Neanderthals Cared For The Injured And Disabled Members, Study Finds

Posted: Mar 14 2018, 7:48am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 14 2018, 7:57am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Neanderthals Cared for the Injured and Disabled Members, Study Finds
Credit: John Gurche, artist / Chip Clark, photographer

Compassion likely helped Neanderthals to survive

Neanderthals are assumed to be brutal and unsympathetic but a new research suggests that they were compassionate and genuinely cared for their family members and peers regardless of the level of illness or injury.

“Our findings suggest that Neanderthals didn’t think in terms of whether others might repay their efforts, they just responded to their feelings about seeing their loved ones suffering.” Lead author Dr Penny Spikins from University of York said in a statemen .

Our close human relatives Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago but not before they enjoyed a long run in Europe and Asia. Archeological discoveries have shown that Neanderthals had quite a sophisticated culture. They also tend to take good care of other individuals, which is a way to show their true empathy and concern.

Researchers have reached this conclusion after analyzing remains of Neanderthals. Most of the individuals had a severe injury of some kind. In some cases injuries occurred long before death, suggesting that it would have required constant care, massage or fever management to survive.

Researchers describe the case of a male aged around 25 to 40 who was not in a good shape at the time of death. He was suffering from a number of health problems including a degenerative disease of the spine and shoulders.

Being a hunter-gatherer in Pleistocene period had numerous challenges, but researchers suggest that his condition likely deteriorated over time and restricted his ability to contribute to the group. However, he remained part of the group and lived more than anticipated.

Like other Neanderthals who lived despite various injuries and conditions, the individual in questions most likely required significant social support for his survival. Researchers suggest that care provided was widespread rather than individual bases and hints to the effective healthcare in Neanderthals.

“We argue that the social significance of the broader pattern of healthcare has been overlooked and interpretations of a limited or calculated response to healthcare have been influenced by preconceptions of Neanderthals as being 'different' and even brutish. However, a detailed consideration of the evidence in its social and cultural context reveals a different picture,” said Dr Spikins.

“The very similarity of Neanderthal healthcare to that of later periods has important implications. We argue that organised, knowledgeable and caring healthcare is not unique to our species but rather has a long evolutionary history."

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