Neanderthals hunted huge elephants that once roamed northern Europe | CNN

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About 125,000 years ago, huge elephants weighed up to eight cars each I wandered into what is now Northern Europe.

The towering animal, known scientifically as Palaeoloxodon antiquus, was the largest land mammal of the Pleistocene, reaching over 13 feet (4 meters) in height. in spite of that Imposing size, now extinct Elephants are straight-tusked Neanderthals were routinely hunted and systematically butchered for their meat, according to a new study of the remains of 70 animals found at a site in central Germany known as Neumark-Nord, near Halle.

This discovery shakes what We know how the extinct hominins, who existed for more than 300,000 years before disappearing about 40,000 years ago, organized their lives. The research suggested that Neanderthals were highly skilled hunters, knew how to preserve meat and led a more sedentary existence in groups that were larger than many scientists imagined.

A distinctive pattern of repeated cut marks on the surface of the well-preserved bones—the same position on different animals and on the right and left skeletal parts of an individual animal—showed that giant elephants were cut up for their meat, blubber and brains postmortem, following a fairly standard procedure over a period of approx. 2000 years. With an adult male animal weighing 13 metric tons (twice the weight of an African elephant), the slaughter process likely involved a large number of people and took days to complete.

Stone tools have been found in northern Europe along with the remains of other straight-tusked elephants with some cut marks. However, scientists had no clarification on whether or not early humans actively hunted elephants The meat was sprouted from those that died of natural causes. The sheer number of elephant bones with the regular pattern of cut marks has halted the controversy, said the authors of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

Neanderthals may have used thrusting and throwing spears, which were found at another site in Germany, to target male elephants because of their large size and solitary behavior, said study co-author Will Robrocks, a professor of Paleolithic archeology at Leiden University in Germany. The site’s demographics lean toward older, male elephants more than would be expected if the animals died naturally, according to the study.

“It’s a matter of immobilizing these animals or driving them onto muddy shores until their own weight works against them,” he said. “If you can immobilize one of them with a few people and put them in an area where they get stuck. It’s a matter of ending them.”

What was most amazing about this discovery, said Brett Starkovich, a researcher at Senckenberg University’s Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and the Environment, was that Neanderthals were able to hunt such large animals, but they knew what to do with the meat. Tübingen in Germany, in a commentary published along with the study.

The return is mind-boggling: Over 2,500 daily servings of 4,000 calories per portion. Starkovich, who was not involved in the research, wrote Starkovich, who was not involved in the research Starkovich, who was not involved in the research, writes that a group of 25 foragers can eat a straight-tusked elephant for 3 months, and a group of 100 forage can eat for 3 months. a month, and it can eat 350 people for a week.

“Neanderthals knew what they were doing. They knew what kind of individuals to hunt, where to find them, and how to carry out the attack. Crucially, they knew what to expect with a massive slaughter effort and a larger return for meat.”

Robrocks said the Neanderthals who lived there likely knew how to preserve and store meat, possibly through the use of fire and smoke. It’s also possible that such a wealth of meat would be an opportunity for temporary gatherings of people from a larger social network, said study co-author Sabine Gudzinski-Windheuser, professor of prehistoric and protozoan archeology. at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

She explained that the occasion may have been a marriage market. An October 2022 study of the ancient DNA of a small group of Neanderthals living in what is now Siberia indicated that women married outside their community, noted Gudzinski-Windheuser, who is also director of the Monrepos Center for Archaeological Research and the Museum of the Evolution of Human Behavior in Neuwied.

“We don’t see it in the archaeological record, but I think the real benefit of this study is that everything is now on the table,” she said.

The cut marks on the elephant bones, which belonged to about 70 individuals, were systematic.

Scientists have long believed that Neanderthals were highly mobile and lived in small groups of 20 or fewer. However, this last finding suggests that they may have lived in much larger groups and were more sedentary in this particular place and time, when food was plentiful and the climate mild. The climate at the time—before the ice sheets advanced at the beginning of the last ice age about 100,000 to 25,000 years ago—was similar to today’s conditions.

The study found that the killing of a tusked elephant was not an everyday occurrence, with approximately one animal killed every five to six years at this location based on the number found. However, it is possible that more elephant remains could have been destroyed because the site is part of an open-pit mine, according to the researchers. Other finds at the site indicated that Neanderthals hunted a wide variety of animals across a wilderness-populated lake landscape. Horses, fallow deer, and red deer.

More broadly, the study emphasizes the fact that Neanderthals were not the savage cave dwellers often portrayed in popular culture. In fact, the opposite is true: They were skilled hunters, understood how to process and preserve food, and thrived in a variety of different ecosystems and climates. Neanderthals also made sophisticated tools, spinning, and art, and carefully buried their dead.

“For the more identifiable human traits that we know Neanderthals possessed — caring for the sick, burying their dead, and occasional symbolic representation — we now also need to consider that they had preservation techniques for storing food and were sometimes semi-sedentary or that sometimes they worked in Larger groups than we ever imagined,” Starkovich said.

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