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'Neanderthal Bone Flutes': Simply Products of Ice Age Spotted Hyena Scavenging Activities on Cave Bear Cubs in European Cave Bear Dens

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'Neanderthal Bone Flutes': Simply Products of Ice Age Spotted Hyena Scavenging Activities on Cave Bear Cubs in European Cave Bear Dens

Cajus G Diedrich. R Soc Open Sci.

Abstract

Punctured extinct cave bear femora were misidentified in southeastern Europe (Hungary/Slovenia) as 'Palaeolithic bone flutes' and the 'oldest Neanderthal instruments'. These are not instruments, nor human made, but products of the most important cave bear scavengers of Europe, hyenas. Late Middle to Late Pleistocene (Mousterian to Gravettian) Ice Age spotted hyenas of Europe occupied mainly cave entrances as dens (communal/cub raising den types), but went deeper for scavenging into cave bear dens, or used in a few cases branches/diagonal shafts (i.e. prey storage den type). In most of those dens, about 20% of adult to 80% of bear cub remains have large carnivore damage. Hyenas left bones in repeating similar tooth mark and crush damage stages, demonstrating a butchering/bone cracking strategy. The femora of subadult cave bears are intermediate in damage patterns, compared to the adult ones, which were fully crushed to pieces. Hyenas produced round-oval puncture marks in cub femora only by the bone-crushing premolar teeth of both upper and lower jaw. The punctures/tooth impact marks are often present on both sides of the shaft of cave bear cub femora and are simply a result of non-breakage of the slightly calcified shaft compacta. All stages of femur puncturing to crushing are demonstrated herein, especially on a large cave bear population from a German cave bear den.

