Chad Love: When Cave Lions were on the Menu

There's been a lot of speculation and debate on the comparison of the physical attributes of ancient versus modern hunters. We've even discussed it on this blog . But if you had any lingering doubt as to the absolute badassery of ancient hunters, then check this out...

From this story on NationalGeographic.com:

_Knife-scarred bones found in a prehistoric cave site show that cave lion was on the menu for Europe's early humans, according to a new study.

The cut marks show that the animals were gutted, just like the many deer, horses, bison, and other common prey animals found at the site, according to study leader Ruth Blasco of Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. The gutted remains also show that the early humans might have had first crack at the corpse by killing it themselves, Blasco said. If other animals had killed the lion, she said, the tasty viscera would have been long gone by the time the early humans arrived. It's also possible early humans or animals came across the lion after it died of natural causes, experts say.

The hunters belonged to the species of Neanderthal ancestor called Homo heidelbergensis, or Heidelberg Man, which has also been found at the study site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. Previous studies showed that wooden-spear and stone-tool-wielding H. heidelbergensis was the first known big game hunter. Now, the new evidence may also mean that H. heidelbergensis was a top predator of its day, and could hunt and even kill the deadly cave lion, Blasco said.

Blasco and colleagues unearthed 17 bones of the extinct cave lion Panthera leo fossilis, which was a bit bigger than today's African lion. The bones were found at the Gran Dolina site, which houses hundreds of fossils in 300,000- to 350,000-year-old rock layers from Europe's Middle Pleistocene period. Cut marks on the lion bones allowed the team to reconstruct how the Neanderthal ancestors skinned and defleshed the lion, as well as broke its bones to remove marrow._

So, you still think we're bigger, faster, stronger, better?