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Neanderthals hunted in large groups, bringing down 12 TON elephants

They stood up to fifteen feet tall - with enormous straight tusks that reached ten feet in length.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Neanderthals hunted in large groups - bringing down giant elephants that weighed up to 12 TONS, according to new research.

(Johannes Gutenberg Uni via SWNS)

They then butchered the animals using multiple tools - providing enough meat to feed 25 individuals for three months.

The findings are based on telltale signs from cutmarks on 125,000-year-old skeletal remains of the prehistoric species, known scientifically as Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

Now extinct, it was more than twice the size of its modern-day African counterparts.

They stood up to fifteen feet tall - with enormous straight tusks that reached ten feet in length.

It adds to evidence our primitive cousins were much more intelligent than previously believed.

(Johannes Gutenberg Uni via SWNS)

Cooperative behavior boosted Neanderthals' chances of survival during these risky adventures.

They would also have had to defend themselves against hyenas and lions - which would have been attracted by the nourishing prey.

Lead author Dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, of Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany said: "With male elephants weighing as much as 12 tons, butchering an animal of this size must have involved multiple tools and butchers.

"It would have taken days to complete, and yielded copious amounts of meat that could have lasted for up to three months for as many as 25 people."

Elephants were the largest terrestrial mammals of their time.

(Johannes Gutenberg Uni via SWNS)

It shows Neanderthal communities were bigger and less mobile than previously believed.

Dr. Gaudzinski-Windheuser said: "They must have lived more stationary lifestyles in larger units than commonly supposed."

The bones, bearing signs of the people who killed them, were recovered in 1988 from a site called Neumark-Nord near present-day Halle in eastern Germany

They were punctured by spears - the oldest example of hunting marks in the history of hominins, or early humans.

(Johannes Gutenberg Uni via SWNS)

Neanderthals used sophisticated close-range techniques to capture their prey - indicating they were much smarter than we once gave them credit for.

The stereotypical image of knuckle-dragging brutes is wrong. They were complex and empathetic - creating symbolic art, producing geometric structures and controlling fire to use on tools and to cook food.

Dr. Gaudzinski-Windheuser and colleagues unearthed the remains of more than 70 elephants.

It is the largest known assemblage of the prehistoric species, known scientifically as Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

Dr. Gaudzinski-Windheuser said: "Cutmarks suggest they were routinely hunted and butchered by Neanderthals.

"By evaluating bone surfaces under a microscope and reviewing what was already known about the remains, we inferred Neanderthals methodically cut, hacked, and extracted parts of the animal, leaving distinct markings on the bone surfaces."

Professor Britt Starkovich, an anthropologist at Tubingen University who was not involved in the study, said: "It is increasingly clear that Neanderthals were not a monolith and, unsurprisingly, had a full arsenal of adaptive behaviors that allowed them to succeed in the diverse ecosystems of Eurasia for over 200,000 years."

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.

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