Both the word "cave" and the scientific name spelaeus are used because fossils of this species were mostly found in caves. This reflects the views of experts that cave bears may have spent more time in caves than the brown bear, which uses caves only for hibernation.
|Mounted cave bear skeleton|
Cave bear skeletons were first described in 1774 by Johann Friederich Esper in his book Newly Discovered Zoolites of Unknown Four Footed Animals. While scientists at the time considered that the skeletons could belong to apes, canids, felids, or even dragons or unicorns, Esper postulated that they actually belonged to polar bears. Twenty years later, Johann Christian Rosenmüller, an anatomist at the Leipzig University, gave the species its binomial name. The bones were so numerous that most researchers had little regard for them. During World War I, with the scarcity of phosphate dung, earth from the caves where cave bear bones occurred were used as a source of phosphates. When the "dragon caves" in Austria's Styria region were exploited for this purpose, only the skulls and leg bones were kept.
Many caves in Central Europe have skeletons of cave bears inside, for example the Heinrichshöhle in Hemer, the Dechenhöhle in Iserlohn, Germany. A complete skeleton, five complete skulls, and 18 other bones were found inside Jaskinia Niedźwiedzia (bear cave) in 1966 in Poland. In Romania, in a cave called Bears' Cave, 140 cave bear skeletons were discovered in 1983.
Both the cave bear and the brown bear are thought to be descended from the Plio-Pleistocene Etruscan bear (Ursus etruscus) that lived about 5.3 Mya to 100,000 years ago. The last common ancestor of cave bears and brown bears lived between 1.2–1.4 Mya. The immediate precursor of the cave bear was probably Ursus deningeri (Deninger's bear), a species restricted to Pleistocene Europe about 1.8 Mya to 100,000 years ago. The transition between Deninger's bear and the cave bear is given as the last interglacial, although the boundary between these forms is arbitrary, and intermediate or transitional taxa have been proposed, e.g. Ursus spelaeus deningeroides, while other authorities consider both taxa to be chronological variants of the same species.
Cave bears found in different regions vary in age, thus facilitating investigations into evolutionary trends. The three anterior premolars were gradually reduced, then disappeared, possibly in response to a largely vegetarian diet. In a fourth of the skulls found in the Conturines, the third premolar is still present, while more derived specimens elsewhere lack it. The last remaining premolar became conjugated with the true molars, enlarging the crown and granting it more cusps and cutting borders. This phenomenon, called molarization, improved the mastication capacities of the molars, facilitating the processing of tough vegetation. This allowed the cave bear to gain more energy for hibernation, while eating less than its ancestors.
In 2005, scientists recovered and sequenced the nuclear DNA of a cave bear that lived between 42,000 and 44,000 years ago. The procedure used genomic DNA extracted from one of the animal's teeth. Sequencing the DNA directly (rather than first replicating it with the polymerase chain reaction), the scientists recovered 21 cave bear genes from remains that did not yield significant amounts of DNA with traditional techniques. This study confirmed and built on results from a previous study using mitochondrial DNA extracted from cave bear remains ranging from 20,000 to 130,000 years old. Both show that the cave bear was more closely related to the brown bear and polar bear than it was to the American black bear, but had split from the brown bear lineage before the distinct eastern and western brown bear lineages diversified and before the split of brown bears and polar bears. The divergence date estimate of cave bears and brown bears is about 1.2–1.4 Mya. However, a recent study showed that both species had some hybridization between them. 
The cave bear had a very broad, domed skull with a steep forehead. Its stout body had long thighs, massive shins and in-turning feet, making it similar in skeletal structure to the brown bear. Cave bears were comparable in size to the largest modern-day bears. The average weight for males was 350 to 600 kg (770 to 1,320 lb), though some specimens weighed as much as 1000 kg (2,200 lb), while females weighed 225 to 250 kg (495 to 550 lb). Of cave bear skeletons in museums, 90% are male due to a misconception that the female skeletons were merely "dwarfs". Cave bears grew larger during glaciations and smaller during interglacials, probably to adjust heat loss rate.
