, famous as a Neanderthal
burial site that has given us an insight into their culture. One man buried at Shanidar was in his thirties to forties, but had a severe probably congenital
defect of the arm, and had suffered blinding damage to one of his eyes. It was impossible that he could ever have survived without being helped by his tribe.
Furthermore, his neatly laid out burial site was strewn with flowers of numerous species; pollen analysis enabled them to be identified, and they were all found to be known medicinal herbs. It is surmised that Shanidar IV, as he is known, was a shaman or wise man. The rites suggest some kind of religious belief.
Shanidar Cave was excavated by Ralph Solecki in 1960 and later studied by Erik Trinkaus. The pollen result was published by Solecki in 1975. Nine individuals were found, four of them being deliberate burials. The site dates to about 60 000 years BP.
In 1999 the archaeozoologist Jeffrey Sommer proposed an alternative explanation for the distribution of pollen: it could have been caused by the burrowing of a rodent called the Persian jird. However, the existence of the crippled elderly (for that time) Neanderthal man remains.