Article

Krapina - A mortuary practice site with cannibalistic rites

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Abstract

Krapina is quite a unique Neandertal site in Europe because of the very large number of human bones and the large number of individuals. But there is no conformity in evaluating the situation at the rock-shelter as well as life and death of the Krapina Neandertals. A detailed study of the Krapina material has shown that the anthropological context (patterns of skeletal part representation, cut marks, defect patterns in articular surfaces, bone breakage patterns, selection of disarticulated bones) and the archaeological context (human remains scattered on the former living floor and near fire places, or accumulated near walls and mixed with broken animal bones-but no anatomical connection) have to be interpreted as the result of mortuary practices with defleshing and dismemberment of corpses and manipulations on human bones. In our opinion the Krapina rock-shelter was never a living site of the Neandertal group but a mortuary practice site which was inhabited only for celebrating mortuary practices and rites. In Krapina there is also evidence that some cannibalistic rites (marrow and brain extraction) were celebrated within mortuary practices. Human bones and their archaeological context are the most informative remains telling about mortuary practices and reflections on life and death in Palaeolithic times. In the European Middle Palaeolithic two different strategies were manifested in mortuary practices and rites: (1) Mortuary practices based on disarticulated human bones resulting from manipulations (defleshing, dismemberment) on corpses of the deceased; (2) Mortuary practices and rites with the entire intact corpse of the dead. Mortuary practices and ritual in the Palaeolithic reflect the many unsolved problems and contradictions between life and death as well as the struggle for a universal conception of life and death and influenced the lifestyles and survival strategies of Palaeolithic humans intensively.

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... Over the past 100-plus years, several hypotheses have been offered to explain the distribution of human remains at Krapina. These explanations include: Krapina as regularly occupied living site (Gorjanović-Kramberger 1899, 1906, 1913Malez 1971Malez , 1978; Krapina as the site of cannibalism and/or massacre (Gorjanović-Kramberger 1901, 1906, 1909Škerlj 1939, 1958Tomić-Karović 1970); Krapina as a death trap for a group of runaway juveniles (Bocquet-Appell and Arsuaga 1999); Krapina as a site of purposeful burials (Trinkaus 1985); and Krapina as a secondary burial site following mortuary processing (Russell 1987a(Russell , 1987bUllrich 2006). ...
... This is in some part due the public use of the site as a sand-pit before the fossils were identified (Radovčić 1988), so some missing elements may have been carried away long after the site was abandoned. But many bones show ancient fragmentation and cutmarks, so some disarticulation and fragmentation occurred before the bones were put into the ground (Russell 1987a(Russell , 1987bUllrich 2006). The combination of these two factors probably means the current sample of remains from Krapina represents a few pieces from many individuals rather than many pieces from a few individuals as is common in most well-known Neandertals sites. ...
... Complete inventories of the teeth and human bones are available (Kallay, 1963;Trinkaus, 1975;Smith, 1976b;Musgrave, 1977;Wolpoff, 1979;Radov ci c et al., 1988;Kricun et al., 1999), but there is still disagreement about the estimated minimum number of individuals (cf. Ullrich, 2006). ...
Article
Dental fractures can be produced during life or post-mortem. Ante-mortem chipping may be indicative of different uses of the dentition in masticatory and non-masticatory activities related to variable diets and behaviors. The Krapina collection (Croatia, 130,000 years BP), thanks to the large number of teeth (293 teeth and tooth fragments) within it, offers an excellent sample to investigate dental fractures systematically. Recorded were the distribution, position and severity of the ante-mortem fractures according to standardized methods. High frequencies of teeth with chipping in both Krapina adults and subadults suggest that the permanent and deciduous dentition were heavily subjected to mechanical stress. This is particularly evident when the frequencies of chipping are compared with those in modern humans (Upper Paleolithic and historic samples) that we analysed using the same methods. The distribution of chipping in the Krapina sample (anterior teeth are more affected) and its position (labial) suggest a systematic use of the anterior teeth for non-masticatory tasks.
