Archaeologists reconstruct the face of a female Neanderthal buried in a cave in Iraq Archaeologists reconstruct the face of a female Neanderthal buried in a cave in Iraq

Archaeologists reconstruct the face of a female Neanderthal buried in a cave in Iraq

Archaeologists reconstruct the face of a female Neanderthal buried in a cave in Iraq

Archaeologists have reconstructed the face of a Neanderthal woman who lived 75,000 years ago in a cave in the foothills of Iraq, where unique funerary rituals were performed.

The skeletal remains of a Neanderthal woman, called Shanidar Z, were first discovered in 2018 in a cave in Iraqi Kurdistan, which appears to have been a unique site of repeated burials.

Studies conducted since the 1950s have shown that Neanderthals buried their dead in the cave and performed funerary rituals, such as placing them on a bed of flowers.

Evidence collected from this cave site indicates for the first time that Neanderthals were far more advanced than primitive creatures.

Although Neanderthals, who are believed to have died 40,000 years ago, had skulls completely different from those of modern humans, the reconstructed face of this woman, who is believed to have been in her forties when she died, shows that their appearance was similar to modern humans. .

The results of this research were revealed in a new documentary entitled “Secrets of the Neanderthal Man,” produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and released on the “Netflix” platform and made available around the world.

Dr Emma Pomeroy, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Archaeology , said : "Neanderthal skulls have massive frontal ridges and lack a chin, with a prominent midface leading to more prominent noses. But the reconstructed face suggests those differences were not absolute."

She continued: "It may be easier to see how interbreeding occurred between our species, to the point that almost everyone alive today still has Neanderthal DNA."

Scientists said the woman's remains, including a flattened skull about 2 centimeters thick, are some of the best-preserved Neanderthal fossils found this century.

It is believed that her head was crushed, possibly by falling rocks, shortly after her death, most likely after her brain had decomposed but before her skull was filled with dirt.

After carefully exposing the remains, including their skeleton almost to the waist, the Cambridge scientists used a glue-like adhesive to strengthen the bones and surrounding sediments.

They removed Shanidar Z in small blocks wrapped in aluminum foil from under 7.5 meters of soil and rock inside the “Flower Cemetery”.

They then assembled more than 200 pieces of her skull to return it to its original shape, including its upper and lower jaws.

Scientists scanned the surface of the reconstructed skull and 3D printed it, adding layers of synthetic muscle and skin to reveal her face.

Analysis of the excavations indicates that Shanidar Z was buried in a groove created by running water, which was manually hollowed out to accommodate her body.

She was leaning on her side, her left hand curled under her head, and a rock placed behind her head.


  1. The reconstructed face of a Neanderthal woman, Shanidar Z, from a 75,000-year-old burial site in Iraq reveals striking similarities with modern humans, challenging earlier views of Neanderthals as primitive. The detailed reconstruction, involving over 200 skull fragments, emphasizes the complexity of Neanderthal funerary rituals, including possible flower burials, indicating a sophisticated cultural and emotional life. The findings contribute to a broader understanding of Neanderthals, suggesting that interbreeding with Homo sapiens was plausible due to their shared characteristics. The BBC-Netflix documentary, "Secrets of the Neanderthal Man," presents these discoveries to a global audience, offering a new perspective on our ancient relatives.

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