Early humans knew how to make winters “bearable.”
New evidence suggests humans living in Europe nearly half a million years ago may have dealt with the extreme cold by hibernating for months, the Guardian reported.
Fossils dug up from an ancient mass grave in northern Spain showed months of interrupted bone growth — similar to lesions found on the remains of hibernating mammals such as cave bears, researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal “L’Anthropologie.”
The human bones — which date back more than 400,000 years and were probably from early Neanderthals — indicate our ancestors slowed down their metabolisms and slept during harsh winters “to survive the frigid conditions and food scarcity,” the scientists said.
“A strategy of hibernation would have been the only solution for them to survive having to spend months in a cave due to the frigid conditions,” the experts wrote.
The area around the site half a million years ago would not have provided our predecessors with enough “fat-rich” foods to survive the winters — “making them resort to cave hibernation,” the paper stated.
The ancient humans likely found themselves “in metabolic states that helped them to survive for long periods of time in frigid conditions with limited supplies of food and enough stores of body fat,” the scientists wrote.
The bones were excavated from the Sima de los Huesos cave, also known as “the pit of bones” — which is one of the world’s most important fossil sites.
The remains of hibernating cave bears were also found in the Sima pit.