The remains of nine Neanderthals were found in an Italian cave on the coast between the cities of Rome and Naples. The bones, which were found specifically in the Guattari Cave in the town of San Felice Circeo, were believed to have belonged to all male adults but one of the individuals may have been a youth.
According to the culture ministry, eight of the individuals date back between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago. The other one may possibly be as old as 90,000 or even 100,000 years.
Guattari Cave was discovered back in 1939 by workers. An ancient landslide sealed the cave which preserved everything that was left inside, including the Neanderthal remains. Recent research of the cave started in October of 2019 with paleontologist Albert Carlo Blanc finding the well-preserved skull of a Neanderthal male.
The recent discovery of the nine Neanderthals weren’t the only ones found in the cave as the ministry explained, “Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man.” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini who led the excavation described the findings as being “an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about,” and adding that there would have been a large amount of Neanderthals living in the region many thousands of years ago.
Mario Rubini, who is the local director of anthropology, weighed in on the discovery by stating that it will shine an “important light on the history of the peopling of Italy.” “Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage in human evolution, representing the apex of a species and the first human society we can talk about.”
In addition to the Neanderthal remains, the researchers also found lots of animal bones. As a matter of fact, thousands of bones were discovered which included the remains of hyenas as well as the prey they killed that they took to the cave in order to eat them or put the food away for a later time.
Even larger remains were found in the cave such as rhinoceroses, elephants, cave bears, giant deer, aurochs, and wild horses. A lot of these bones revealed “clear signs of gnawing,” as described by the ministry.
What’s even more interesting was that one of the Neanderthal skulls had a hole in its head that seemed to indicate that the hyenas snacked on the Neanderthal remains as well. Mario Rolfo, who is a teacher of prehistoric archaeology at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, noted that perhaps the hyenas opened up the skull in order to get to the brain. It’s uncertain whether the hyenas killed the Neanderthals or they just munched on the remains after they were already deceased.
A picture of some of the bones can be seen here.