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The ribcage of Shanidar Z
Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.
The skull of Shanidar Z was found to have been crushed
Before the most recent specimen uncovered in Iraq, the last articulated Neanderthal remains were unearthed at Sima de las Palomas in 2006-7 and at Cova Forada in 2010 [Link in Spanish]. Both sites are located in south-east Spain.But Dr Emma Pomeroy, from the University of Cambridge, said the new skeleton – dubbed Shanidar Z – is more substantial and more completely articulated than those previous finds. Dr Pomeroy is the lead author of a paper in Antiquity journal describing the find and was part of the excavation team working at the cave in Iraqi Kurdistan.”So much research on how Neanderthals treated their dead has to involve returning to finds from 60 or even a hundred years ago, when archaeological techniques were more limited, and that only ever gets you so far,” said Dr Pomeroy.”To have primary evidence of such quality from this famous Neanderthal site will allow us to use modern technologies to explore everything from ancient DNA to long-held questions about Neanderthal ways of death, and whether they were similar to our own.”Ralph Solecki died last year aged 101, having never managed to conduct further excavations at his most famous site, despite several attemp