Health-related care for the Neanderthal Shanidar 1

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Laura Kent

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Abstract

The bioarchaeology of care methodology is used to identify health-related care for prehistoric hominids using the skeletal indications of survival with a disability or debilitating disease that would have resulted in death if care was not given. This model involves four stages and was applied to the Neanderthal Shanidar 1 in order to evaluate the type of care possibly received by the individual and what this caregiving behaviour suggests about Neanderthal culture and behaviour. The skeletal remains of Shanidar 1 represents an adult male of advanced age who suffered from a number of debilitating pathologies that would have affected his ability to survive and contribute to his social group. Shanidar 1 required health-related care in the form of direct support and accommodation of a different role within the social group in order to survive to his age at death. The survival of Shanidar 1 to old age implies Neanderthals were capable of changing their behaviour in order to care for and accommodate injured members of their social group. This evidence of health-related care for Shanidar 1 suggests Neanderthals had a greater level of behavioural flexibility and social complexity than previously believed.

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