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Art- Ivo Verheijen et al, “Early evidence for bear exploitation during MIS 9 from the site of Schöningen 12 (Germany)”

Journal of Human Evolution 177 (2023) 103294

A recent study demonstrates the exploitation of bears at a site dated to the Lower Paleolithic, the Schöningen site in Germany. This site, already known for its extremely well-preserved archaeological artifacts of organic material, provides new evidence of bear exploitation at a time when such artifacts are rare. Indeed, most traces of bear exploitation date from the Late Pleistocene, as for example at the site of Hohle fels in Germany. The fossil remains of bears found in Schöningen belong to the species Ursus thibetanus, the Asiatic black bear, and to the species Ursus deningeri/spealeus, the cave bear lineage.

These remains represent 10% of the faunal assemblage at the site and the two fossils of most interest here are a metatarsal and a phalanx that show evidence of cutting. These traces were observed under the microscope and their locations, characteristics and similarities with fossils from other sites indicate that they are the result of a butchering to recover the animal’s skin, perhaps to make a fur. Moreover, since the bear skin had to be collected quickly after the death of the animal in order to be exploited, this indicates an active hunting of the bear by the Hominins. During the Paleolithic period, the bear was omnipresent in Europe during both cold and warm periods.

These results will have to be confirmed with the discovery of other remains, but the question of the exploitation of the bear, whether for its meat or for its skin, is important in the study of the subsistence behaviors of Hominins in Europe.

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