Neanderthals Showed Compassion for Child with Down Syndrome, Fossil Reveals

Neanderthals Showed Compassion for Child with Down Syndrome, Fossil Reveals

Researchers have documented the first known case of Down syndrome in Neanderthals, analyzing a fossil of a child found at the Cova Negra archaeological site in Valencia, Spain. The study, involving an international team led by anthropologists from the University of Alcal√° and Valencia, used a combination of archaeological excavation and modern medical imaging techniques to examine the skeletal remains. The child, nicknamed "Tina," was diagnosed with Down syndrome and survived to at least six years old, indicating that extensive care was provided by their social group.

The fossil, unearthed in 1989 but only recently analyzed for its significance, showed inner ear abnormalities consistent with Down syndrome. This discovery suggests that Neanderthals engaged in compassionate caregiving, extending their support beyond immediate family members. The findings challenge previous theories that Neanderthal caregiving was solely based on reciprocity, highlighting instead the possibility of true altruism within their communities. The study suggests that complex social adaptations for caregiving existed in Neanderthals, indicating a very ancient origin of such behaviors within the genus Homo.

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