During archaeological investigations in the Ansbach district, Bavaria, Germany, in 2022, thousands of cave bear bones from the Stone Age and various stone tools were uncovered. Between August and October of this year, archaeologists stumbled upon additional findings during new excavations, presumably dating back to the Paleolithic era.
Of particular interest to scientists is the discovery of seven remarkably well-preserved cave bear jaw fragments found during the initial excavation. Along with other bones, they now complete nearly the entire skeleton of the large animal.
In the 1,200-square-meter site, more than 10,000 animal bones were found, with almost all belonging to cave bears. However, this year and the previous one also yielded remains of an upper jaw and some teeth, presumably from a cave hyena, as well as bones from wild horses, mammoths, rhinoceroses, and wolves.
Burn marks on small individual bone fragments and stone artifacts with clear signs of processing indicate that this area around Endsee was not only inhabited by animals but was already frequented in the early days of human history. But why was this place so attractive to both humans and animals?
The large number of cave bear bones suggests that the location, situated on the edge of the Frankenhöhe, was characterized by caves during the Paleolithic. Over millennia, the caves have presumably disappeared due to erosion processes.
Radiocarbon analysis of animal bones suggests that the caves were used by cave bears between 45,000 and 25,000 B.C., presumably for hibernation and raising cubs. At first glance, the stone tools could date back to the Middle Paleolithic (approx. 300,000 – 45,000 B.C.), a time when large parts of Central Europe were populated by Neanderthals.
Whether it was Neanderthals or anatomically modern humans who truly established their resting and hunting place at the foot of Endsee Castle hill has not yet been conclusively clarified.
We are talking about discoveries from an unimaginably long period of at least 20,000 years. We still do not know for sure what relationship the Endsee cave bears had with early humans or Neanderthals. The mammoth, wild horse, and rhinoceros bones are undoubtedly hunting and scavenging remains, probably from hunters, as cave bears were likely vegetarians, says Dr. Christoph Lobinger, archaeologist at the Bavarian State Office for Monument Conservation (BLfD).
After an archaeological excavation company has cleaned and inventoried the findings, the stone tools will be handed over to the BLfD, and the site will be studied. From that point on, they will be available for scientific research on the relationship between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens sapiens.
The animal bones, on the other hand, are analyzed by archaeozoologists to determine the species, age, and sex of the animals. Other analyses, such as isotopes, could clarify how the animals were fed and how far they ventured from their caves to find food.
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