Neanderthals hunted enormous elephants that were bigger than woolly mammoths
Neanderthals hunted huge elephants that weighed up to 12 tons and could feed 100 people for a month, new research shows.
The study, conducted by Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, analyzed the 125,000-year-old skeletal remains of a prehistoric species known as Palaeoloxodon antiquus.
These gigantic elephants were twice the size of the modern animal, they could grow up to 4.5 meters in length with tusks that were up to 3 meters long.
Of the 70 elephants studied by scientists, few have been found with complete skeletons.
But markings on the bones suggest that the mammals — larger than woolly mammoths — had been thoroughly butchered to ensure all flesh and fat had been stripped from the bone.
Neanderthals hunted huge elephants that weighed up to 12 tons and could feed 100 people for a month, according to a study from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. In the photo: dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser examines the femur of a large adult male elephant for the presence of lacerations
The researchers calculated that all the meat from one of the elephants would have fed about 100 adults for a month, and those were “really big calorie bombs.”
The findings, published in Scientific progressled scientists to believe that Neanderthals, who hunted in large groups, used tools to butcher the elephants.
Lead author Dr Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser said: ‘With male elephants weighing as much as 12 tonnes, slaughtering an animal of this size must have involved multiple tools and butchers.
“It would have taken days to complete and yielded large quantities of meat that could have taken as long as three months for as many as 25 people.”
Even the elephants’ brains and pads under their feet had been scraped off.
Furthermore, there were few gnaw marks from other scavengers on the bones, indicating that very little meat was left.
Neanderthals hunted in packs to increase their chances of survival, which would involve defending themselves against hyenas and lions, which would be attracted to the deceased elephant.
Wil Roebroeks, a co-author of the study said: ‘Hunting these gigantic animals and slaughtering them completely was part of Neanderthal activities at this location.
“This is the first clear evidence of elephant hunting in human evolution.”
This photo reveals the longest gash found on the discovered elephant’s bone, measuring about 4cm in length
This photo reveals cuts on a foot bone of one of the elephants, showing that Neanderthals tried to grab as much meat and fat from the animal as possible
Neanderthals and humans coexisted in France and Spain for up to 2,900 years
Humans and Neanderthals may have coexisted in Europe for as long as 2,900 years, giving them time to learn from and reproduce with each other.
The study, conducted at Leiden University in the Netherlands, carried out research on tools and boundaries found at two archaeological sites in France and Spain.
Archaeologists then determined that humans were present there about 42,500 years ago.
The subspecies of archaic man appeared 40,000 years before disappearing 1,000 years later.
This means the two species coexisted in the region for 1,400 to 2,900 years, providing the first evidence showing how long and where the pair intermingled before subspecies of archaic humans became extinct.
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The bones showed the animals had been pierced with spears — the oldest example of hunting marks in the history of hominins, or early humans.
Neanderthals used advanced close-range techniques to catch their prey — indicating they were much smarter than we once thought, the researchers said.
They added that the stereotype of the ancient human species as beasts dragging their knuckles was incorrect.
Instead, they were complex and empathetic—creating symbolic art, producing geometric structures, and controlling fire for use on tools and food.
Roebrokes added: ‘Neanderthals were not simple slaves of nature, original hippies who lived off the land.
“They actually shaped their environment, through fire … and also by having a major impact on the largest animals that were walking the world at the time.”
The research provides important insights into Neanderthal communities and ways of life.
Since these elephants were the largest terrestrial mammals of their time, this shows that the hunting communities were larger and less mobile than previously thought.
Dr. Gaudzinski-Windheuser added, “They must have lived a more stationary lifestyle in larger units than is commonly believed.”
Male elephants would have been the best option for the Neanderthals to capture, as they were generally solitary creatures, unlike female elephants who move in groups to protect their young.
The male species would have been easier to immobilize by being driven into mud and pit traps.
They are also said to have more calories than their female counterparts, as Roebroke said “these elephants are really big calorie bombs.”
The bones were first discovered alongside other animal remains and ancient tools in a quarry near Halle, Germany in 1988, but only now have they been studied more thoroughly.
Dr. Gaudzinski-Windheuser said: ‘Cut marks suggest they were routinely hunted and butchered by Neanderthals.
“By evaluating bone surfaces under a microscope and considering what was already known about the remains, we deduced that Neanderthals methodically cut, hacked and extracted parts of the animal, leaving clear marks on the bone surface.”
The study provides further insight into the lives of Neanderthals, challenging the perception that they lived in small groups.
Professor Britt Starkovich, an anthropologist at the University of Tübingen who was not involved in the research, said: ‘It is becoming increasingly clear that Neanderthals were not monoliths and, unsurprisingly, had a full arsenal of adaptive behaviors that enabled them to succeed in the diverse ecosystems. of Eurasia for more than 200,000 years.’
TIMELINE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION
The timeline of human evolution goes back millions of years. Experts estimate that the family tree goes like this:
55 million years ago – First primitive primates evolve
15 million years ago – Hominidae (great apes) evolved from the ancestors of the gibbon
7 million years ago – The first gorillas evolve. Later, the lineage of chimpanzees and humans diverge
5.5 million years ago – Ardipithecus, early ‘proto-human’ shares traits with chimpanzees and gorillas
4 million years ago – Ape like early humans, the Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no bigger than a chimpanzee’s, but different, more human features
3.9-2.9 million years ago – Australoipithecus afarensis lived in Africa.
2.7 million years ago – Paranthropus, lived in forests and had huge jaws to chew on
2.6 million years ago – Hand axes become the first major technological innovation
2.3 million years ago – Homo habilis is thought to have first appeared in Africa
1.85 million years ago – First ‘modern’ hand appears
1.8 million years ago – Homo ergaster begins to appear in fossils
800,000 years ago – Early humans control fire and create hearths. Brain size increases rapidly
400,000 years agoO – Neanderthals appear for the first time and spread across Europe and Asia
300,000 to 200,000 years ago – Homo sapiens – modern humans – appear in Africa
54,000 to 40,000 years ago – Modern people reach Europe