Ancient bone could reveal how Neanderthals cared for a child with Down syndrome

by | Jun 27, 2024 | Science

Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.A fossilized ear bone unearthed in a cave in Spain has revealed a Neanderthal child who lived with Down syndrome until the age of 6, according to a new study.The find suggested that members of the community cared for and looked after the vulnerable child, who lived at least 146,000 years ago. The research is at odds with the image of Neanderthals, ancient human relatives who went extinct around 40,000 years ago, as brutish cavemen.“The individual would have needed continuous and intensive care,” said paleoanthropologist Mercedes Conde-Valverde, the lead author of a study on the bone that appeared Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.The child “suffered from severe loss (of) hearing and had serious balance issues and episodes of vertigo,” explained Conde-Valverde, who is an assistant professor of physical anthropology at the University of Alcalá in Spain.Muscle weakness would have also made breastfeeding and movement difficult, she added.The tiny fossil was excavated in 1989 from the Cova Negra archaeological site in Spain’s Valencia province. However, archaeologists only recently discovered the specimen when they combed through faunal fragments gathered at the site during a review of the material.“We have been able to identify it as a Neanderthal due to the peculiar proportions of its semicircular canals, which are characteristic of Neanderthals,” Conde-Valverde said, referring to the inner tubes of the ear.The study did not include precise dating of the bone, which would require extraction of ancient DNA, but Neander …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnSign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.A fossilized ear bone unearthed in a cave in Spain has revealed a Neanderthal child who lived with Down syndrome until the age of 6, according to a new study.The find suggested that members of the community cared for and looked after the vulnerable child, who lived at least 146,000 years ago. The research is at odds with the image of Neanderthals, ancient human relatives who went extinct around 40,000 years ago, as brutish cavemen.“The individual would have needed continuous and intensive care,” said paleoanthropologist Mercedes Conde-Valverde, the lead author of a study on the bone that appeared Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.The child “suffered from severe loss (of) hearing and had serious balance issues and episodes of vertigo,” explained Conde-Valverde, who is an assistant professor of physical anthropology at the University of Alcalá in Spain.Muscle weakness would have also made breastfeeding and movement difficult, she added.The tiny fossil was excavated in 1989 from the Cova Negra archaeological site in Spain’s Valencia province. However, archaeologists only recently discovered the specimen when they combed through faunal fragments gathered at the site during a review of the material.“We have been able to identify it as a Neanderthal due to the peculiar proportions of its semicircular canals, which are characteristic of Neanderthals,” Conde-Valverde said, referring to the inner tubes of the ear.The study did not include precise dating of the bone, which would require extraction of ancient DNA, but Neander …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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