A fossilized ear bone is providing evidence that a Neanderthal child with Down syndrome lived to be at least 6-years-old and was cared for by others.

The remains of the child, who researchers named Tina, were uncovered in Cova Negra, a cave in Valencia, Spain.

A study published this week in the journal Science Advances details how an analysis of Tina’s ear bone reveals that the child who lived at least 146,000 years ago had a congenital pathology in the inner ear associated with Down syndrome that would have caused severe hearing loss and vertigo.

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While people with Down syndrome now live well into adulthood, the study notes that other examples of those with the chromosomal disorder in prehistoric times have showed very short lifespans.

“It is therefore notable that the individual represented by fossil CN-46700 lived to at least 6 years of age, which far exceeds the usual life expectancy of children with Down syndrome in prehistoric population,” the study authors concluded. “It is reasonable to think that the long survival of individual CN-46700 could only have occurred because it received continuous care and attention during that time.”

The remains were originally excavated in 1989, but the new fragments were found recently. Researchers then constructed a three-dimensional model to analyze.

Based on their findings, the researchers said that the child would likely have needed more care than a mother could provide on her own, suggesting that other members of the child’s social group helped as well.

“What was not known until now was any case of an individual who had received help, even if they could not return the favor, which would prove the existence of true altruism among (Neanderthals). That is precisely what the discovery of ‘Tina’ means,” said Mercedes Conde, a professor at the University of Alcalá in Spain who led the study.

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