PLEISTOCENE PERIOD: 200,000 - 20,000 years ago
throughout caves in Europe, the Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) was named after the places
where its remains are commonly found: caves from
England to the Caspian Sea with the majority concentrated in Central and
Eastern European mountain
chains. Remains found in caves near the North Sea and in The
Netherlands show that the range of Ursus
spelaeus eventually spread into the lowland
forests of western Europe. In this last region, populations
drastically declined around 40,000 years ago finally becoming extinct
during the last glacial period.
group Ursus, is a member of the order Carnivora. Ursus is
comprised of the six remaining modern bear species. The Protursus
subfamily was the starting point dating back to an origin about 10
million years ago. Around 5 million years ago from this group,
emerged the species Ursus minimus, the ancestor of all Ursus
bears. One offshoot Ursus species of bear, Ursus etruscus (Etruscan
bear), gave rise to a line of Ursus bears that all became extinct.
These three are Ursus savini (Savin's bear), Ursus deningeri
(Deninger's bear), and Ursus spelaeus (cave bear).
spelaeus was a huge omnivorous bear that resided in caves year-round
compared to modern bears which only use caves as a shelter for
hibernation. When standing on its hind legs, the height of this
beast would have averaged 10 feet tall! Skulls have been found 20
inches in length! The closest relative is our modern day brown bear but the
cave bear averages 30% greater in size. One way to differentiate a
cave bear skull from a brown bear (and all other bears for that matter)
is the sheer size, first off, and also the prominence of the brow and
forehead, unique to the cave bear. Modern bear skulls have a more
gradual sloping forehead.
It is believed that the cave
bears' demise was aided by competition for food and shelter by a
simultaneous existence with the brown bear. Evidence found in
caves suggests that
humans either worshipped the cave bear or
used its remains in religious rituals. "Temples"
have been discovered intact within caves that were set up and left by
with cave bear skulls set upon rock altars and arranged in
formations. Instances of teeth and bones carefully lined up have
also been discovered in caves once occupied by Neanderthals.
oldest positively dated musical instrument was discovered in a cave in
Slovenia. It was a flute made by the Neanderthals out of the bone of
a cave bear. It has been dated to 50,000 years ago. In one
cave in particular, a stone structure was found to have been erected by
Neanderthals with a cave bear skull perched upon it and evidence of
numerous spears being thrown at it. Cave drawings and carvings of
the cave bear originate with the
Neanderthal people and caves have been
discovered where Neanderthal and later, Cro-Magnon peoples occupied caves
after or on alternating periods with cave bears.
with these beasts continued into the Middle Ages where skulls discovered
in caves in mountainous regions of Europe were misinterpreted to have been
the remains of dragons. This is the reason why many maps that date
to this period have these regions bearing the forewarning notations,
"Here be Dragons".
remains have been found
from England to the Caspian Sea with the majority concentrated in
mountainous regions of Central
and Eastern Europe.
of so-called "RUSSIAN (SIBERIA) CAVE BEAR" fossils being
offered on the market. THESE ARE NOT TRUE CAVE BEAR
While cave bear remains have been found in
the region, it is another fossil bear species named Ursus uralensis
that is being sold as
being labeled as the "Russian Cave Bear".
was NOT a cave-dwelling bear but is an extinct off-shoot similar to a modern Grizzly
bear. Some dealers will call it Ursus spelaeus, some will call
it the right species, but all will call their Russian bear fossils
"cave bear" which is a misnomer.
The features of the
Russian non-cave-dwelling species are evident when compared to the true European Cave Bear (Ursus
bear species (uralensis) is also not as massive as the true
European cave bear, Ursus spelaeus.
anatomical features of the skull are easy to differentiate the two. Ursus
spelaeus will have larger zygomatic arches (cheek bones), a much
steeper forehead and a higher, more pronounced sagittal crest (the crest
on the dorsal posterior portion of the skull). Compare the skull
images on this page and elsewhere in this section to Russian skulls being
sold elsewhere and you will see the difference. Russian bear fossils
MUCH MORE prevalent and found in greater numbers today than high
quality TRUE European cave bear fossils (Ursus spelaeus), and therefore are
less rare and reflect a lower price than the European specimens.
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