Several hypotheses concerned with mortuary rituals other than burials, supposed to have been practiced by Neandertals, were proposed during the 20th century. Hypotheses of a ‘cult of skulls’ were rejected following critical evaluation of the excavation data and taphonomic study of the remains. On the contrary, cannibalism is attested in a few sites that provided skeletal remains showing clear evidence of the fact that human corpses were processed with stone tools. In these cases, cut marks could be identified with confidence at the scanning electron microscope. In some cases, the presence of cut marks could also be related to the defleshing of decomposed corpses for ritual secondary disposal.
Neandertals, mortuary practices, cannibalism, cult of skulls