Washington, September 10 : New evidence has emerged that suggests Neanderthals engaged in head-to-head combat with wooly mammoths and conquered the massive beasts.
According to a report in Discovery News, the new evidence displays the strengths and weaknesses of Neanderthals, suggesting they were skilled hunters, though not as brainy and efficient as modern humans, who eventually took over Neanderthal territories.
Most notably among the new studies is what researchers say is the first ever direct evidence that a woolly mammoth was brought down by Neanderthal weapons.
Margherita Mussi and Paola Villa made the connection after studying a 60,000 to 40,000-year-old mammoth skeleton unearthed near Neanderthal stone tool artifacts at a site called Asolo in northeastern Italy.
Several arrowheads were excavated at the Italian site, but the one of greatest interest is fractured at the tip, indicating that it "impacted bone or the thick skin of the mammoth."
Other studies on stone points suggest that if such a weapon were rammed into a large beast, it would be likely to fracture the same way.
Villa, a curator of paleontology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News that other evidence suggests Neanderthals hunted the giant mammals, but not as directly.
At the English Channel Islands, for example, 18 woolly mammoths and five woolly rhinoceroses dating to 150,000 years ago "were driven off a cliff and died by falling into a ravine about 30 meters (over 98 feet) deep. They were then butchered."
A study by German anthropologists Michael Richard and Ralf Schmitz found that the Neanderthals probably stalked in organized groups.
The researchers said that their findings reinforce the idea that Neanderthals were sophisticated hunters with an advanced ability to organize and communicate.
According to Villa, Neanderthals are no longer considered inferior hunters.
"Neanderthals were capable of hunting a wide range of prey, from dangerous animals such as brown bears, mammoths and rhinos, to large, medium and small-size ungulates such as bison, aurochs, horse, red deer, reindeer, roe deer and wild goats," she said.