Technology & Science

Bones of pre-Neanderthal found in France

French archeologists say they're learning more about the behaviour of an extinct relative to humans after discovering pre-Neanderthal bones in northern France.

Remains indicate individual repeatedly threw objects, possibly while hunting

French archeologists discover pre-Neanderthal bones at a building site in Normandy 1:46

French archeologists say they're learning more about the behaviour of an extinct relative to humans after discovering pre-Neanderthal bones in northern France.

The remains, consisting of three arm bones — a humerus, ulna and radius — date from around 200,000 years ago and were found near the River Seine in Normandy region during a dig in 2010.

Scientists are only now reporting a complete scientific analysis of the remains. Bruno Maureille, a paleontologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research, described them as "the only known example [of Neanderthal lineage] from northern Europe.”

The bones are of particular scientific interest as they hint at the behaviour of those in the Neanderthal lineage. Ridges on the humerus indicate the individual repeatedly threw objects with the left arm, possibly while hunting prey.

"An abnormal crest on the left humerus represents a deltoid muscle enthesis (connective tissue between tendon or ligament and bone), the archeologists wrote in the U.S. scientific journal PLOS ONE.

"Micro- and or macro-traumas connected to repetitive movements similar to those documented for professional throwing athletes could be the origin of the abnormality," they said.

Given their dimensions, these bones most likely belonged to an adult or an older adolescent, the archeologists said.

The specimen was found buried alongside the skeletons of a number of different animals from the period, including rhinoceros, bears, panthers and several species of wolf.

The site at Tourville-la-Rivière, 14 kilometres south of Rouen, was also identified as an ancient settlement from around 200,000 years ago, with the dig site containing 300 objects, including a number of flint knives.

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