Last Glacial Mammalian Assemblage from Barová Cave – New Findings

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Acta Mus. Moraviae, Sci. Geol. 102 (2017), issue 1–2, pages 119–142

Last Glacial Mammalian Assemblage from Barová Cave – New Findings

Barová Cave is located in the middle part of the Moravian Karst on the right slope of Josefovské Valley. The entrance opens beneath Krkavčí skála rock cliff. The cave is the outflow part of Býčí skála – Rudické propadání Cave System. Even since the discovery by A. Sobol in 1947, the cave has been known as important paleontological phenomenon with well-preserved fauna of the Late Pleistocene. There, between two in-sediment shafts app. 40m from the entrance (fig. 1), the conical massive sedimentary tongue arose here, gravitationally shaped in fossiliferous sediments.

Two main periods of paleontological research took place inside the cave. R. Musil worked here, then J. Svoboda with L. Seitl. In 2011, the third period began, as the landslide exposed new, unprospected fossiliferous sediments. During this research, three layers were set. The C layer represents basal fossiliferous bed with numerous large carnivore bones. The B layer represents the main body of sedimentary cone with abundant, but scattered bone remains, thicker than C layer. The A layer contains bone material more scarcely; it is mostly absent or removed until today.

The bone remains of following taxa have been discovered until now, throughout our research 2011–2017: Bear of cave bear group (Ursus ex gr. spelaeus), cave lion (Panthera spelaea), wolf (Canis lupus), cave hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelaea), brown bear (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx), wolverine (Gulo gulo), red fox (Vulpes cf. vulpes), marten (Martes cf. martes), ibex (Capra ibex), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), aurochs or steppe bison (Bos seu Bison), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), horse (Equus sp.), woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), hare (Lepus sp.), lemming (Dicrostonyx sp.), red vole Clethrionomys sp.), jackdaw (Corvus monedula) and the duck, presumably pintail (Anas aff. acuta). Bear were represented by thousands of bones here, cave lion and wolf bones in hundreds of bones, cave hyena bones in tens of bones, for the other species, the locality yielded just several bone remains.

This paper summarizes findings about bone material from sectors 2, 3, 4 and R4, Pod žebříkem (Under the Ladder) test pit (fig. 2). Cave bear bone finds are the most abundant here (95 %), with distance follow: cave lion (3 %), wolf (1,2 %), cave hyena (0,5 %). Several bone remains from sectors 2, 3, 4, R4 belong to 8 other taxa, 7 mammal species (chamois, red deer, reindeer, horse, lemming, red vole, marten), 1 bird species (jackdaw). From MNI point of view, cave bear group is clearly dominant with MNI=40 (70 %; see table 1). All age categories of cave bear from neonates to adults post their prime were present (table 2). Molar abrasion shows, that 47,5 % of all cave bear individuals died in period 2–7 years, what corresponds with findings of R. Musil. Both males and females occurred here, bear cubs under 3 months (MNI=5) establish birth and nursing inside the cave. Cave lion bones here belong to at least two males, presumably adult past their prime, and two females, adult and subadult. The subadult female individual is represented by uniquely preserved almost completed skull, including large part of postcranial skeleton. Wolf bones belong to two adult individuals (MNI=2), cave hyena bones belong to at least three adult individuals (MNI=3), presumably two females and one male. All other taxa are represented by single individuals (MNI=1) except the red deer with MNI=2 (table 1).

Bite marks and traces on bones were observed, too. There are 9,63 % of cave bear bones with provable bite marks from layer B, 5,28 % of bear bones from the intermediate bed B+C, 5,42 % from layer C (tables 3, 4, 5). Most bones and fragments do not bear any provable bite marks. The moderate, but comparatively stable, occurrence of gnawed, chewed or bitten bones suggests that cave lions and/or hyenas hunted or scavenged on wintering bears. Scavenging activity of wolves and even other cave bears is presumed here, too. Even the lion bones, wolf and hyena bones bear provable bite marks. The seasonality of predatory teeth suggests that the time of death varies near winter period, mostly the end of wintering season (tables 6, 7). Predation or scavenging on wintering cave bears was the favourite strategy for cave lions, either for presumably two other species.

Large amount of bones lead us to suspect, that cave bear group bears used this cave as favourite wintering habitat for at least thousands of years. Dating of osteological material shows no contradiction with this assumption either. The peak of this inhabitancy is about 48.000 years BP. The dominant cause of death was starvation, age, injury or disease, predation was recessive here, but present, scavenging was possibly regular. The state of bones and character of sedimentation within layers B and C put all fauna here to the same period of more or less uninterrupted inhabitancy, where the bone remains make consistent thanatocenosis.




Martina Roblíčková, Moravian Museum, Historical Museum, Anthropos Institute, Zelný trh 6, 659 37 Brno, Czech Republic, e-mail:
Vlastislav Káňa, Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, Department of Geological Sciences, Kotlářská 267/2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic, e-mail:
Miriam Nývltová Fišáková, Institute of Archaeology of the CAS, Brno, Čechyňská 363/19, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic, e-mail:

Roblíčková, M., Káňa, V., Nývltová Fišáková, M., 2017: Savčí společenstvo posledního glaciálu z jesky ně Barové – nové poznatky. – Acta Mus. Morav., Sci. Geol., 102, 1–2, 119–142 (with English summary).
ISSN: 1211–8796