500,000-year-old human remains show 'hunter-gatherers cared for elderly'

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London, Oct 12 (ANI): Scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain have uncovered remains of the most elderly ancient human ever - 500,000-years-old - in Atapuerca, northern Spain, who was too old to hunt and fend for himself but was still a member of a family.

The individual of the species Homo heidelbergensis has been named "Elvis" after his pelvis and lower backbone were found in Spain. The remains suggest that probably needed a cane for support, and suffered terrible lower back pain.

"His spine was bent forward so, to keep an upright posture, he possibly used a cane, just like elderly people today," New Scientist quoted Alejandro Bonmatí of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, as saying.

The find suggests that hunter-gatherers didn't abandon the weak. He could not have been an active hunter, nor could he carry heavy loads.

"Rather than being a burden, he may have had valuable knowledge that he shared with other members of the group that helped them survive, providing evidence for a highly socialised group with bonds of solidarity," said Bonmati.

Although fit and fine in his prime, Elvis was in poor shape in his dotage, indicated by his lower vertebrae. He also had a slipped vertebra, which must have constantly and painfully rubbed against its neighbour. There are also signs of a bony growth on another vertebra, which, in modern humans, is known to be very painful.

"This individual probably could move around, but couldn't get his own food, so it implies a level of social support, and that he was valued by his contemporaries," said Chris Stringer, an anthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

The find was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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