(ORDO NEWS) — Cave bears were formidable rivals for ancient people, but already 300 thousand years ago our distant ancestors used their skins to protect themselves from the cold.
German archaeologists came to such conclusions after studying the characteristic marks on fossil bear bones.
When archaeologists find traces left by human tools on animal bones, they most often regard them as signs of butchering the carcass.
However, when thin and neat traces are found on the paws and feet, that is, those parts of the carcass on which there is very little meat, it is worth assuming that the people who butchered the animal needed its skin.
Since bears have extremely long and warm fur that can protect them from both cold and moisture, ancient people probably valued the skins of these animals, although it was not at all easy to get them.
German researchers from several scientific centers suggest that ancient people did not skin dead animals, but hunted live bears.
Firstly, bears that died of natural causes are not so easy to find, because before death they try to get to a safe place.
Secondly, the bear must be skinned within a few days of death, otherwise its skin will be damaged by parasites, and almost all of its hair will fall out.
Finally, the death of a bear is not such a frequent event, and it is much more reliable to track down a live animal.
The fact that people who lived on the territory of Lower Saxony 300 thousand years ago were hunters, not scavengers, is indicated by the composition of the bear bones found at the site: they all belong to adults, but not old animals.
In addition, wooden spears discovered in the same place indicate that people of that time did not have to meet with a formidable predator (and the cave bear was almost a third larger than the modern brown one) face to face.
Presumably, the people who killed the bear were Heidelberg people or early Neanderthals : this proves that even in those distant times people reached a sufficient level of development to compete with the largest mammalian predators, gradually becoming hunters from prey.
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