Prehistoric Fashion: Cut Marks On Ancient Bones Reveal The Trends 320.000 Years Ago

Prehistoric Fashion: Cut Marks On Ancient Bones Reveal The Trends 320.000 Years Ago

According to ancient bones discovered at a German archaeological site, prehistoric fashion or bear skinning by ancient people dates back at least 320,000 years.

The patterns discovered on the phalanx and metatarsal paw bones of a cave bear (Ursus spelaeus or U. deningeri) are among the earliest examples of this kind of evidence and show one strategy our prehistoric ancestors employed to survive the harsh winters that prevailed in the region at the time.

cave bear metatarsal skinning
The cave bear metatarsal shows signs of skinning in the form of cut marks.

Researchers lead by archaeozoologist Ivo Verheijen of the University of Tübingen in Germany write, “The exploitation of bears, especially cave bears, has been an ongoing topic for more than a century and is relevant not only in the context of human diets but also for the use of skins.”

“Understanding survival tactics in the cold and severe environments of Northwestern Europe during the Middle Pleistocene can be improved by tracing the beginnings of hide exploitation.”

Archaeologists have long been drawn to the area around the German town of Schöningen. Researchers discovered a wealth of prehistoric artifacts from a nearby open-cut mine in the 1990s, including a set of spears that are thought to be between 300,000 and 337,000 years old and are the oldest complete wooden weapons ever found.

In addition, there were a variety of animal bones, including those of cave bears, as well as stone and bone tools. Numerous of those bones also bore cut marks, indicating that when ancient people butchered the animals, their tools wentuged the bones as they go.

But the two paw bones’ cut marks were puzzling. They weren’t only little and precise; the mere fact that they existed called for an examination.

According to Verheijen, “cut marks on bones are frequently interpreted in archaeology as an indicator of the usage of flesh.” “However, the flesh that can be extracted from hand and foot bones is hardly any. In this instance, we may credit the meticulous skin-stripping process for leaving such small, exact incision scars.”

They concluded that skinning must have occurred after comparing their bones to other bear paw bone samples with cut marks that had been studied in the scientific literature. Verheijen and his team came to the conclusion that ancient humans (either Homo heidelbergensis or Neanderthals) were skinning bears when the site was in use since the cut marks on the bones discovered at Schöningen were comparable enough.

prehistoric fashion artist depiction
Two Homo heidelbergensis people are depicted in the image dressed in bear skins.

The people were probably better protected by this than by their own relatively hairless hides. In the summer, bears have a thick coat, which is complemented in the winter by the development of a soft undercoat that offers additional protection from the cold. Winters would have been severe even though the earth at the time was in an interglacial period, or between ice ages, making it comparatively mild.

According to Verheijen, “these recently discovered cut marks are evidence that people in northern Europe were able to survive in winter some 300,000 years ago thanks in part to warm bear skins.”

Naturally, this prompts people to wonder how the skins were acquired. Waiting around for a cave bear to pass away is probably not the best course of action because a bear’s skin needs to be removed fairly soon after death in order to be helpful. Fortunately, the bones and weaponry discovered there offer a possible solution.

Verheijen explains that when adult animals are the only ones discovered at an archaeological site, hunting is typically assumed to be the cause. among the

Together, the Schöningen bear remains so imply that bears were hunted by humans and afterwards skinned for their priceless pelts. It’s unclear how exactly they used these pelts, but the researchers say it’s improbable that large groups of people would have been seen strolling around naked; it is thus likely that the skins were either worn or used as a sleeping bag.

The research has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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