A huge crowd of mixed animal bones, including human remains, were found in an ancient lava tube in Saudi Arabia.
The hollow cave, called Umm Jarsan, is a sprawling system of lava channels beneath volcanic fields Harrat Khaybar in the northwest of the country.
Umm Jarasan stretches for a staggering 1.5 kilometers (nearly a mile), making it the longest known lava tube in the Arabian Peninsula. Within those wide shadows, the wild creatures were busy.
in a New studyResearchers have reported discovering hundreds of thousands of bones belonging to at least 14 different types of animals, such as cattle, horses, camels, rodents and more. Some of these bones are human.
«The 1.5 kilometer long lava tube is a block containing hundreds of thousands of beautifully preserved animal remains,» said zoologist Matthew Stewart of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany. Posted on Twitter.
According to the researchers, this massive crowd of bones was likely scattered together striped hyena (the hyena the dabaa), whose skeletal remains were found in the cave, along with its fossilized droppings (called Coprolets).
«These creatures are thirsty collectors of bones, and transport them to dens to be consumed, fed to young, or hidden,» Stewart explains, noting that the epic compilation represents a collection for the ages.
«Materials have accumulated in Umm Jarasan over the past 7,000 years, which indicates the excellent conditions for preserving bones within the lava tube.»
While animal bones discovered In the lava tube at Umm Jarasan before that, there is still much we do not yet understand about the species classification in the cave, nor what those remains can tell us. paleobiology in the region.
However, this ancient hyena’s den is not just a relic of the ancient past. during antecedent Lava tube examination in 2007Researchers heard «roaring» sounds in the cave, indicating that Umm Jurassan was still open for business.
It is possible that other types of animals may have collected the giant set of bones, such as foxes or wolves. But the team says the size of the evidence points to hyenas: Wolves don’t usually scatter bones away from killing sites, and foxes can’t easily carry or devour such large prey.
Moreover, many signs on the bones indicate that the hyena is gnawing and digestive processes.
«If we take into account the large size of the assemblage, the excessive abundance and extensive processing of ungulate bones, the abundance of coprolite hyenas, the presence of juvenile hyenas and human skull remains, this indicates that Umm Jurasan served as a striped hyena’s den, and sometimes as a den of the mother.» write in their studies.
Although we still don’t know much about Umm Jarsan, researchers hope that this horrific tomb serves as a time capsule to shed light on the paleo and prehistoric biology of ancient Arabia.
“In an area where bone preservation is very poor, sites like Umm Jarsan offer an exciting new resource,” Stewart says.
«This study is only the tip of the iceberg.»
The results are reported in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.