attempt to pass down the knowledge of the deceased. This would be especially likely if the cannibalized individual was an important and respected member of the group.

The research team plans to conduct DNA testing on the bones to see if they can determine if the remains belong to a group of related individuals or if they were from outsiders. This will help the determine if the ritual was a way of revering a deceased group member or a way of dealing with an external threat. They also plan to re-assess bones found at other sites that might also show signs of ritualistic cannibalism, so they can hopefully find some links to help them better understand the practice.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Let’s Nuke The Moon Just Because We Can

    Any guesses to who once said that? Yup, you guessed it… The United States once planned to shoot a nuclear bomb at the moon for the sole reason of “Because We Can!” The absolute ridiculous project was put into action during the 1950s by the U.S. Air Force and was...

    Read More
  • The Biggest Spread Of Plague Was Not Caused By Rats

    New studies have shown that rats have been unfairly accused of being the main culprit of causing the immense spread of plague during the time known as the Black Death. Initially, the rats were believed to have spread the plague so severely during 14th century Central Europe due to them...

    Read More
  • The First Medieval North American City

    Cahokia was a settlement that thrived during the years of A.D. 1050-1200, a city that held a population of 10000 to 20000 people and covered over six square miles. This made it bigger than even London at the time and numerous other European cities. It was located in Mississippi, close...

    Read More
  • Twenty-Two Years Of Poop Removed Surgically From One Man

    Remember that last time you could not go to the toilet? You just sat there in agony, with just nothing coming out? Or that constipated bloated sensation that never goes away, well now think that you have had that feeling for wait for it... 22 whole years. Impossible, right? Yes, one Chinese man has defied...

    Read More
  • Yes, There Was A Black Nazi

    Meet Hans Massaquoi, one of the very rare and few biracial Germans who were born and grew up during the Nazi regime. Though do not be mislead by the photo, he was not actually allowed to join the Nazi Party. This does not really make much sense when you remember...

    Read More
  • Marijuana Farms Are Killing Owls

    In California the great marijuana legalization growing revolution is having some dire consequences to the local ecosystem, notably, it seems to be killing Northern spotted owls! Unfortunately the profitable of the marijuana legalization vote in California has seen the rise of numerous unpermitted private grow sites. These grow sites are...

    Read More
  • Napoleon’s Biggest Loss Was Against A Horde Of Rabbits

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French emperor who dominated European and even global affairs for over a decade from 1804 to 1814. Renown for being one of the greatest military commanders ever to rule, his campaigns and victories are still studied around the world today. He won the vast majority of his battles, which means his...

    Read More