Cavemen Did Have Compassion: They Cared for Disabled Children

Neanderthals and their precursor, an early human species called Homo heidelbergensis, were often thought of as violent and uncaring, rejecting newborns with severe deformities.

A recent discovery, however, may change the picture: they might have cared for their disabled children.

... a new study shows that a 530,000-year-old fossil skull belonged to a child who lived to around the age of ten despite being born with a rare birth defect known as craniosynostosis, in which the skull segments close too early, interfering with brain development. [...]

Increased pressure on the brain due to the deformity might have led to learning difficulties and health problems such as mental retardation.

"All children need care," noted study team leader Ana Gracia of the Centro UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamientos Humanos in Madrid. But this child would likely have required "special need care" to have lived as long as it did, she said.


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This article only mentions the one example, so it wrongly suggests to people who don't know science and don't know about any other examples that one case IS enough to draw conclusions, thus teaching people bad science. Furthermore, caring for someone who cannot care for themselves does not prove compassion, anyway. It could just as easily be compulsion by the leader, possibly because it was the leader's child and ego drove him to care for it, not out of compassion, but because he wanted his line to go on. I'm sure there could potentially be many other explanations, too. Heck, maybe aliens took care of it; you don't even know for sure who did the care. Scientists would at least mention that there are other possibilities, and they don't draw firm conclusions about motivations as that is merely speculation, even with sworn testimony, without fairly sophisticated lie detecting equipment in operation while the testimony is given, which is of course impossible in this case.
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@Ant- you're generalising. Not all the ancient Greeks did that. @Johhny Cat- The oldest cremation that they found! is about 175.000 years old. but signs are that burials and rituals for the dead are far older than that. And what do we find back about when elephants mourn their dead? Nothing. They mourn their dead, this is seen repeatedly. But that does not leave any trace. So similar things with rituals will have happened with human ancestors.
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Emmy is right. This is not the first example we have of early man showing compassion/caring for the sick/dealing tenderly with the dead. We know that these people had a sense of family and community from a lot more than just this.
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it's not bad science if it's one of several examples that go into forming that conclusion.
it would be bad if we based our whole theory off that one individual find- but with all the evidence we've found from mulitple burial sites, and what we know of other primates it's not a total stretch to think they were compassionate to some degree.
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