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Neanderthals Buried Their Dead, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 17, 2013 01:43 PM EST

After a 13-year study, a team of archaeologists have concluded that Neanderthals used to bury their dead. Neanderthals are an extinct species of human who differ in DNA with us by just 0.3%.

The study was conducted on the remains that were discovered in southwestern France.

“This discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them,” said William Rendu in the press release. Rendu is the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City.

CIRHUS is a collaborative institute between France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and New York University.

Rendu with his collaborators from PACEA laboratory of the University of Bordeaux and Archéosphère, a private research firm started their research in 1999. They excavated seven other caves in the same area to find more evidences.

The excavations ended in 2012 and they found the remains of two children and an adult Neanderthal.

“The relatively pristine nature of these 50,000-year-old remains implies that they were covered soon after death, strongly supporting our conclusion that Neanderthals in this part of Europe took steps to bury their dead,” added Rendu. “While we cannot know if this practice was part of a ritual or merely pragmatic, the discovery reduces the behavioral distance between them and us.”

The developments of the study is presented in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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