Pleistocene Panthera leo spelaea (goldfuss 1810) remains from the Balve cave (NW Germany) – a cave bear, hyena den and middle palaeolithic human cave - and review of the Sauerland Karst lion cave sites


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Pleistocene remains of Panthera leo spelaea (Goldfuss 1810) from Balve Cave (Sauerland Karst, NW-Germany), one of the most famous Middle Palaeolithic Neandertalian cave sites in Europe, and also a hyena and cave bear den, belong to the most important felid sites of the Sauerland Karst. The stratigraphy, macrofaunal assemblages and Palaeolithic stone artefacts range from the final Saalian (late Middle Pleistocene, Acheuléen) over the Middle Palaeolithic (Micoquien/Moustérien), and to the final Palaeolithic (Magdalénien) of the Weichselian (Upper Pleistocene). Most lion bones from Balve Cave can be identified as early to middle Upper Pleistocene in age. From this cave, a relatively large amount of hyena remains, and many chewed, and punctured herbivorous and carnivorous bones, especially those of woolly rhinoceros, indicate periodic den use of Crocuta crocuta spelaea. In addition to those of the Balve Cave, nearly all lion remains in the Sauerland Karst caves were found in hyena den bone assemblages, except those described here material from the Keppler Cave cave bear den. Late Pleistocene spotted hyenas imported most probably Panthera leo spelaea body parts, or scavenged on lion carcasses in caves, a suggestion which is supported by comparisons with other cave sites in the Sauerland Karst. The complex taphonomic situation of lion remains in hyena den bone assemblages and cave bear dens seem to have resulted from antagonistic hyena-lion conflicts and cave bear hunting by lions in caves, in which all cases lions may sometimes have been killed and finally consumed by hyenas. The lion remains, and not only in the Balve Cave seem to have been selected, as suggested by cranial and distal limb bone overrepresentations, which consist of 99 % of grown ups and with 58 % remains of dominantl females. Such limbs, and especially the pedal bone dominance, is not a criterion for “human hunt and fur import”, on the contrary, at hyena dens all prey remains are overrepresented by distal leg remains, a fact also very well known in the case of horse remains. The only articulated lion cub skeleton remain in the Sauerland Karst from the Wilhelms Cave might indicate a hyena kill that seems to be imported into the much frequented cub raising hyena den site.


Animal remains (Archaeology), Lion, Caves, Europe, Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia, Sauerland

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Europe; Germany; North Rhine-Westphalia; Sauerland

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Volume 22, Issue 2 24 p.