A Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in an Iraqi cave, already famous for fossils of these cousins of our species, is providing fresh evidence that they buried their dead – and intriguing clues that flowers may have been used in such rituals.
Scientists said they had discovered the well-preserved upper body skeleton of an adult Neanderthal, who lived about 70,000 years ago, in Shanidar Cave in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Tuesday. The individual – dubbed Shanidar Z – was perhaps in his or her 40s or 50s with their sex undetermined.
The cave was a pivotal site for mid-20th century archaeology. Remains of 10 Neanderthals – seven adults and three infants – were dug up there 60 years ago, offering insight into their physical characteristics, behaviour and diet.
Clusters of flower pollen were found in soil samples associated with one of the skeletons, a discovery that prompted scientists involved in that research to propose that Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers.
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