Washington: A team of archaeologists have concluded that Neanderthals, forerunners to modern humans, buried their dead.
The 13-year study of remains discovered in southwestern France confirmed that burials took place in Western Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans.
Lead author William Rendu, a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences ( CIRHUS) in New York City, said that this discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them.
The findings center on Neanderthal remains first discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southwestern France.
The well-preserved bones led its early 20th-century excavators to posit that the site marked a burial ground created by a predecessor to early modern humans.
Beginning in 1999, Rendu and his collaborators, including researchers from the PACEA laboratory of the University of Bordeaux and Archeosphere, a private research firm, began excavating seven other caves in the area.
In this excavation, which concluded in 2012, the scientists found more Neanderthal remains-two children and one adult-along with bones of bison and reindeer.
As part of their analysis, the study`s authors also re-examined the human remains found in 1908. In contrast to the reindeer and bison remains at the site, the Neanderthal remains contained few cracks, no weathering-related smoothing, and no signs of disturbance by animals.
Their findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.