Excavations at Einhornhöhle (Unicorn Cave) within the Harz Mountains (Decrease Saxony, Germany) in 2019 uncovered plentiful Ice Age fauna, amongst which have been a number of bones of the extinct cave lion.
The bones have been found in a cave gallery roughly 30 meters from the now-collapsed entrance in a layer older than 200,000 years. The bones have now been investigated by researchers from the Decrease Saxony State Workplace for Cultural Heritage and the Universities of Tübingen and Studying. Whereas analyzing the finds, Gabriele Russo from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences of the College of Tübingen detected a toe bone (phalanx) with a minimize mark, which solely is sensible if the animal was skinned to yield a pelt with the claws nonetheless connected. Such conduct exhibits that Neanderthals valued the lion pelt.
But the bones discovered at Einhornhöhle didn’t present any direct proof for searching. So as to contextualize the discovering, Russo analyzed additional cave lion stays and made an thrilling discovery. In 1975 a youngster from Siegsdorf in Bavaria (Germany) discovered the well-preserved stays of a cave lion. A more in-depth inspection by Russo of that skeleton confirmed many minimize marks and led to the detection of some uncommon injury on a rib. Working with archaeologist Annemieke Milks from the College of Studying, Russo recognized the injury as a weapon influence.
“The rib lesion clearly differs from the chunk marks of carnivores and exhibits the standard breakage sample of a lesion brought on by a searching weapon,” says Russo. Based on Milks, “The lion was in all probability killed by a spear that was thrust into its stomach when it was already mendacity on the bottom.” For the primary time this round 50,000-year-old skeleton proves that Neanderthals hunted cave lions. The minimize marks additionally present that not solely did they kill this apex predator, additionally they consumed its meat.
The cave lion had a shoulder peak of round 1.3 meters and was essentially the most harmful animal in Eurasia throughout the 200,000 years earlier than it went extinct on the finish of the Ice Age. Cave lions lived in varied environments from the steppe to the mountains and, as prime predator, they hunted giant herbivores comparable to mammoth, bison and horse, in addition to cave bear. They’re referred to as cave lions as a result of their bones are sometimes present in Ice Age caves.
It was lengthy believed that cave lions weren’t hunted till the appearance of Homo sapiens. Amongst Homo sapiens’ earliest artworks are these present in caves of the Swabian Jura in southwestern Germany. There the cave lion is a outstanding motif, exemplified by the well-known lion man figurine manufactured from ivory and dated to round 40,000 years in the past. Cave lions additionally function in rock artwork panels in Grotte Chauvet in south-eastern France, that are about 34,000 years previous.
The brand new outcomes show that cave lions additionally held particular that means for Neanderthals. Thomas Terberger from the Decrease Saxony heritage authority, speaker of the venture “Local weather Change and Early People within the North,” says: “The human want to realize respect and energy by way of a lion trophy is rooted in Neanderthal conduct; the lion is a strong image of rulers proper as much as the current day.”
The brand new research contributes to the rising image of behavioral similarities between Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens. Not too long ago, an engraved large deer bone from Einhornhöhle illustrated the flexibility of Neanderthals to supply and talk with symbols. The position of cave lions matches with the proof of extra complicated Neanderthal behaviors, and will even have laid the premise for later cultural developments by Homo sapiens.
The research has been printed within the journal Scientific Stories. It was financially supported by the Decrease Saxony Ministry of Science and Tradition throughout the venture “Local weather Change and Early People within the North”