Cave bears of the last Ice Age lacked the usual two or three premolars present in other bears; to compensate, the last molar is very elongated, with supplementary cusps. The humerus of the cave bear was similar in size to that of the polar bear, as were the femora of females. The femora of male cave bears, however, bore more similarities in size to those of kodiak bears.
Their teeth were very large. Cave bear teeth show greater wear than most modern bear species, suggesting a diet of tough materials. However, tubers and other gritty food, which cause distinctive tooth wear in modern brown bears, do not appear to have constituted a major part of cave bears' diets on the basis of dental microwear analysis.
The morphological features of the cave bear chewing apparatus, including loss of premolars, have long been suggested to indicate their diets displayed a higher degree of herbivory than the Eurasian brown bear. Indeed, a solely vegetarian diet has been inferred on the basis of tooth morphology. Results obtained on the stable isotopes of cave bear bones also point to a largely vegetarian diet in having low levels of nitrogen-15 and carbon-13, which are accumulated at a faster rate by carnivores as opposed to herbivores.
However, some evidence points toward the occasional inclusion of animal protein in cave bear diets. For example, toothmarks on cave bear remains in areas where cave bears are the only recorded potential carnivores suggests occasional cannibalistic scavenging, possibly on individuals that died during hibernation, and dental microwear analysis indicates the cave bear may have fed on a greater quantity of bone than its contemporary, the smaller Eurasian brown bear. Additionally, cave bear remains from Peștera cu Oase in the southwestern tip of the Romanian part of the Carpathian Mountains had elevated levels of nitrogen-15 in their bones, indicative of omnivorous diets, although the values are within the range of those found for the strictly herbivorous mammoth.
Although the current prevailing opinion concludes that cave bears were largely herbivorous, and more so than any modern species of the genus Ursus, increasing evidence points to omnivorous diets, based both on regional variability of isotopic composition of bone remains indicative of dietary plasticity, and on a recent re-evaluation of craniodental morphology that places the cave bear squarely among omnivorous modern bear species with respect to its skull and tooth shapes.
Death during hibernation was a common end for cave bears, mainly befalling specimens that failed ecologically during the summer season through inexperience, sickness or old age. Some cave bear bones show signs of numerous ailments, including spinal fusion, bone tumours, cavities, tooth resorption, necrosis (particularly in younger specimens), osteomyelitis, periostitis, rickets and kidney stones. Male cave bear skeletons have been found with broken bacula, probably due to fighting during the breeding season. Cave bear longevity is unknown, though it has been estimated that they seldom exceeded twenty years of age. Paleontologists doubt adult cave bears had any natural predators, save for pack-hunting wolves and cave hyenas, which would probably have attacked sick or infirm specimens. Cave hyenas are thought to be responsible for the disarticulation and destruction of some cave bear skeletons. Such large carcasses were an optimal food resource for the hyenas, especially at the end of the winter, when food was scarce. The presence of fully articulated adult cave lion skeletons, deep in cave bear dens, indicates the lions may have occasionally entered dens to prey on hibernating cave bears, with some dying in the attempt.
The cave bear's range stretched across Europe; from Spain and Great Britain in the west, Italy, parts of Germany, Poland, the Balkans, Romania and parts of Russia, including the Caucasus; and northern Iran. No traces of cave bears have been found in Scotland, Scandinavia or the Baltic countries, which were all covered in extensive glaciers at the time. The largest numbers of cave bear remains have been found in Austria, Switzerland, northern Italy, northern Spain, southern France, and Romania, roughly corresponding with the Pyrenees, Alps, and Carpathians. The huge number of bones found in southern, central and eastern Europe has led some scientists to think Europe may have once had literally herds of cave bears. Others, however, point out that, though some caves have thousands of bones, they were accumulated over a period of 100,000 years or more, thus requiring only two deaths in a cave per year to account for the large numbers.
Between the years 1917 and 1923, the Drachenloch cave in Switzerland was excavated by Emil Bächler. The excavation uncovered more than 30,000 cave bear skeletons. It also uncovered a stone chest or cist consisting of a low wall built from limestone slabs near a cave wall with a number of bear skulls inside it. Also, a cave bear skull was found with a femur bone from another bear stuck inside it. Scholarship speculated that this was proof of prehistoric human religious rites involving the cave bear, or that the Drachenloch cave bear were hunted as part of a hunting ritual or that the skulls were kept as trophies. In Archaeology, Religion, Ritual (2004), archaeologist Timothy Insoll strongly questions whether the Drachenloch finds in the stone cist were the result of human interaction. Insoll states that the evidence for religious practices involving cave bears in this time period is "far from convincing". He also states that comparisons with the religious practices involving bears that are known from historic times are invalid.
