Repository logo

Shanidar et ses fleurs? Reflections on the palynology of the Neanderthal ‘Flower Burial’ hypothesis

Published version

Repository DOI



Change log


Hunt, Chris O 
Reynolds, Tim 
Tilby, Emily 
Barker, Graeme 


Pollen clumps associated with the skeleton of the Shanidar 4 Neanderthal were interpreted by the excavator as evidence for a purposeful burial with flowers. This was one of several findings from Shanidar Cave that helped to shape modern perceptions of Neanderthals as sharing empathic characteristics with Homo sapiens (modern humans). Here the available evidence is reviewed critically from a palynological viewpoint. It seems likely that at least some of the pollen clumps were emplaced by nesting solitary bees, though other mechanisms may also have been involved. Shanidar 4 remains of notable importance, however, in being part of a tight cluster of remarkably complete and deliberately emplaced Neanderthal skeletal remains.



4301 Archaeology, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

Journal Title

Journal of Archaeological Science

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title


John Templeton Foundation (ID# 61812)
British Academy (SRG18R1/180250)
the Leverhulme Trust, the John Templeton Foundation, the Rust Family Foundation, the British Academy, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Society of Antiquaries, the McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, Liverpool John Moores University and the Natural Environment Research Council’s Oxford Radiocarbon Dating Facility (grant NF/2016/2/14). The ongoing dating programme has also been supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC grant agreement number 324139 ‘PalaeoChron’ awarded to Tom Higham, then at the University of Oxford