ROME — When a Neanderthal skull was discovered in a cave on the property of a beachfront hotel south of Rome in 1939, it prompted a theory, since debunked, that Neanderthals had engaged in ritual cannibalism, extracting the brains of their victims to eat.
Now, a find at the same site, made public on Saturday, appears to have confirmed the true culprit: Stone Age hyenas.
New excavations at the site in the coastal town of San Felice Circeo have uncovered fossil remains of nine more Neanderthals of varying sex and age along with the bones of long-extinct hyenas, elephants, rhinoceroses and even the Urus, or Aurochs, the now-extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.
Experts say the findings, at the Guattari Cave, will offer fresh insight on the culinary peculiarities of the Neanderthal diet and much more.
Neanderthal skulls ever found. The skull had a large hole in the temple, and its fame may have been fueled by the thesis put forth by Alberto Carlo Blanc, the paleontologist who first studied it, that the Neanderthals had engaged in ritual cannibalism.