A similar phenomenon was encountered in Regourdou, southern France. A rectangular pit contained the remains of at least twenty bears, covered by a massive stone slab. The remains of a Neanderthal lay nearby in another stone pit, with various objects, including a bear humerus, a scraper, a core, and some flakes, which were interpreted as grave offerings.
The unusual finding in a deep chamber of Basura Cave in Savona, Italy, is thought to be related to cave bear worship, as there is a vaguely zoomorphic stalagmite surrounded by clay pellets. It was apparently used by Neanderthals for a ceremony; bear bones scattered on the floor further suggests this was likely to have had some sort of ritual purpose.
Recent reassessment of fossils indicate that the cave bear probably died out 24,000 years ago. A complex set of factors, rather than a single factor, are suggested to have led to the extinction.
Compared with other megafaunal species that also became extinct during the last glacial maximum, the cave bear was believed to have had a more specialized diet of high-quality plants and a relatively restricted geographical range. This was suggested as an explanation as to why it died out so much earlier than the rest. Some experts have disputed this claim, as the cave bear had survived multiple climate changes prior to extinction. Additionally, mitochondrial DNA research indicated that the genetic decline of the cave bear began long before it became extinct, demonstrating habitat loss due to climate change was not responsible. Finally, high δ15N levels were found in cave bear bones from Romania, indicating wider dietary possibilities than previously believed.
Overhunting by humans has been largely dismissed because human populations at the time were too small to pose a serious threat to the cave bear's survival, though the two species may have competed for living space in caves. Unlike brown bears, cave bears are seldom represented in cave paintings, leading some experts to believe the cave bear may have been avoided by human hunters or their habitat preferences may not have overlapped. The late paleontologist Björn Kurtén hypothesized cave bear populations were fragmented and under stress even before the advent of the glaciers. Populations living south of the Alps possibly survived significantly longer.
Some evidence indicates that the cave bear used only caves for hibernation and was not inclined to use other locations, such as thickets, for this purpose, in contrast to the more versatile brown bear. This specialized hibernation behavior would have caused a high winter mortality rate for cave bears that failed to find available caves. Therefore, as human populations slowly increased, the cave bear faced a shrinking pool of suitable caves, and slowly faded away to extinction, as both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans sought out caves as living quarters, depriving the cave bear of vital habitat. This hypothesis is being researched at this time. According to the research study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, radiocarbon dating of the fossil remains shows that the cave bear ceased to be abundant in Central Europe around 35,000 years ago. "This can be attributed to increasing human expansion and the resulting competition between humans and bears for land and shelter," explains the scientist, who links this with the scarce fossil representation of the bear's prey in the abundant fossil record of this species.
The Akhshtyrskaya cave ( Big Kazachebrodskaya ) is a notable archeological site in the Western Caucasus. It is located on the right side of Akhshtyrskaya gorge of the Mzymta River near the Adlersky City District of Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia. It was discovered in September 1903 by Edouard Martel and Gabriel Revinko, a resident of the nearby village of Kazachy Brod. The cave is named after the local village of Akhshtyr and the alternative name after the village of Kazachy Brod.Bears' Cave
Bears' Cave (Romanian: Peștera Urșilor) is located in the western Apuseni Mountains, on the outskirts of Chişcău village, Bihor County, northwestern Romania. It was discovered in 1975 by "Speodava", an amateur speleologist group.
Bears' Cave received its name after the 140 cave bear skeletons which were discovered on the site in 1983. The cave bear, also known as Ursus spelaeus, is a species of bear which became extinct during the Last Glacial Maximum, about 27,500 years ago.
