makes more than 40,000 yearsin the area that we now know as Pinilla del Valle (Madrid)a group of tales of neanderthals he erected at the bottom of a steep cave his own hunting sanctuary. There he got a keeper ‘trophies’ such as bison, deer and rhino skulls carefully carved following the same pattern. Now, tens of thousands of years later, the discovery of these relics reveals the unprecedented history of this population of ‘Madrid Neanderthals’ and, according to experts, once again confirms the incredible ability of Neanderthals to create their own symbols and transmit their legacy from generation to generation.

The story of this discovery, published this Thursday in the scientific journal ‘Nature Human Behaviour’, has been described as one of the «most exceptional» of recent years. And not so much because of the study of the site itself, but because of all the evidence that points to the symbolic value of the remains found. According to the scientists who have led this analysis, headed by the famous paleoanthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga, these Neanderthals carefully kept some of the skulls of their hunting prey to later turn them into trophies for your sanctuary.

Everything indicates that these prehistoric inhabitants of the Madrid valleys even he followed the same technique to assemble his trophies. The skulls of the animals, mostly from large herbivores that at that time swarmed the Iberian Peninsula, were manipulated with lithic tools to remove the brains (and the soft parts) and leave only the bone structure. They were also modified to remove the mandible and upper jaw and, in turn, to extol the part of the horns and antlers of the animal Thus they went from being simple carcasses to true cultural emblems.

symbolic value

The process of creating these hunting trophies none was accidental. As explained by the team of archaeologists who led their study, the fact that this population of Neanderthals will dedicate time and effort to forging these insignia is one more example of their ability to give a symbolic value to a series of objects and practices (something that, by the way, until recently we only related to the appearance of ‘sapiens’). The creation of these trophies, in fact, was not sporadic, but seems to have Produced over generations of neanderthals.

This same conclusion was also drawn after the discovery of the last ‘Neanderthal jewels’ of the Iberian Peninsula, rescued about four years ago in the so-called Foradada cave, near what we know today as Calafell (Baix Penedès). Already then, the discovery of ornaments made with eagle claws pointed, on the one hand, to the fact that the Neanderthals had»a complex symbology, abstraction capacity, articulate language«and, on the other hand, to a certain eagerness to consolidate one»common symbolic culture«Both now and for future generations.

«Something unprecedented»

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The study of this Madrid archaeological site has opened the door to continue investigating the culture of the last Neanderthals of the Iberian Peninsula. As explained rose huguetIPHES-CERCA researcher, professor at the Rovira i Virgili University and co-author of the article, «the characteristics of the published set suggest that Neanderthals gave the animals they hunted a meaning beyond the proper subsistence«.»This is something very unique since the intentional accumulation of skulls in such an enclave is an unprecedented event so far”, concludes the researcher.

The excavation of the ‘Madrid’ hunting sanctuary that stars in this news started more than two decades ago. The Pinilla del Valle site began to be explored in 2002, just after the area was declared an asset of cultural interest. Since then, for more than twenty years, during every summer a team of archaeologists went to the place in search of remains of past populations. Around 2009, the discovery of a long gallery (which was once a sheltered cave) opened the door to discovery of this fascinating archaeological site.