The Neanderthal's bones were found in Ciemna Cave, which researchers have been excavating for decades.
Credit: Paweł Valde-Nowak
One Neanderthal child had a bad day about 1
However, it's unclear whether or not the giant bird died, and the bones were gulped down and digested by a giant, prehistoric bird, according to archaeologists
Either way, it appears that the child's phalanges (finger bones) passed "through the digestive system of a large bird," Paweł Valde-Nowak, a professor of archeology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, said in a statement. "This is the first such known example from the ice age." [In Photos: Bones from a Denisovan-Neanderthal Hybrid]
The discovery of the Neanderthal child's finger bones is a big finding, especially because the bones, discovered in Ciemna Cave, are the oldest known human remains ever in Poland.
Until now, the oldest known human remains in Poland were three Neanderthal molars from Stajnia Cave that dated to between 52,000 and 42,000 years ago. Neanderthals ( Homo neanderthalensis ) lived in Eurasia from about 300,000 to about 35,000 years ago and are modern humans' closest extinct relatives. According to a 2006 study in the journal Nature, Neanderthals may have lived to about 24,000 years ago, although these individuals were likely to be among the last of their kind.)
Valde-Nowak said: "The child was between the ages of 5 and 7 when he or she died," Valde-Nowak said. The small 0.4-inch-long (1 centimeter) neanderthal finger bones. “/>
The .040-inch-long (1 centimeter) bones are are porous, and dotted with straps-like holes, he added tiny 0.4-inch-long (1 centimeter) neanderthal finger bones.
Credit: Barbara Drobniewicz
But given their poor state of preservation, the bones are not suitable for DNA analysis, Valde-Nowak and his colleagues said  "But we have no doubts that Neanderthal remains, because they come from a very deep layer of the cave, a few meters [yards] below the present surface," Valde-Nowak said. Moreover, it appears that the Neanderthal used the cave seasonally, he said. Researchers have studied Ciemna Cave for decades, and while they found the child's bones there a few years ago, it was not until 2018 that these bones belonged to a Neanderthal .
"This is a unique discovery," Valde-Nowak said. "Only single fragments of fossil bones belonging to relatives of modern man ( Homo sapiens ) have survived to our times in Poland." Researchers also have unearthed Neanderthal tools – such as knife scrapers, which could be used to cut and scrape – on the banks of Poland's Vistula River. All of these Neanderthal findings come from southern Poland, which is more attractive for Neanderthals, unlike northern Poland, which was covered with a glacier during the last ice age.
The research, which is not yet published, is due out
published in the Journal of Paleolithic Archeology.