The debate has raged for the better part of a century, but now it seems we might finally have some proof that Neanderthals really were cannibals who ate one another.
Researchers led by Dr. Hélène Rougier of California State University has published a new study in Scientific Reports looking to evidence of cannibalism among a group of Neanderthals at the Goyet cave site in Belgium. Scientists initially believed they had found Neanderthal remains with signs of cannibalism in Croatia, though that was later disproven. But more and more sites produced similar findings in the 1990s and 2000s across Europe.
But this latest find could be the smoking gun. Or bone. Whatever.
As Atlas Obscura notes, the find in Belgium includes four adults and one child, all with cut and percussion marks where flesh and muscle were separated from bone, and where bones were crushed to extract marrow. The team was able to connect those markings to cannibalism by comparing the remains to horses and reindeer used for food also uncovered at the same site. So they now believe these Neanderthals were butchered and eaten by another group. The findings also seem to indicate the bones were taken and used as tools.
Though these remains certainly seem to have been eaten, there are still more questions than answers. Other findings from other sites show evidence of (uneaten) burials, and they’re still not sure whether the instances of cannibalism were solely for food or ceremonial.