Thanks to the remains found in the snowymountains of Altai, scientists for the first time were able to find out what kind of families the Neanderthals had. The find showed that more than 50,000 years ago, thirteen ancient people died in caves, which may have served them as a temporary hunting camp. The Neanderthal group included eight adults and five children. Since the remains were perfectly preserved, mitochondrial DNA was extracted from the bones. It turned out that all people were related to each other, and scientists were able to determine even the degree of their family relationship. Thanks to this, it is possible to draw conclusions about how Neanderthals built their families and what kind of life they led in general.
Neanderthals from Chagyrskaya Cave
Just 100 km from the famous Denisovskaya cave,in which the remains of Denisovans (extinct hominids) were discovered more than ten years ago, there is the Chagyrskaya cave. In 2019, scientists discovered tens of thousands of different stone artifacts in it. These were all kinds of tools, animal bones, asthenia fossils, as well as the remains of Neanderthals.
Chagyrskaya cave, as we said above, couldserve as a buffalo hunting camp. Radiocarbon analysis showed that the age of the remains of ancient people found in this cave is 51-59 thousand years. Scientists also managed to find out from the remains of animals and pollen in the cave that the climate at that time was quite cold.
Neanderthals settled in kindred groups
DNA analysis of Neanderthals from the Chagyrskaya cave,published in the journal Nature, says that these people were closely related to the Neanderthals from Okladnikova cave, which is located nearby. Among the remains, scientists found a father and his daughter, who was in her teens.
A boy was also identifiedwas the grandson or nephew of one of the women. The teenage girl's father was related to two other men on her mother's side. As scientists say, they could have a common grandmother. Genetic evidence also confirms that Neanderthals from Chagyrskaya Cave communicated with Neanderthals from Okladnikova Cave.
By carefully studying DNA, scientists have also been able tofind out about the marriage customs of extinct people. Namely, the team found out who after the “marriage” left their social group and moved into the social group of their couple. These were women - they, along with her husband, went to his family. Family groups were small for ancient people, numbering only 10-20 people.
True, this does not mean that all Neanderthals livedin such small groups. Perhaps this feature concerned only the Chagyr Neanderthal community. According to the researchers, an isolated lifestyle could be the cause of their death. Although it is very difficult to name the immediate cause of the death of the family after 50,000 years.
According to some experts, the groupNeanderthals could have starved to death after a failed hunt for a non bison. As we discussed earlier, meat was the basis of the Neanderthal diet. Apparently, they did not eat plant foods at all. But also the cause of death could be a strong storm, which is not uncommon for Siberia.
I must say that this study is the first irrefutable proof of the family relationships of Neanderthals.
What was the relationship between Neanderthals and Denisovans?
Neanderthals and Denisovans most likelywere in the same place and at the same time. Previously, scientists have established that about 30 thousand years before the Chagyr Neanderthals lived, they had a common ancestor with the Denisovans. It is also known that Chagyr Neanderthals are related to European Neanderthals - they were part of the same Neanderthal population.
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There is currently no evidence thatthat Siberian Neanderthals mixed with Denisovans who lived in the neighborhood. But it is quite possible that such evidence will be found in the future. After all, it is known that Neanderthals mixed with modern people, as we talked about earlier. It is possible that they also mixed with other types of people.