Cannibal past – The Gough Cavern

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The Gough cave, located in the United Kingdom, has kept a great mystery for many years. The mystery is not at all the human remains found there, something common to archaeologists. The most intriguing, is not the strange disposition of the bones, as if they had been tampered with: which is something expected from our knowledge of burial rituals. The mystery here are the marks of teeth found in bones and the signs that they have been broken, squeezed and sucked.

This cave is 3.4 km long and is located in the gorge of the Cheddar Gorge, in Somerset, England. In 1903, the bones of a man, known as Cheddar Man, were discovered at 115 meters deep, the finding is dated to about 7,150 BC – thus being the oldest complete human skeleton found in the United Kingdom. In addition to its value due to its age, it was also the first found on the site with cannibalism marks.

They have not concluded yet that Cheddar Man was eaten by other men. But new human remains found in this cave over the last few decades and new analyzes have prompted a group of scientists to state that the evidence is that what happened there was not a burial but a meal. Evidence too strong to be discarded.

“We found irrefutable evidence of pieces of boneless, disarticulated, chewed human remains that had broken bones and squeezed to suck the marrow,” said Silvia Bello of the London Natural History Museum in a report to the BBC. Another proof of cannibalism is the ancient bones, about 15,000 years old, found in Gough’s cave. According to Silvia Bello, these are from the time when burial rituals were still rare among humans.

The evidence found by archaeologists at Gough, is linked to other discoveries elsewhere in Europe to prove that our ancestors were cannibals.
German scientists have discovered that the bones of a Neanderthal of about 45,000 years old, which was found in the caves of Goyet, Belgium, had the same type of marks, this time found in reindeer. Revealing that men ate animals the same way they ate other humans.

Some scientists have also discovered the remains of a three-year-old child and two teenagers with teeth marks on their bones.

In the animal world, marks on bones are considered normal, resulting from the act of eating. But this is not so obvious when it comes to human bones, the most complicated thing to prove cannibalism is being able to distinguish bones that have been bitten / marked as the meat was eaten, from those marked for cultural purposes or burial rituals.
In Gough, something suggests that not only it was eaten for survival, but also for rituals. The bones with signs of nibbles have no evidence of violent deaths and in addition, skulls that appeared to have been carved in the shape of a bowl or a cup were found in the cave. Possibly used as utensils for their daily life.

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