Keywords: Late Pleistocene cave bear dens; Neanderthals; femur destruction stages; hyena scavenging; pseudo-bone flutes; tooth marks.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Studied and referred Late Pleistocene (MIS3–5d) European cave sites with ‘Palaeolithic cave bear pseudo-bone flutes’, and compared cave bear dens with hyena influence (hyena palaeobiogeography of 150 sites [4]).
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Cave bear scavenging models in larger cave bear den caves (here Zoolithen Cave, Germany) for all three top predators that hunted, killed and scavenged on cave bears all over Europe within caves in boreal forest palaeoenvironments. The bone crusher of longbones was only the Ice Age spotted hyena, which produced round/oval puncture marks on cave bear cub bones by the bone crushing premolar teeth, i.e. ‘bone flute holes’ (composed and adapted from [4,14,15,22,23]; illustrations G. Teichmann).
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Carnivore puncture holes in cave bear skulls, jaws and postcranial bones caused by top predator canine teeth (lions, leopards, hyenas and wolves), but are mainly products at longbones and lower jaws of the premolar cracking teeth of hyenas (cf. figure 2). (1) Cub skull (small cave bear form U. spelaeus eremus) from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany, which was scavenged strongly on the left side. Puncture holes are produced by canines (in cranium), whereas the breakage of the left mandible is the result of hyena premolar cracking teeth. (a) Dorsal, (b) lateral, (c) detail of lateral tooth mark holes (produced by carnivore canines, best fitting to hyenas or lions) (PAL collection). (2) Single probably canine impact of a large carnivore (lion, hyena) on a cub skull (large cave bear form U. ingressus) from the Große Teufels Cave, Germany. (a) Dorsal, (b) lateral, (c) detail of tooth mark hole (GTCP collection). (3) Mandible (U. s. eremus) from the Weiße Kuhle Cave of a cub with hyena premolar impact holes (cracking purpose). Such mandibles were crushed always similar with damaging the ramus, or flakes of the lower distal mandible. (a) Lateral outer view, (b) lateral inner view, (c–e) details of puncture holes of both sides and (f) refitting of the jaw with all tooth marks of both sides projected in one level which fit in one tooth mark of the bone crushing teeth of the upper jaw of a hyena (all PAL collection).
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Carnivore puncture holes in cave bear (U. s. subsp. and U. ingressus) longbones (humerus, radius, tibia) and pelvic and pedal bones by top predator (lions, leopards, hyenas and wolves) canine and mainly premolar hyena teeth. (1–4) Cub humeri from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany. (5–6) Cub radi from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany. (7–11) Cub tibiae from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany. (12) Cub coxa from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany. (13–14) Cub and adult calcanei from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany (all PAL collection).
Figure 5.
Figure 5.
Pseudo ‘Neanderthal bone flutes’ of different aged cave bear (U. s. subsp. and U. ingressus) cub femora (less than 1 year individual age) from various European large cave bear den sites. (1) Femur from Mokriška Jama Cave, Slovenia (photos adapted from [24]; NMLS collection). (2) Femur from Keppler Cave, Germany (photos adapted from [4]; SMM collection). (3) Femur from Sophie's Cave, Germany (photos adapted from [22]; SMM collection). (4) Femur from Divje Babe Cave 1—‘the Neanderthal bone flute holotype’, Slovenia (photos from NMLS collection). (5) Femur from Oase Cave, Romania (IR collection). (6) Femur from Hermann's Cave, Germany (photos adapted from [16]; RC collection).
Figure 6.
Figure 6.
Continuous documentation of destruction stages of cave bear (U.s. subsp. and U. ingressus) cub femora: (1–7) puncture, (8–9) part-flake, (10–14) full breakage-flakes—all with puncture holes or half preserved holes after splitting in flakes—of different aged cave bear cub femora (less than 1 year individual age) and different species (U. s. eremus and U. ingressus)—all from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany (PAL collection).
Figure 7.
Figure 7.
Examples of the destruction stages of femora of cave bear cubs, subadult to adult cave bears (U. s. subsp. and U. ingressus). (1) This femur of an adult cave bear (U. s. eremus) from the Große Teufels Cave, Germany (PO collection), is the best proof for the hyena tooth mark and damage origin, where two diagonal tooth marks (i.e. diagonal cut) can be reconstructed, and where lower and upper jaw premolar teeth and their antagonistic tooth mark impact holes fit exactly to the hyena skull dentition. A hyena tried to cut the distal joint. (a) Cranial view, (b) detail of the cranial tooth mark holes, (c) caudal view, (d) detail of the caudal tooth mark holes, (e) reconstruction refitting of the P-teeth into the cranial and caudal tooth pits, demonstrating exact fitting and two overlapping diagonal tooth marks (GTCP collection). (2) Proximally chewed and punctured femur joint of a subadult cave bear (U. s. spelaeus or U. ingressus) from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany. The impact marks are two types: (a) full and deep into the spongiosa, i.e. tooth with intact crown tip); (b) round surface breakages of compacta, i.e. tooth with rubbed or damaged tip or slight impact (PAL collection). (3) Cut of proximal joint (U. s. eremus) demonstrated at a femur from the Keppler Cave, Germany, cranial (SMM collection). (4) Shaft from the Oase Cave, Romania, cranial (IR collection). (5) Shaft of a subadult (large cave bear U. ingressus) with distally cracked parts (all found in the cave close to each other with old fractures) from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany, cranial (PAL collection). (6) Selected femur fragments of cub to subadult cave bears (U. s. eremus and U. s. subsp.) partly with spiral breakage, and tooth mark impact marks on the surfaces from the Weiße Kuhle Cave, Germany (PAL collection). (7) Many selected femur fragments of subadult to adult cave bears (U. s. eremus and U. s. subsp.) partly with spiral breakage, and tooth mark impact marks on the surfaces from the Perick Caves, Germany (PCH collection).
Figure 8.
Figure 8.
Stages of cave bear femur destruction by Ice Age spotted hyena. On cub femora, which are not well calcified and elastic-spongious in the compacta, hyenas produced in many cases only holes with their premolar bone crushing teeth (mainly P3) due to unsuccessful bone crushing (femur from Oase Cave, Romania). Subadult cave bear femora initially flaked (femur from Hermann's Cave, Germany). Adult femora have no puncture marks, because those directly flaked into pieces.

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