The discovery of the remains of nine Neanderthals, a group of hyenas, and several elephants was found in the Guattari Cave near the Italian resort town of San Felice Circeo. This discovery grasped the attention of many astounded archaeologists who have been suspecting that a significant population used to live in this area. Dario Franceschini, Italy’s cultural minister, says that this is an “extraordinary discovery” and that “The whole world will be talking about it.” According to the Italian Cultural Ministry, one of the Neanderthals found dates all the way back to 90,000 to 100,000 years. The other eight Neanderthals found all dated back to 50,000 to 60,000 years. They were all male, and one is estimated to have been younger than the rest. The archaeologists have started to research the discovery in the cave, which has been accidentally discovered in the 1930s. The discovery was made while trying to “reach an area that had been blocked by an ancient earthquake or more recent landslide.” Two other skulls have already been found in this cave, including an exceptionally “well-preserved” Neanderthal skull discovered in 1939.
The Cultural Ministry concluded that there were a total number of 11 Neanderthals found in this cave which confirms it as “one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man.” The discovery of ventilation holes in the ceiling of the cave led some anthropologists to claim that the Neanderthals practiced “ritual cannibalism.” To this, the ministry added that some of the bones discovered had signed that it had been burnt in the past. Deeper into the cave were more bones to be found. There were “unattached” skulls, two teeth, and vertebrae. In addition to these bones were hundreds more associated with “elephants, rhinoceroses, giant deer, horses, and bovine aurochs, and a now-extinct cow-like animal.” The ministry said that many of these bones had signs of gnawing, most likely by the hyenas. They added to this statement that they are unsure whether the animals killed the owners of these bones or ate them after they died. Some archaeologists believe that the hyenas may have found the cave and used it to bring back their prey, kill, store, and eat it.
Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years ago, but the news that Neanderthal DNA has been detected from some people has sparked an interest in their history. Due to the discoveries in the cave, the San Felice Circeo area now “represents one of the most important finds in the study of the ancient humans.”