The cave has three galleries and four halls: the Candles Hall, Emil Racovita Hall, the Bones Hall.Before We Ruled the Earth
Before We Ruled the Earth is a two-part documentary television miniseries that premiered on February 9, 2003 on the Discovery Channel. The program featured early human history and the challenges human beings faced thousands of years ago. It also features animals examples such as: Woolly mammoth, Megantereon, American buffalo, cave bear, and Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus). The first episode was called "Hunt or Be Hunted" and the second called "Mastering the Beasts."Betal Rock Shelter
Betal Rock Shelter (Slovene: Betalov spodmol), a karst cave located on the south-eastern edge of the Lower Pivka river valley on a slope just above the road from Postojna to Bukovje is a site, where rich cultural sediment layers with remains of stone tools, artifacts and numerous fossilized bones of contemporary animals were found. Its entrance has been formed by the collapse of the 174 m (571 ft) long cave's ceiling, carved out by the waters of the Pivka river.
The first excavations were carried out by Franco Anelli from 1933 to 1939. He excavated both in the cave and in front of it and found a large number of Palaeolithic artifacts and numerous faunal remains, although this work remained mainly unpublished. Systematic recording of the archaeological sequence was begun anew by Srečko Brodar from 1947 to 1953. In the more than 10 meters (33 ft) deep profile of eight cultural horizons five separate strata revealed the bones of over 2,400 animals and stone tools. However, large amounts of the material in the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene sediments found by Anelli is of limited value for scientific research and cannot be put into its correct stratigraphic context as the excavation records of these layers are lost.The oldest strata are attributed to the warm Mindel-Riss interglacial period followed by the Riss glaciation period, that consisted of rock debris mixed with loam and pieces of sinter. In it proto-Mousterian stone tools and the fossilized bones of a Deninger's bear have been found, dated to an age of 300,000 years. The next strata of red loam and debris contained faunal bone fossils from Cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), wolf, the Alpine marmot, the Merck's rhinoceros, the Cave hyena, wild boar, and elk. The stone tool assemblage discovered in this stratum has been assigned to the Homo neanderthalensis Mousterian culture. The following strata also held Pleistocene faunal remains, particularly those of the Alpine marmot, of reindeer and Cave bear. The presence of these fossils points to a deposition during the last glacial period, the Würm glaciation, which lasted from 110,000 to 11,700 years ago. This layer included numerous tool flakes created through flint knapping by Neanderthal occupants and modern humans, who account for the few tools of Gravettian culture. The uppermost stratum includes Neolithic tools and the fossilized bones of wild boar, wolf and beaver, whose presence suggests the establishment of the most recent Holocene climate. The top coat of this stratum carried Bronze Age and Iron Age tools, artifacts, pottery shards and the skeletal remains of domesticated animals.Betal Rock Shelter has been declared a "monument of local importance" of Slovenia and was induced in the national register of Immovable Cultural Heritage under the number 859 on December 22, 1984.Cross Cave
Cross Cave (Slovene: Križna jama, German: Kreuzberghöhle), also named Cold Cave under Cross Mountain (Mrzla jama pod Križno goro), is a cave in Slovenia's Lož Valley. The cave is named after nearby Holy Cross Church in Podlož. The cave is particularly noted for its chain of over 45 subterranean lakes of emerald green water. With 45 species of organisms, some not discovered until 2000, Cross Cave is the fourth-largest cave ecosystem in the world in terms of biodiversity. The cave was first documented in 1832, but the part of the cave that includes lakes and stream passages was first explored by Slovene cavers in 1926. Over two thousand cave bear bones have been found in the cave.Darband Cave
Darband Cave is a Lower Paleolithic site in the Gilan Province in northern Iran, located on the north side of a deep tributary canyon of the Siahrud River, a tributary of the Sefīd-Rūd River that flows into the Caspian Sea.
The cave contains evidence for the earliest prehistoric human cave occupation during the Lower Paleolithic in Iran. Stone artifacts and animal fossils were discovered by a group of Iranian archaeologists of the Department of Paleolithic of the National Museum of Iran and ICHTO of Gilan. The site dates back to the late Middle Pleistocene period.