... Based on the evidence from human bones (mainly cutmarks), it is quite possible that Neandertals from Vindija layer G3 practiced cannibalism, possibly like Neandertals from Krapina (Gorjanović-Kramberger, 1906;Smith, 1976;Patou-Mathis, 2006;Ullrich, 2006;White, 2001;White and Tooth, 2007) who occupied the same region some 80.000 years earlier (Rink et al., 1995). Previous interpretations of Vindija have differed as to the presence of cannibalism. ...
Article
Vindija cave is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in Europe, containing a large sample of Neandertal skeletal remains associated with both a distinctive lithic industry and a rich faunal assemblage. Results of detailed faunal analyses from layers G3 and G1 are presented in this paper together with a taphonomic analysis of the hominin remains from these layers. Various agents of modification on the hominin and faunal samples were identified based on the presence of different marks on the bones. The data obtained from these analyses are used, together with assessment of the associated lithic industry, for a reconstruction of Neandertal behaviour in layers G3 and G1. The results of these analyses are critical for understanding the subsistence strategies of the Vindija Neandertals and for a comparison of their behaviour between different occupational levels. The picture of Neandertals as highly effective predators who occasionally defleshed human bones, possibly with the purpose of cannibalism, is reinforced by the results of this study. The Vindija Neandertals practiced broad exploitation of local lithic resources and modified their raw material acquisition strategy at the end of the Middle Paleolithic. Taken together, these results provide further support for the diversity of Neandertal behaviour in Europe.
... However, purely nutritional reasons for this unusual treatment of skeletal remains have been called into question by later authors, who propose this may be due to cultural practices (e.g. secondary burial) ( Trinkaus, 1985;Russell, 1987;Ullrich, 2006). This latter possiblity is intriguing in the light of other recent indicators of symbolic expressions at Krapina. ...
Article
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A short research history and current interpretations of evidence from Middle Paleolithic sites in Croatia are presented. Sites are situated in two main geographic regions, continental and Adriatic, divided by the Dinaric Mountains, providing two different landscapes for the adaptation of Mousterian people and their settlement system. Fossil human remains are discussed from both paleoanthropological and genetic perspectives within their archaeological framework. Interpretations of sites were based on analyses of both old and new archaeological collections (material recovered by recent excavations). Mousterian lithic material originated from three different types of sites: cave sites, open air sites and an underwater site. Research results are presented from various perspectives.
... What is the meaning of the cut marks found on some of the bones? Was this due to defleshing in pursuit of dietary satisfaction ( Gorjanović-Kramberger 1901Tomić-Karović 1970;White and Toth 1991;Chiarelli 2004) or is it a reflection of cultural practices (e.g., secondary burial) as suggested by others ( Trinkaus 1985;Russell 1987a, b;Ullrich 1989Ullrich , 2006). For example, Frayer and colleagues (2006) recently suggested that distinctive cut marks on the frontal bone of the most complete cranial specimen, the Krapina C, or Krapina 3, skull reflected the presence of cultural ritual among these Neandertals. ...
Chapter
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In this chapter, we discuss Croatian sites that have yielded human skeletal remains from the Pleistocene. These include the well-known Neandertal localities Hušnjakovo (at Krapina) and Vindija cave, as well as the Late Upper Paleolithic hominin fossil site Šandalja II cave in Istria. The Krapina site played an important role in the historical development of paleoanthropology and is still the Neandertal site with the largest known minimum number of skeletal individuals to date. Finds from Vindija cave belong to one of the latest Neandertal groups in Europe and provide data for the study of both their behavioral, as well as biological characteristics (including genomics studies). The Šandalja II cave in Istria is the only site in Croatia with direct association of human skeletal finds and the late Paleolithic, an Epigravettian industry, providing us with data on the anatomy and behavior of the Late Paleolithic inhabitants of this region.
... These human bones were recovered in a fragmentary condition intermixed with the faunal sample. There is no evidence of deliberate burial, and some evidence to suggest postmortem manipulation of the bones by other humans (17)(18)(19)(20). Among this sample of fragmentary cranial and postcranial elements, a number have signs of apparently pre-mortem traumatic injury (2,3,21,22). ...
