Scientists find sign cave dwellers took care of elderly

Oct 11, 2010
Workers carry out an excavation at the Atapuerca archaeology site in July 2010. Scientists said Monday they had uncovered evidence suggesting cave dwellers who lived in northern Spain some 500,000 years ago took care of their elderly and infirm.

Scientists said Monday they had uncovered evidence suggesting cave dwellers who lived in northern Spain some 500,000 years ago took care of their elderly and infirm.

University of Madrid palaeontologists discovered the partial skeleton of a male of a European species ancestral to the who suffered from a stoop and possibly needed a stick to remain upright, they said in a statement.

"This individual would be probably impaired for hunting, among other activities. His survival during a considerable period with these impairments allows us to hypothesize that the nomadic group of which this individual was part would provide special care to aged individuals," it said.

The remains suggested the cave dweller died when he was over 45. They were found at Atapuerca in northern Spain's Burgos province, the site of several containing evidence of prehistoric human occupation.

The results of the study have been accepted for publication in the online edition of the of the United States, the scientists said.

An earlier study carried out at the same site in 2009 concluded that the cave dwellers who lived there were cannibals who valued the flesh of children and .

In 1994, palaeontologists also unearthed at Atapuerca the fossilised remains of Homo antecessor, or "Pioneer Man", believed to date back 800,000 years.

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StillWind
3 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2010
Does anyone else find it absurd that these people would provide care for their elderly, yet practice cannibalism of their young?
While there may be evidence of canibalism of the young, where is the evidence that it was "these" people who practiced cannibalism?
I have yet to see anything that makes this clear, and as such is just another example of the limited thinking of those responsible for making the claims.
MorituriMax
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
Sure they would. What better supply of ready-made jerky would they have been able to cultivate easier?
Mischa
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2010
Does anyone else find it absurd that these people would provide care for their elderly, yet practice cannibalism of their young?
While there may be evidence of canibalism of the young, where is the evidence that it was "these" people who practiced cannibalism?
I have yet to see anything that makes this clear, and as such is just another example of the limited thinking of those responsible for making the claims.


This was the exact same thought I had when I read this article. There was two research projects, one this year about these cave dwellers caring for their elderly, and last year in 2009 when they found evidence of cannibalism. Are we sure that these are the same group of cave dwellers or is it two different groups of cave dwellers from different time periods? Those writing these articles should be more specific.
scidog
not rated yet Oct 12, 2010
well even if they were the same group it makes sense to me.keep the old guy going who knows how to make fire and tools and all that survival stuff,plus he talks to the gods and eat the worthless kids who can't hunt and so on.maybe every winter was a Donner Pass for these people and when the young and weak went down they were food to keep the rest of the family alive.and if you want detail don't look here for it,this is just a news blog to direct you to the real research papers,which of course you would need a degree of some sort to really understand.
MarkyMark
not rated yet Oct 12, 2010
To those who are confused [rightly] over the elderly care and canabalism of there [asunption] adolescents and children could likely find there answer in social ideals found in primitive tribal and clan societies where the old are often venerated as wisemen leaders and of course spirituall leaders.

Of course we can only guess what tribes were like back them and as a result many questions will never be answered.
kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2010
One has to question these "historic" dates that are so glibly proffered. How do they know it was 500k or 800k year ago? I know people will throw all kinds of dating methods at me but the question is still there: What methods did they use to date these findings and just how valid are they in this situation?
Did they at least do a C-14 carbon dating on the old bones to see if it contained any C-14?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2010
Kev, they use multiple methods in order to determine the date. If you use only one method, your answer isn't necessarily valid as mistakes can be made, samples can be corrupted, etc.

When one announces a date they use multiple disparate forms of dating to come to an answer that agrees with multiple methods of determination.

Do you assume your stove is hot because someone else said it was or do you look for the surface heating indicator light, the presence of warmer air, the visual disturbance of heatwaves, or do you just never, ever touch your stove ever again?

Stop being so fantastically stupid.
Mischa
not rated yet Oct 12, 2010
Thank you Scidog. I suppose writing a few extra words to clarify things is asking too much? Like saying, "An earlier study carried out at the same site in 2009 concluded that the [same group of] cave dwellers who lived there were [also] cannibals who valued the flesh of children and adolescents." Yes, I can read the research papers, but considering I already have so much to read, it would be helpful for a new article to give a better synopsis of those research papers. In this case, if they are going to mention an earlier research project, to be more clear about it. That was the point, with all due respect, that Stillwind and I was trying to make.

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