The presence of large numbers of cave bear and brown bear remains and sparse stone artifacts at the site indicates that Darband primarily represents a bear den. The co-occurrence of artifacts and bear bones does not imply human predation or scavenging. Because there are no clear cut marks, except a few burning signs on the bear bones, they probably accumulated through natural processes.Divje Babe
Divje Babe is a Karst cave and archaeological park overlooking the Idrijca River in Slovenia. It is noted for its Paleolithic remains, including the worked bone of cave bear known as the Divje Babe Flute, which has been interpreted as a Neanderthal musical instrument.Divje Babe Flute
The Divje Babe Flute is a cave bear femur pierced by spaced holes that was found in 1995 at the Divje Babe archeological park located near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia. It has been suggested that it was made by Neanderthals as a form of musical instrument, its hole spacing and alignment leading to its being labeled a "Neanderthal flute." Slovenian archeologist Mitja Brodar, however, argues that it was made by Cro-Magnons as an element of Central European Aurignacian culture. Despite alternative hypotheses suggesting it was formed by animals, the artifact remains on prominent public display in the National Museum of Slovenia in Ljubljana as a Neanderthal flute. As such, it is possibly the world's oldest known musical instrument.Drachenhöhle
Drachenhöhle or Drachenhöhle Mixnitz (literally Dragon's Cave of Mixnitz) is a 542 m (1,778 ft) long cave with a 20 m (66 ft) wide and 12 m (39 ft) high entrance near Mixnitz, Styria, Austria, south-east of Bruck an der Mur located at an elevation of 950 m (3,120 ft) above sea level. Cave bear of the species (Ursus ingressus) and other bone fossils that people found during the Middle Ages were deemed to be the bones of dragons, a belief that culminated in the saga of the "Dragon slayer of Mixnitz". The cave is one of the largest caves in the Alps where bears occupied an area that stretched over a length of way over 500 m (1,600 ft), by an average width of up to 40 m (130 ft) and a height of 10 to 15 m (33 to 49 ft).Due to a shortage of fertilizers during and after World War I the 8 to 10 m (26 to 33 ft) high sediments inside the cave were intensively mined between 1918 and 1923 of which around 2,500 tons of phosphoric acid were extracted. During the fertilizer mining, several geologists and paleontologists were present, who only documented the most valuable discoveries. Nonetheless, a rich cache of cave bear, Eurasian cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea), Gray wolf (Canis lupus), Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) and Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) fossils, remains of open hearths and Paleolithic stone tools of the Aurignacian culture dated to 65,000 to 31,000 BCE were unearthed. Dated to between 65,000 and 31,000 BCE, these rank among the oldest traces of human presence in Austria.Earth's Children
Earth's Children is a series of epic historical fiction novels written by Jean M. Auel set circa 30,000 years before present. There are six novels in the series. Auel had previously mentioned in interviews that there would be a seventh novel, but publicity announcements for the sixth confirmed it would be the final book in the sequence.
The series is set in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic era, after the date of the first ceramics discovered, but before the last advance of glaciers. The books focus on the period of co-existence between Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals.
As a whole, the series is a tale of personal discovery: coming-of-age, invention, cultural complexities, and, beginning with the second book, explicit romantic sex. It tells the story of Ayla, an orphaned Cro-Magnon girl who is adopted and raised by a tribe of Neanderthals and who later embarks on a journey to find the Others (her own kind), meeting along the way her romantic interest and supporting co-protagonist, Jondalar.
The story arc in part comprises a travel tale, in which the two lovers journey from the region of Ukraine to Jondalar's home in what is now France, along an indirect route up the Danube River valley. In the third and fourth works, they meet various groups of Cro-Magnons and encounter their culture and technology. The couple finally return to southwestern France and Jondalar's people in the fifth novel. The series includes a highly detailed focus on botany, herbology, herbal medicine, archaeology and anthropology, but it also features substantial amounts of romance, coming-of-age crises, and—employing significant literary license—the attribution of certain advances and inventions to the protagonists.
In addition, Auel's series incorporates a number of recent archeological and anthropological theories. It also suggested the notion of Sapiens-Neanderthal interbreeding.
