Radiocarbon constraints on the age of the world’s highest-elevation cave-bear population, Conturines Cave (Dolomites, Northern Italy)

Christoph Spötl
Paula Reimer
Gernot Rabeder

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We report radiocarbon (14C) dates on bone samples of Ursus ladinicus, a small cave bear species well adapted to a life in the mountains, whose remains were found in Conturines Cave. Located at 2775 m asl in the Dolomites of northern Italy, this cave is by far the highest known cave bear site worldwide. Eleven 14C dates obtained by the Belfast and Oxford laboratories on samples showing good collagen preservation yielded consistent ages in excess of 46–50 ka BP. These results show that contrary to the previously held view these cave bear remains are older than Marine Isotope Stage 3, and likely date from a warm climate period with a high treeline, possibly the Last Interglacial.