Is This Where Britain's Neanderthal Hunters Slew Mammoths?

Article excerpt

Byline: GERAINT SMITH

AN ASTONISHING 50,000-year-old site of Neanderthal butchery has been unearthed in Britain, promising to answer some of the central mysteries of life in the depths of the last Ice Age here, English Heritage revealed today.

The most important and best preserved British site ever discovered contains the skeletons of up to four mammoths including a juvenile.

There are two-metre mammoth tusks, and woolly rhinoceros and reindeer remains - all lying with the flint tools used to butcher and perhaps kill them.

Dating from the middle Old Stone Age, the site is said to be internationally significant. It is likely to yield crucial evidence about whether the Neanderthals hunted large animals or merely scavenged alongside hyenas, bears, sabre-toothed cats and lions.

Whether the Neanderthal were capable of organising such hunts is one of the fundamental questions about early man.

The site at Lyndford quarry at Mundford, north of Thetford in Norfolk, is thought to have once been a series of ponds used as a watering place by both Neanderthals and animals. The remains are believed to have survived because they lay in a preserving water channel.

The 12-week excavation is the most complete ever undertaken using modern archaeological methods and promises to answer "some of the puzzles surrounding our enigmatic cousins, Homo neanderthalensis, and their harsh environment on the edge of the habitable world", English Heritage said.

Flint tools will undergo detailed analysis to try to match them with the carcasses. Examination of organic material from the site, including molluscs, insects and plant remains, has already revealed an extraordinarily detailed picture. …