Nine Neanderthals’ remains were found in the Guattari cave near Rome in Italy. It has been discovered that they were preyed upon by hyenas who mauled then dragged them to the cave.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of nine Neanderthals in Italy. The archaic humans were found in a prehistoric site about 100km southeast of Rome.

The nine neanderthal remains were analysed and were found to be seven men, one woman, and one boy, according to Business Insider.

The Neanderthals were hunted by hyenas and were mauled by the vicious creatures before being brought back to their cave, the Guardian reports, noting that researches found traces of vegetables alongside human remains “and those of rhinoceroses, giant deer, wild horses and, of course, ferocious hyenas.”

According to the news release by Italy’s Culture Ministry, “The characteristic of this place is that of allowing a real journey through time: today's conditions are substantially the same as 50,000 years ago and the presence of fossils makes the cave an exceptional database. Recent excavations have returned thousands of animal bone finds that enrich the reconstruction of the fauna, environment and climate.”

The research that began in October 2019 yielded “significant fossil finds ... attributable to 9 individuals: 8 datable between 50 thousand and 68 thousand years ago and one, the oldest, datable between 100 thousand and 90 thousand years ago.”

A Neanderthal skull and bones from the Guattari cave in San Felice Circeo, near Rome in Italy.
A Neanderthal skull and bones from the Guattari cave in San Felice Circeo, near Rome in Italy. (Emanuele Antonio Minerva / Italian Ministry of Culture)

The release continues to explain: “In addition to abundant hyena remains, various groups of large mammals have been determined including: the aurochs, the large extinct bovine, which is one of the prevalent species together with the red deer; but also the remains of rhinoceros, elephant, giant deer (Megaloceros), cave bear, and wild horses. The presence of these species accords well with the age of about 50 thousand years ago, when the hyena dragged its prey into the den using the cave as a shelter and food storage. In fact, many of the bones found show clear signs of gnawing.”

“Neanderthals were prey for these animals,” said Mario Rolfo, professor of prehistoric archeology at the Tor Vergata University of Rome. “Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals.”

Experts maintain the possibility that the Guattari cave may have been inhabited by Neanderthals at one point, before hyenas took possession of it.

The researchers said that most of the Neanderthals were killed elsewhere then brought into the cave that served as the hyenas’ den. “Once inside,” the Guardian notes, “the animals consumed their prey.”

The Neanderthal remains found in Guattari cave include skullcaps and broken jawbones.
The Neanderthal remains found in Guattari cave include skullcaps and broken jawbones. (Emanuele Antonio Minerva / Italian Ministry of Culture)

The Neanderthal remains found in Guattari cave include skullcaps and broken jawbones, the first new discovery in the cave that had previously provided Neanderthal fossils in 1939. According to the Guardian, “since then, no further human remains had been uncovered in Guattari.”

Italy’s Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, declared the find “An extraordinary discovery that the whole world will talk about because it enriches research on Neanderthals. It is the result of the work of our Superintendency together with universities and research bodies, truly an exceptional thing."

“With this excavation campaign,” said Mauro Rubini, director of the SABAP [Superintendence of Fine Arts and Landscape Archeology] anthropology service for the provinces of Frosinone and Latina, “we have found numerous individuals, a discovery that will allow us to shed an important light on the history of the population of Italy. Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage of human evolution, he represents the apex of a species and is the first human society we can talk about.”

According to Francesco Di Mario, SABAP official archaeologist for the provinces of Frosinone and Latina and director of the excavation and use of the Guattari cave “They are all adult individuals, except one perhaps at a young age.”

Di Mario continued to say “It is a satisfactory representation of a population that must have been large enough in the area. We are carrying out studies and analyzes, not only genetic, with much more advanced techniques than in [paleontologist Alberto Carlo] Blanc's time, capable of revealing a lot of information.”

"The geological and sedimentological study of this deposit,” Rolfo pointed out, “will make us understand the climatic changes that occurred between 120 thousand and 60 thousand years ago, through the study of species animals and pollen, allowing us to reconstruct the history of the Circeo and the Pontine plain.”

The Guardian reports Rolfo as saying “It is a spectacular find,” before going on to say “A collapse, perhaps caused by an earthquake, sealed this cave for more than 60,000 years, thereby preserving the remains left inside for tens of thousands of years.”

Rolfo’s team of researchers plan to analyse the DNA of the Neanderthal remains to have a more in-depth understanding of their lives and past.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies