IF YOU WERE HERE, I’D BE HOME.
Homo neanderthalensis; La Chapelle aux Saints, France. Image credit: Australian Museum http://australianmuseum.net.au/
The ‘Old Man’ of Chapelle aux Saints is thought to be convincing evidence for altruism within Neanderthal groups. Discovered in 1908, the 50,000 year old remains of this individual exhibited signs of advanced arthritis. He had also lost most of his teeth whilst he was alive, and even more surprisingly, his jaw shows evidence of healing.
For him to have survived long enough for this healing to take place, he must have been cared for by others in his group. His arthritis would have prevented him from being able to take part in any hunting activities; leading archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists alike to believe that the ‘Old Man’s’ peers must have fed him and helped him to move…without expecting him to return the favour.
Chapelle aux Saints isn’t the only site to have revealed evidence for altruism. Numerous other Neanderthal remains have been found with crippling conditions that would have killed them had they not been actively cared for.
(Bonus fact for any 18th Century historians out there: The area of La Chapelle aux Saints was renamed to La Chapelle aux Prés during the French Revolution, following a decree from the National Convention).
Craig Chazen// Rise Above Classic Tattooing. Buffalo, New York.