Source: The Guardian
By Robin McKie, Science Editor
Sun 20 Dec 2020 05.30 EST
Seasonal damage in bone fossils in Spain suggests Neanderthals and their predecessors followed the same strategy as cave bears
Bears do it. Bats do it. Even European hedgehogs do it. And now it turns out that early human beings may also have been at it. They hibernated, according to fossil experts.
Evidence from bones found at one of the world’s most important fossil sites suggests that our hominid predecessors may have dealt with extreme cold hundreds of thousands of years ago by sleeping through the winter.
The scientists argue that lesions and other signs of damage in fossilised bones of early humans are the same as those left in the bones of other animals that hibernate. These suggest that our predecessors coped with the ferocious winters at that time by slowing down their metabolisms and sleeping for months.
The conclusions are based on excavations in a cave called Sima de los Huesos – the pit of bones – at Atapuerca, near Burgos in northern Spain.
Over the past three decades, the fossilised remains of several dozen humans have been scraped from sediments found at the bottom of the vertiginous 50-foot shaft that forms the central part of the pit at Atapuerca. The cave is effectively a mass grave, say researchers who have found thousands of teeth and pieces of bone that appear to have been deliberately dumped there. These fossils date back more than 400,000 years and were probably from early Neanderthals or their predecessors.
Suggested Reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times: