In the mountains of northern Spain, 30 meters underground, archaeologists have found remains that they believe are human. As incredible as it is, the story becomes even stranger – because the remains were not of Homo sapiens, nor were they of Neanderthals. They are something completely new.
So what are these mysterious skeletons and why they were there, BBC Reel reports.
In the 60s of last century in the Atapuerca Mountains
a cave has been discovered in Spain that answers as many questions as it creates new ones.
As workers dig for a railroad through the mountains, a karst hole reveals an underground cave complex that contains a wealth of archaeological artifacts.
In the following decades, archaeologists dug deeper and deeper, until in 1983 they discovered a 13-meter-long vertical shaft that led to a mysterious bone pit.
At first they assumed that the remains were human.
But after they began examining the bones, the scientists found that they were different from those of modern Homo sapiens. Were these Neanderthal remains? Not exactly. Were these the remains of our inhuman relatives, the primates? Like monkeys or gorillas? No. Unable to link the remains to known species, archaeologists began to wonder if they had found a missing part of human evolution.
Then they dated the bones and found that they were 400,000 years old …
The human-like remains were of an entirely new species, probably the ancestor of the Neanderthals, and were unofficially named Sima Hominins because of the cave in which they were found.
While the scientific community rejoiced at the discovery, they also began to wonder: how did these bones end up at the bottom of a cave, 30 meters underground?
There are several theories. There are also remains of 175 bears in the cave, along with those of foxes and lions. One theory is that Hominins were brought by the bears themselves. But this is not very likely, as humans are not easy prey.
There is evidence to suggest mass murder may have played a role. This is due to signs of blunt force injuries (received as a result of a blow with a blunt object) and injuries received during combat, found on some of the skulls of Hominins.
But even if they were killed, that still can’t explain how they got there. The presence of an ax named “Escalibur” supports the theory that the cave is actually a cemetery. If this is true, it will shift back the date of the first human ritual practices.
Another interesting discovery is that of naturally deformed skulls of young children and the remains of crippled adults. The fact that they lived to such an age with their disability suggests that there was someone in the community to care for them. This is one of the earliest known archaeological evidence of behavior similar to modern.
While there is still debate about how and why the path of these ancient people ended
in such a strange place, there is no doubt that the discovery has opened up a whole new world of possibilities in the history of human evolution.
Photo: An artist’s interpretation of the hominins that lived near the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain.Credit…Javier Trueba, Madrid Scientific Films