Human use of bear skin during the winter months is a timeless trend that dates back to at least 300,000 years ago, a new study has shown.
The new peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Human Evolution examines specific and newly-discovered cut marks found on the fossilized remains of a cave bear, which suggests that these animals were strategically dissected.
Dating back to the Lower Paleolithic period (at least 200,000 years ago, not to surpass 1.5 million years), fossils found at an archaeological site in Lower Saxony, Germany mark one of the oldest examples of this method of strategic dissection worldwide.
Tübingen researcher Ivo Verheijen suggested that since the carcass of the bear was used for more uses than just meat, there was a great possibility that a bear’s body could provide far more than a set of meals. “Cut marks on bones are often interpreted in archaeology as an indication of the utilization of meat,” Verheijen stated.
“But there is hardly any meat to be recovered from hand and foot bones. In this case, we can attribute such fine and precise cut marks to the careful stripping of the skin. These newly discovered cut marks are an indication that about 300,000 years ago, people in northern Europe were able to survive in winter thanks in part to warm bear skins,” the researcher, a doctoral student in the Schöningen research project, stated.
The makeup of a bear’s winter coat consisted of different long outer hairs which formed a protective layer in addition to a series of shorter hairs as an airy protective layer. This would provide better isolation for bears through hibernation, which required a highly insulated coat.