The cuts on the foot bones of cave bears suggest that, besides meat, humans also utilized the skin and fur of the bears to keep themselves warm.
According to Ancient Origins, Professor Nicholas Conard and his colleagues at the University of Tübingen discovered evidence that humans used fur coats 300,000 years ago. The evidence includes cuts in the paw bones of cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) found in a cave at the Paleolithic archaeological site in Schöningen, Lower Saxony, Germany.
“The new discovery demonstrates that animals were not only used for food, but their fur was also essential for ancient humans to survive in cold climates,” said Conard. “The use of bear fur could have been an important adaptation by ancient people in northern climates.” This research was published in the journal The Journal of Human Evolution.
Ivo Verheijen, a researcher at the University of Tübingen who was part of the research team, explained that cuts in the bones usually indicate the use of meat. However, since there is no flesh on the metatarsal bones, the fine and precise cuts could have been made for the purpose of skinning the bear. This type of bear skinning has previously only been found in Boxgrove, UK, and Bilzingsleben, Germany.
This is one of the earliest evidence of proactive adaptation by the human species Homo heidelbergensis to a northern climate. It is also noteworthy that the bear skin had to be removed at the appropriate time, otherwise, the fur would not be usable. This suggests that the ancient humans had to skin the bear soon after its death.
“The bear’s winter coat comprises a long outer coat that forms a breathable protective layer and a short, thick undercoat that provides exceptional insulation. Bear species, including the extinct cave bear, needed this fur to survive hibernation. The newly discovered cuts on the bear bones suggest that people in northern Europe may have survived the winter around 300,000 years ago thanks to the warm fur of the bears,” explains Verheijen.
A team from Morocco reported last year that there is still evidence of using furs and several other tools to refine and polish fur even in relatively warm climates. When Homo sapiens migrated from North Africa and colonized the world, they may have survived by wearing animal skins and furs.
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