Under the Skin of a Lion: Unique Evidence of Upper Paleolithic Exploitation and Use of Cave Lion (Panthera spelaea) from the Lower Gallery of La Garma (Spain)
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AuthorCueto Rapado, María Ana; Camarós Pérez, Edgard; Castaños, Pedro; Ontañón Peredo, Roberto; Arias Cabal, Pablo
ABSTRACT: Pleistocene skinning and exploitation of carnivore furs have been previously inferred from archaeological evidence. Nevertheless, the evidence of skinning and fur processing tends to be weak and the interpretations are not strongly sustained by the archaeological record. In the present paper, we analyze unique evidence of patterned anthropic modification and skeletal representation of fossil remains of cave lion (Panthera spelaea) from the Lower Gallery of La Garma (Cantabria, Spain). This site is one of the few that provides Pleistocene examples of lion exploitation by humans. Our archaeozoological study suggests that lion-specialized pelt exploitation and use might have been related to ritual activities during the Middle Magdalenian period (ca. 14800 cal BC). Moreover, the specimens also represent the southernmost European and the latest evidence of cave lion exploitation in Iberia. Therefore, the study seeks to provide alternative explanations for lion extinction in Eurasia and argues for a role of hunting as a factor to take into account.