300,000-year-old marks point to a rare example of Stone Age clothing: huge cave bear pelts

The illustration shows a couple of Stone Age men holding tools and wearing bear skins.

The illustration shows Stone Age people wearing bearskin. A new discovery suggests that humans skinned cave bears for clothes as early as 300,000 years ago.Benoît Clarys; Initiate

  • Cave marks in Germany dating back 300,000 years suggest Stone Age people wore clothes.

  • People skinned huge cave bears to keep warm, according to bone markings analyzed by experts.

  • It’s hard to tell when people started wearing clothes because fur doesn’t last that long.

New research suggests that people started wearing clothes as far back as the Stone Age.

Tool marks found on the fossilized bones of a prehistoric cave bear dating back 300,000 years indicate that people in Europe skinned animals, new research has found, a new study has found.

The marks were found on the phalanges, bones of the bear’s paws, discovered near Schöningen, Germany.

The photo shows a petrified bear's phalanx resting on dark skin.

This phalange, a bone from a cave bear paw, suggests that humans skinned cave bears and wore their skins 300,000 years ago.Volker Minkus

The researchers concluded that humans would have no reason to shave the bones of a bear’s hand if they weren’t skinning the animal.

The findings, published December 23 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Evolution, provided some of the earliest evidence that humans wore clothes.

A reconstructed skeleton of a cave bear is shown in the museum, based on an artificial rock.

A cave bear skeleton is on display at the Slovenian National Museum in Ljubljana.VWPics/Universal Images/Getty Images Group

“These newly discovered incision marks indicate that around 300,000 years ago, people in northern Europe were able to survive the winter, thanks in part to the warm bear skins,” Ivo Verheijen said in a press release.

Verheijen is a PhD student at the University of Tübingen who worked on the results.

Evidence of how people dressed in prehistoric times is hard to come by. That’s because clothing is usually made of organic materials that biodegrade over time and leave little or no trace more than 100,000 years later.

The photo shows two perpendicular cuts on a bear's phalanx found at a site near Schöningen, Germany

These cuts on the cave bear bone suggest that the animal’s skin has been removed.Volker Minkus

Cut marks on bones that have survived for much longer are “often interpreted in archeology as a sign of meat use,” Verheijen said.

“But from the bones of the hands and feet, there is almost no meat that can be recovered. In this case, we can attribute such fine and precise cut marks to the careful peeling of the skin,” said Verheijen.

Evidence of a brutal hunt

The illustration shows prehistoric humans on a ledge ready to throw a boulder at the cave bears below.

The illustration shows people fighting a cave bearPrint Collector/Contributor/Getty Images

Because they were skinned, scientists believe that these bears were probably killed while hunting.

According to the press release, hair on the skin quickly becomes useless after death, so people are unlikely to come across a bear that was already dead in the wild and bring back skin and bones.

Another sign is that all of the cave bear bones and teeth found at the archaeological site were from adults, which “usually is considered a sign of hunting,” Verheijen said.

It would be a tedious task. Cave bears can grow up to 2,200 pounds – roughly the size of a modern Kodiak bear.

Read the original article in Business Insider

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