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World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals

By Anna Liesowska
23 August 2015

Site was a place of religious sacrifices by ancient man up to 60,000 years ago, believe experts.

'We found about 500 bones and fragments of bones of the giant cave lion, and there can be more'. Picture: Pavel Kosintsev

The find was made in Imanai cave, in the Russian republic of Bashkiria, and it is causing excitement among Russian archeologists. In the excavation of a small area deep inside the cave, scientists discovered some 500 bones of giant cave lions - a unique discovery anywhere in the world. 

They also found a cave bear skull pierced with an ancient spear. Weapons were also found - but no signs that pre-historic people lived in the cave. 

Senior researcher Pavel Kosintsev, of the regional Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Urals Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, said: 'We found about 500 bones and fragments of bones of the giant cave lion. But there could be more, after we finish with sorting the collection. 

'Such a large quantity of giant cave lion bones at one site is really unique, the only one in the world so far discovered.'

World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals
Imanai Cave, Republic of Bashkiria, Russia. Picture: Pavel Kosintsev


The experts believe they have found the remains of five or six of the extinct giant cave lions.

'Surprisingly, the bones were found in the depths of the cave, about 100 metres from the entrance,' he said. 'Usually lions did not go so deep into the cave, it is not typical for them'.

Previously archeologists have found isolated remains deep inside the caves, but these are believed to have been 'sick or injured lions, or lost cubs'. Mr Kosintsev believes the cave was 'an ancient sanctuary - and those lions could have been brought to the cave by ancient people'.

In other words, the cave had a religious significance to ancient man. 

'Such cave sanctuaries were already found in the Czech Republic and Austria, which means we have some examples to compare.'

He said: 'There are other findings that can indicate it was a sanctuary. We also found the skull of a cave bear pierced with the spear, yet there were no evidence that ancient people hunted cave bears, at least not in the Urals.'

World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals


World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals


World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals
The cave had a religious significance to ancient men. Pictures: Pavel Kosintsev 


The researchers also uncovered ten Mousterian stone spearheads. Previously only two had been located in the entire Urals region of Russia. 

'The spearheads are the only sign of human activity - and it is also quite strange,' Mr Kosintsev said. 'If ancient people lived in this cave, they should have left the traces of making the spearheads, and bones of the animals which people ate. Here we see only the spearheads and it is further evidence in favour of the sanctuary hypothesis. People did not live here, they used this place for some other purposes, most likely, as a sanctuary.'

The latest finds have not been dated, but material collected in upper layers of the cave floor during a reconnaissance of the cave is around 30,000 years old. 

The scientists remain optimistic of a treasure trove of future discoveries inside a cave that was first identified as a site of ancient man by hunters who noticed bones at the site. 'The recent findings, from the lower layers, can be older, up to 60,000 years ago. If we will get older data, it could be the world's most ancient sanctuary of this type. But of course we must wait for the exact data'.

The dating will be undertaken by Herzen State Pedagogical University in Saint Petersburg. 

'We plan to continue the excavations next year, but the amount of finds we made this year is very large. There are about 20 sacks with ground and small fragments, and about 20 to 25 boxes with bones. We need to examine all this and I think that some significant updates may appear as soon as this year.' 

World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones


World's greatest ever haul of supersize cave lion bones found in Urals

An artist impression of what cave lions looked liked, and bones found inside Imanai Cave. Pictures: Pavel Kosintsev


The finds were made in an area of six metres by six metres, to a depth of 60 cm, and it is hoped many more discoveries are waiting to be made. 

The Mousterian period was a Stone Age era that lasted from about half a million to tens of thousands of years ago.

The weapons represent a 'very large collection', said scientist Dmitry Gimranov, who headed the excavation. 

The giant cave lions found in the cave were 'at the peak of their ability'. This type of lion because extinct around 13,000 years ago. They were 25% bigger than today's African and had longer legs to chase their prey. 

Comments (6)

The Author Jean M Auel, wrote about this in her Clan of the Cave Bear series. While the story and characters are fictional, she went to great lengths to utilize the correct geography, life forms, and archeological finds of this time period. I've always dreamed of being Ayla. This is an exceptional find, and I am genuinely excited to learn more!
Ashley Cheatom , Middletown, Rhode Island, United States
01/10/2015 18:42
0
0
Ce sont des images de faboulus des lions de caverne plus d'os de ces soecies qui sont peu connus à la science.
Michael Pearce, Montréal, Québec
26/08/2015 10:06
3
0
The presented evidence indicates reverence and worship. Traits associated with H. Sapiens. The Mousterian tools could also have been introduced for the same reason. However the cave bear killed by a spear indicates that the tools and the bones are contemporaneous H. Neanderthalensis or may be Denisovan ?
Jan ten Broeke, Somerset, NJ USA
26/08/2015 09:08
1
0
the white on the skulls and the white on the walls might be heads that are maps. the skulls have been cut. ?
mike shea, kankakee, ill. u.s.a
25/08/2015 21:41
3
0
The Mousterian has been named as the Stone Age era from which these artefacts have originated and the Mousterian is usually associated with the Neanderthal culture. Has any evidence been found to confirm that association for this location?
Robert Williams, Hornchurch, Essex, UK.
24/08/2015 04:21
8
1
Increible, como la realidad , de acuerdo a estas investigaciones o descubrimientos, se asemejan a la obra de Jean Auel, y su pentalogía "Los Hijos de La Tierra" A ver cuando descubren la tumba de Ayla y Jondalar
Zeus Augusto Vásquez López, Xalapa, Veracruz, México.
24/08/2015 01:59
9
1
1

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