A researcher is sifting through a rich cache of prehistoric animal bones, discovered beneath the floor of Cave Ciemna in Poland. A couple of tiny bones catch the eye. These would later be confirmed as finger bones from a Neanderthal child. And further analysis would reveal the shocking truth about how these bones ended up deep in the cave.
But first things first, who were the Neanderthals? They were, in fact, a type of human – the closest relatives of our own species, Homo sapiens. Their remains have been found all across Europe and Asia, and they are thought to have lived from over 400,000 years ago, right up until they became extinct around 30,000 years ago.
We first became aware of Neanderthals in the mid-19th century. It was 1856, and workers were quarrying for limestone in a cave in the Neander Valley, near the German city of Dusseldorf. Here, the quarrymen came across some strange bone fragments. There were 16 in total.