The scientific tourist #96 — Cave Bear

Today’s image comes to you from the Paleontology section of Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum), Universitá degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy:

The Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) was a large omnivorous bear that lived in low mountainous areas of Europe during the Pleistocene, dying out only during the peak of glaciation in the last ice age, about 27,500 years ago. As the name would suggest, the remains of these creatures are found primarily in limestone caves — in some places getting piled so deep over time that the remains were mined for phosphates well into the 20th century.

While the number of humans in Europe at the time was low enough that human activity likely didn’t help the bears to go extinct, there was evidently some amount of interaction between the species. Evidence found in caves suggests that Neanderthals worshipped cave bears, or at the very least used their bones in rituals. Meanwhile, the earliest well-dated musical instrument ever found was a flute, made by Neanderthals from a cave bear bone.

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