Large number of skulls discovered in Cueva Des Cubierta, a Neanderthal cave in Spain

Large number of skulls discovered in Cueva Des Cubierta, a Neanderthal cave in Spain
Photo: Museo Arqueológico y Paleontológico de la Comunidad de Madrid
In the Cueva Des Cubierta cave in Spain, a large number of animal skulls placed by Neanderthals were found.

A group of researchers from various institutions across Spain, along with one colleague from Portugal and another from Austria, have found numerous animal skulls that were more than 40,000 years old when they were placed by Neanderthals in Cueva Des Cubierta cave in Spain.

According to published in Phys, the team details the location where the skulls were discovered, their state, and theories as to why they may have been left in the cave.

In 1978, the Cueva Des Cubierta cave in Spain’s Madrid Region was first found. Since then, the multilevel cave has been explored and examined by archaeologists because it was discovered that Neanderthal tribes frequented the location for ceremonies. The main gallery of this cave is approximately 87 m long and 1–4.5 m wide. The infills indicate that it has at least five old openings. Despite being exposed to the elements, its Middle and Late Pleistocene sediments have been well preserved.

The remains of a Neanderthal child have also been discovered in the cave along with bones and tools. To determine whether Neanderthals had also used the cave in this latest investigation, the researchers ascended to its third level.

A variety of huge herbivore skulls were also discovered, along with numerous animal bones that were dispersed around the floor. The skulls had been carefully taken from the victims and “processed” in various ways using tools and, in some cases, fire, the researchers discovered.

Skull of an aurochs. Photo: Nature Human Behaviour

The skulls all shared the tendency to display distinctive characteristics like horns. The majority of the skulls belonged to extinct cows called aurochs or bison. However, they also discovered the skulls of two rhinoceroses and five male deer with antlers. The researchers named one of the rhinoceroses Rosendo after the well known Spanish rock star as a result of their surprise discovery of the animals. Museum Director Enrique Baquedano said, “The discovery of big crania of extinct rhinoceros and bison was a source of great satisfaction”.

The researchers point out that the presence of so many skulls in the cave shows that the Neanderthal tribes that carried them there had other goals in mind besides obtaining food. Given that the skulls were enormous, heavy, and unlikely to have given much food, it is likely that their presence in the cave served another purpose. They might have been used as hunting trophies, according to the researchers.

Cover Photo: Baquedano next to a group of animal skulls discovered in the cave. All of the skulls featured some kind of protrusion, like horns or antlers. / Museo Arqueológico y Paleontológico de la Comunidad de Madrid

You May Also Like
Last ice age, Greenland
Read More

What triggered the last ice age may have been found

Two mysteries have been a head-scratcher for many paleoclimate experts: Where did the last ice age’s ice sheets come from, and how did they grow so fast? These puzzles may have been clarified by a recent study that was published in Nature Geoscience and offered an answer. These results could potentially be used to understand previous glacial epochs.
Read More
Read More

Plankton’s endurance to prior global warming events is revealed by the discovery of “ghost” fossils.

An multinational team of experts from the Natural History Museum, UCL (University College London), the University of Florence, and the Swedish Museum of Natural History discovered a unique sort of fossilisation that had previously gone unnoticed. The ‘ghost’ fossils are imprints of coccolithophores, which are single-celled plankton. Their discovery is altering our understanding of how climate change affects plankton in the oceans.
Read More