The author's treatment of unconventional sexual practices (which are central to her hypothesized nature-centered religions) has earned the series a top twenty place on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999.Paleolithic flutes
During regular archaeological excavations several flutes, that date to the European Upper Paleolithic have been discovered in caves in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. Dated and tested independently by two laboratories, in England and Germany, the artifacts are authentic products of the Homo sapiens Aurignacian archaeological culture, made in between 43,000 and 35,000 years ago. The flutes, made of bone and ivory represent the earliest known musical instruments and provide unmistakable evidence of prehistoric music. The flutes were found in the Caves with the oldest Ice Age art, where also the oldest known examples of figurative art were discovered. Music and sculpture as artistic expression have developed simutaneously among the first humans in Europe as the region is considered a key area in which various cultural innovations have developed. Experts say, besides recreation and religious ritual music might have helped to maintain larger social networks, a competitive advantage over the Neanderthals.Pietroasa, Bihor
Pietroasa ("stony" in Romanian; Hungarian: Vasaskőfalva) is a commune in Bihor County, northwestern Romania with a population of 3,209 people. It is composed of seven villages: Chișcău (Kiskoh), Cociuba Mică (Felsőkocsoba), Giulești (Zsulest), Gurani (Gurány), Măgura (Biharmagura), Moțești (Mocsest) and Pietroasa.
Bear Cave, a sightseeing location located in the western Apuseni Mountains where 140 cave bear skeletons were found, is on the outskirts of Chișcău village.The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Clan of the Cave Bear is an epic work of prehistoric fiction by Jean M. Auel about prehistoric times. It is the first book in the Earth's Children book series which speculates on the possibilities of interactions between Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans.The Clan of the Cave Bear (film)
The Clan of the Cave Bear is a 1986 American adventure film directed by Michael Chapman and based on book of the same name by Jean M. Auel. The film stars Daryl Hannah, Pamela Reed, James Remar, and Thomas G. Waites.
Dialogue is conducted mostly through a form of sign language which is translated for the audience with subtitles.Tischofer Cave
The Tischofer Cave (German: Tischofer Höhle) is a cave in the Kaisertal valley in the Kaisergebirge mountains in Austria. It was a locally important gathering place and weapons cache during the Tyrolean Rebellion in the Napoleonic Wars.
The roughly 40 m (130 ft) long cave, which is about 8.5 m (28 ft) high at the entrance, was occupied by cave bears and other predators as shelter during the Paleolithic as evidenced by numerous excavated skeletal remains. Bone tools of paleo-human inhabitants made of cave bear bones and skulls discovered here and dated to about 27,000 - 28,000 years ago may be viewed in the local history museum in the fortress at Kufstein. That dating makes the Tischofer Cave the oldest known uncontested site of human occupation in Tyrol.Discoveries of more recent human skeletons and associated tools also indicate that the cave served as a copper smithy and foundry during the Bronze Age.
The Tischofer Cave may be reached on foot via the Kaiser Path (Kaiseraufstieg) in the Kaisertal valley, a pathway secured with cable railings. It is recorded in the Tyrolean Cave Register as number 1312/001.Tremarctos floridanus
Tremarctos floridanus, occasionally called the Florida spectacled bear, Florida cave bear, or rarely Florida short-faced bear, is an extinct species of bear in the family Ursidae, subfamily Tremarctinae. T. floridanus was endemic to North America from the Pliocene to the end of the Pleistocene epoch (4.9 million–12,000 years ago), existing for approximately 4.9 million years.Ursus ingressus
Ursus ingressus (the Gamssulzen Cave bear) is an extinct species of the family Ursidae that lived in Central Europe during the Late Pleistocene. It is named after the Gamssulzen Cave in Austria where the holotype of this species was found.Ursus rossicus
Ursus rossicus (the Pleistocene small cave bear) is an extinct species of bear that lived in the steppe regions of northern Eurasia and Siberia during the Pleistocene.Wildkirchli
Wildkirchli (English: Wild Chapel) are three interlinked caves situated in the Alpstein massif in the Appenzell Innerrhoden canton of Switzerland, north-east of Mount Säntis Switzerland. The caves are located at a height of 1,477–1,500 m (4,846–4,921 ft). They are notable for the traces of Paleolithic Neanderthal habitation, dating to c. 40,000 BP, and cave bear bones dating to 90,000–40,000 BP. A museum at the site houses a full bear skeleton that was found in one of the caves.