Article
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Neandertal bones with various signs of trauma are not uncommon in the fossil record. This includes a number of cranial injuries. One of the most serious is described here, located on a partial right parietal bone of an adult from Krapina. The wound is a large one, and the edges show clear signs of the deposition of woven bone, documenting the process of healing and demonstrating that the injury was not immediately mortal. Although there has been a great deal of debate, the available evidence does not permit any but the most general speculations about whether these traumas were caused by violence or accident. It is suggested here that the most reasonable explanation concerns the risk of head injury to people who habitually lived and slept in caves. Because of the large number of variables that can affect the seriousness of head trauma, it is not possible to reconstruct the level of neurological injury and possible incapacitation of the individual involved.
... Le Mort, 1988 ;1989). Others are about cannibalism, for instance at Krapina (Patou-Mathis, 1997 ;Frayer et al., 2006 ;Ullrich, 2006), or Moula-Guercy (Defleur et al., 1999). Others try to apply various aspects of taphonomy to studied bones, for example at Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos (Andrews & Fernández-Jalvo, 1997), Le Moustier 1 (Ullrich, 2005), Rochers-de-Villeneuve (Beauval et al., 2005), and Oliveira Cave (Trinkaus et al., 2007). ...
... Anthropogenic surface modifications in the form of cut marks on hominin skulls have been reported as early as in the Plio-Pleistocene (Pickering et al., 2000). Cut marks, intentional breakage, unusual deposition, and polish recorded on human remains from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites have been interpreted as the consequence of dietary or ritual cannibalism (e.g., Smith, 1976;Ullrich, 1978Ullrich, , 2006Trinkaus, 1985;Villa, 1992;Defleur et al., 1999;Fernández-Jalvo et al., 1999;Rosas et al., 2006;Maureille et al., 2007), deliberate dropping of bodies in pits as a part of burial rituals (Carbonell and Mosquera, 2006), secondary burial (Russell, 1987), secondary processing of body parts (Bar-Yosef et al., 1988;Pettitt, 2002), and symbolic manipulation and curation (Ullrich, 1986;Clark et al., 2003;Frayer et al., 2006). ...
Article
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Poster
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Neanderthal cannibalism is registered, among others, in two European sites: Krapina, in Croatia, and Moula-Guercy, in France. Here we make a review of the evidences of both sites in order to describe and understand the reasons that led these Neanderthal populations to the practice of cannibalism, if they were nutritional or ritualistic.
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The fragmentary but abundant Neanderthal remains from Krapina have long been considered to provide evidence for cannibalism in the early Upper Pleistocene. A review of the purported evidence for cannibalism at Krapina (craniocervical fragmentation, diaphyseal splitting, “cut-marks” patterned preservation and breakage, burnt bone, and disassociation of the skeletons) indicates that none of the damage patterns present in the Krapina Neanderthal sample can be explained solely as the products of cannibalism. Furthermore, the frequencies of skeletal part preservation indicate that the Krapina Neanderthals were buried, by natural or human processes, soon after death.
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The fragmentary condition of the Krapina Neandertal remains has been offered as one line of evidence for the hypothesis that these hominids were the victims of cannibals seeking marrow and brains. Two other hypotheses regarding the causes of the framentation have been raised: a substantial portion of the breakage in the Krapina collection is attributable to excavation damage; and the rest of the breakage is attributable to sedimentary pressure and to natural rock falls that occurred during the site's prehistory. The purpose of this paper is report on tests of these three hypotheses concerning the cause of breakage in the Krapina material. Microscopic inspection of all Krapina hominid specimens showed that 23% of the material was inadvertantly broken during excavation or during quarrying that took place at the end of the last century. The morphology of the prehistoric breakage is inconsistent with the cannibalism hypothesis and supports the hypothesis that prehistoric breakage was caused by sedimentary pressure and/or roof falls.