"Researchers are studying the remains of a young boy found at the archaeological site in Cantabria to determine why his tongue was pulled out after his death."

"Enigmatic marks found on the jaw of a five-year-old child have rekindled a paleontological mystery that has been puzzling experts for more than a century."

The indentations on the bone indicate that the child’s tongue was pulled out with sharp stone implements after his death, perhaps to be eaten or as part of a funeral ritual carried out in El Castillo cave in Cantabria, which is part of Spain’s famous Altamira caves, and features some of the oldest prehistoric paintings in Europe."

The researchers found that, alongside the remains of the child, Obermaier and his crew had also discovered small fragments of a cranium and the teeth of two other people – a well-built adult and a young person. The analysis of the child’s bone suggests he was a Homo Sapiens, though with more primitive features such as bigger teeth and a smaller chin typical of the era. The researchers extracted a sample of bone and, using Carbon 14 dating technology, showed that the child lived around 27,000 years ago, possibly when some of the cave paintings were done, particularly the silhouettes of hands in ochre, according to Federico Bernaldo de Quirós, who co-authored the study along with anthropologist María Dolores Garralda. Uranium dating has indicated that some of the paintings date back 40,000 years, while the most recent were probably done some 15,000 years ago.

“El Castillo has a massive main hall, around 20 meters wide, followed by a second large chamber which is where the paintings are,“ says Bernaldo. “This was a perfect place for meetings and socializing and different groups would have lived together here for periods, socializing and sharing. We have found the bones of almost 200 deer that were hunted at the same time."

"At that time, there was no shortage of food. There were plenty of animals for hunting and there was also fish to be had from nearby rivers. The analysis of the jaw shows that the child had a varied diet. So why would they want to eat him if they had more than enough food?

The boy found in El Castillo belonged to the Upper Paleolithic Gravettian culture that spread across Europe 30,000 years ago and lasted 10,000 years. “There are numerous burials from this period, some very humble, others extremely grand, such as the young man, found in Arene Candide, Italy, buried with a shell headdress, a huge dagger in his hand and red ochre covering his body, who is nicknamed ‘The Prince’,” says María Dolores Garralda, a professor at the Complutense University in Madrid.
What is exceptional about the jaw fragment in Cantabria is that the indentations show that the body was tampered with shortly after death in order for the tongue to be extracted, according to Garralda. “There is no way of knowing why they did this,” she adds. “It is the only clear case of such a practice in Western Europe, along with another recent find in France.”"