The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


New data from an old site: Neandertals at Goyet (Belgium) and their mortuary behavior

HÉLÈNE ROUGIER1,2, ISABELLE CREVECOEUR2, CÉDRIC BEAUVAL3, HERVÉ BOCHERENS4, DAMIEN FLAS5, MIETJE GERMONPRÉ6, PATRICK SEMAL6 and JOHANNES VAN DER PLICHT7.

1Department of Anthropology, California State University Northridge, 2Université de Bordeaux, PACEA-UMR 5199, 3Archéosphère, Bordeaux, 4Fachbereich Geowissenschaften – Biogeologie, Universität Tübingen, 5FNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Université de Liège, 6Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, 7Centre for Isotope Research, Groningen University

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The "Troisième caverne" of Goyet (Belgium), excavated at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, yielded a rich archeological sequence ranging from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic to historical times. In 2008, we began to document the Paleolithic occupations of the "Troisième caverne" by reassessing the collections recovered from the site which heretofore had only been partially studied. The updated inventory of human remains was completed by sorting out the paleontological collections in order to identify human remains that had been overlooked thus far. As a result, the collections from the "Troisième caverne" now include nearly 200 human bones/bone fragments and isolated teeth that correspond to various material from different periods.

The morphometric study of the human specimens from Goyet, completed by radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis, shows that the sample contains a large although fragmentary series of Late Neandertal remains. They include elements from the cranial and infra-cranial skeleton and represent at least 3 different individuals. The Neandertal specimens of Goyet also present numerous anthropogenic traces that are similar to those found on the fauna remains from the site. We interpret them as evidence of cannibalism and will discuss our observations in terms of mortuary behavior variability among Neandertals.

This research is part of an ongoing effort within the paleoanthropological community to revisit sites and fossils that were discovered over 100 years ago in order to reassess them using modern techniques.

This research was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Gr. 7837), the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences of CSUN, and the CSUN Probationary Faculty Support Program.

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