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.
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"The relatively pristine nature of these 50,000-year-old remains implies that they were covered soon after death, strongly supporting our conclusion that Neanderthals in this part of Europe took steps to bury their dead," observed Rendu. "While we cannot know if this practice was part of a ritual or merely pragmatic, the discovery reduces the behavioral distance between them and us."
Further supporting Rendu and colleagues' theory, geological analysis of the depression in which the Neanderthal remains were found suggests that it was not a natural feature of the cave floor.
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The study opens up a lot of questions:
Who buried their dead first, Neanderthals or Homo sapiens? (Or maybe even some other ancient human ancestor was the first to bury its dead.)