By Tim Binnall
Archaeologists in Italy unearthed the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals who met a rather gruesome fate when they were preyed upon by hyenas thousands of years ago. According to a press release from the Italian Cultural Ministry, the remarkable find was made at a location known as Guattari Cave, which is a site that had been sealed off from the world by way of a landslide some 60,000 years ago until its accidental discovery in 1939. An initial investigation of the cavern at the time produced a Neanderthal skull which was heralded as "sensational," but now pales in comparison to what a modern excavation has uncovered.
While working to improve the safety conditions of the cave, workers were stunned to find the remains of a staggering nine additional Neanderthals. Eight of these individuals are believed to be somewhere between 50 to 68 thousand years old and the ninth body is thought to be around 90 to 100 thousand years old. Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, declared the find to be "an extraordinary discovery that the whole world will talk about because it enriches research on Neanderthals." Among the remains unearthed during the excavation are various skull caps, jaw bones, two teeth, and various other fragments.
As for how the Neanderthals wound up in the cave, archaeologists paint a grim picture of their demise. Based on the "abundant hyena remains" found in the location, experts believe that the site served as a den for the carnivorous creatures. As such, scientists studying the bones suggest that the unfortunate Neanderthals were hunted down by hyenas and dragged into the cave where they were then eaten. This macabre conclusion is informed by the fact that the newly discovered remains "show clear signs of gnawing." Bolstered by the new Neanderthal find, researchers in Italy intend to redouble their efforts to study the cave in the hopes of unearthing any additional secrets of the distant past that may be hidden there.