Neanderthals had deep sense of compassion, new study suggests

Researchers found that groups living in Europe between 500,000 and 40,000 years ago took care of sick or wounded individuals over a period of many years.
The interdependence of early communities, who would hunt and eat together, let to an emerging commitment to the welfare of others.

The University of York study, published in the journal Time and Mind, examined archaeological remains to see how emotions emerged from our ancestors.
The researchers’ evidence showed how a child with a congenital brain abnormality was not abandoned but lived until five or six years old.
It also showed how a Neanderthal with a withered arm, deformed feet and blindness in one eye was taken care of for up to two decades.
A four-stage model, developed scientists from the university’s Department of Archaeology, charts the beginnings of human empathy from six million years ago when the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees began to “help” others.
They concluded that compassion in Homo erectus 1.8 million years ago began to be regulated as an emotion integrated with rational thought.
Care of sick individuals showed compassion towards others while special treatment of the dead suggested grief at the loss of a loved one and a desire to soothe individuals.
In modern humans, starting 120,000 years ago, compassion was extended to strangers, animals, objects and abstract concepts.
Penny Spikins, who led the study, said new technology, such as neuro-imaging, enabled archaeologists to reach scientific explanations of what were once intangible feelings of ancient humans.
“Compassion is perhaps the most fundamental human emotion. It binds us together and can inspire us but it is also fragile and elusive,” she said.
“This apparent fragility makes addressing the evidence for the development of compassion in our most ancient ancestors a unique challenge, yet the archaeological record has an important story to tell about the prehistory of compassion.
“We have traditionally paid a lot of attention to how early humans thought about each other, but it may well be time to pay rather more attention to whether or not they ‘cared’.”


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ammara said,

    awwwwwwwww humans are so cute! 🙂

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