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Publication Date

January 2006


Four skulls, three lower jaws, a few incomplete postcranial bones and many coprolites of the early Late Pleistocene (Early Weichselian, 90,000 – 65,000 BP) ice age spotted hyena open air prey deposit site Biedensteg at Bad Wildungen (Hessia, NW-Germany) all show crack-, bite- and nibbling-marks as a result of cannibalism. Originally, the bones belong to three young adult to adult individuals. For the first time in Europe, a skull and postcranial bones belonging to a young animal of C. c. spelaea (Goldfuss 1823) of only a few days or weeks old are described and figured. The animal was possibly killed and for sure eaten by members of the same species. The material has been compared to remains from a younger Late Weichselian hyena population of Perick Caves (Sauerland, NW Germany). The hyenas from Biedensteg possess an upper first molar, in contrast to those from Perick Caves in which these are often lacking. At the Bad Wildungen-Biedensteg open air prey deposit site, the hyenas represent 6% of the mammoth steppe fauna bones. The site indicates a mixed diet consisting of all larger ice age mammals. The very high percentage (47%) of Coelodonta prey remains results of one disarticulated female and one young animal carcass, on which the hyenas fed strongly. Additionally, woolly rhinoceros bones indicate a specialization of the hyenas to large rhinoceros prey. This can be observed at other places, too, such as the hyena Perick Cave den. The abundant coprolites of the Biedensteg hyena population show different shapes, although most are droplet shaped or partly connected pellets which seemed to be of dry origin. Other coprolites, up to ten cm large, must have resulted from more soft dung. Many coprolites contain up to 1,5 cm small and well rounded bone compacta fragments, but also quite often bone spongiosa. The latter corresponds with the hyenas feeding on long bones of the woolly rhinoceros and steppe bison, which constitutes therefore another proof, next to the many chewing and gnawing marks at all prey bones. During the early Late Pleistocene, Biedensteg was a well frequented hyena open air den and prey deposit site close to the margin of a large sinkhole, filled with a shallow lake or muddy area, close to the small Wilde river. Also owls left many pellets at Biedensteg with thousands remains of micromammals, frogs and fishes.


Animal remains (Archaeology), Spotted hyena, Paleontology--Pleistocene, Coprolites, Europe, Germany, Hesse, Bad Wildungen

Geographic Subject

Europe; Germany; Hesse; Bad Wildungen

Document Type



Volume 23, Issue 2 15 p.





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