If certain universal characteristics of modern humans were lacking or poorly developed among Mousterians, others were clearly present. Notably, it is in the Mousterian (but probably only after about 60,000 to 50,000 years ago) that we find the first purposeful burial of the dead. Graves sometimes include animal parts, often interpreted by archaeologists as offerings for use in life after death.
This burial activity indicates a conventionalized set of ways for dealing with death--a disruptive event in all human societies. The very fact of establishing a convention suggests a cultural coding and externalizing of emotional responses and a shared body of ideas. We should keep in mind however that burying a putrifying corpse may have had a very practical goal. It has been argued that many Neandertal corpses are not burials at all, but rather the preserved skeletons of Neandertals who died more or less where we find them.
Curiously, a small number of sites have yielded the bulk of Neandertal skeletons. The cave of Krapina in Croatia produced the remains of at least 60 dead Neandertals. At la Ferrassie in France, shown here, there were a dozen Neandertal skeletons. Recently, in the cave of Atapuerca in Central Spain, dozens of Neandertal skeletons have come to light. Were these mass deaths due to disease or inter-group conflict? There is no forensic evidence to support such an idea. Or did Neandertals usually dispose of their dead by placing their corpses in caves pre-ordained as "natural tombs?"