“New Research Bolsters Claim That Neanderthals Buried Their Dead” reads the headline of this linked article. I had the same reaction as the writer of that article when I first read its headline: Isn’t that a done deal, I thought? Didn’t we already know that Neanderthals buried their dead? As he said: “I must admit, this new study came as a bit of a surprise to me, in that I assumed this debate was over—that archaeologists were in general agreement that Neanderthals buried their dead.” Yeah, exactly. “Since the early 20th century, dozens of seemingly buried Neanderthal skeletons have been found, pointing to the funeral practice. Trouble is, most of these bones were uncovered over 100 years ago when archaeological techniques weren’t as refined as they are today. Hence the doubt.” Ah, okay. That explains it. The scientists of today don’t trust the work of the scientists of yesterday.
So if Neanderthals did bury their dead (they did), *why* did they do it? Was it purely a practical thing? Get rid of the smelly members of the tribe, to keep down disease and also to prevent the dead from attracting predators? Or did they attach cultural and spiritual importance to the act, like modern humans do? And did they potentially learn it by watching Homo sapiens doing it? Then again, we might have learned it from them!