It turns out Neanderthals with disabilities stood a chance at survival if they have someone to take care of them. A recent discovery of a Neanderthal skeleton in Iraq revealed how the specimen managed to live until its 40s, despite being deaf, partially blind, and missing a part of its right arm.
The Iraqi Neanderthal was deaf and had several other disabilities
A team of researchers from Washington University in St. Louis stumbled upon the skeleton of a Neanderthal they called Shanidar 1. After a close analysis of the fossils, they discovered the specimen had several disabilities, including partial vision loss and a disabled right arm. However, the most striking observation they made was that the specimen was deaf.
The Neanderthal had some bony structures which had grown in its ears. Such structures can sometimes be found in humans as well but, back then, they could have accumulated earwax, which would have led to the specimen losing its hearing.
The specimen could survive due to the support of the Neanderthal community
In spite of all the disabilities, researchers assessed the age at which the Neanderthal died, and it was around 40. For a specimen living 50,000 years ago, such a lifespan is quite impressive. This suggests one thing, namely the fact that it had been carefully taken care of, so Neanderthals had a lot more humanity in them than we would have expected.
This is not the first time when researchers discovered the remains of a Neanderthal with disabilities. Being deaf meant that they couldn’t use hunting tools properly, and they had difficulties communicating with the other members of their tribes.
Therefore, surviving for so long could have been possible only with the support of the community. Moreover, researchers were already aware of the Neanderthals’ rituals of burial. This means they valued each member of their society, and treated everyone equally. All the other details of the study have been published in the journal PLOS One.
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