Friday, 9 September 2011

Bear bones

After a few years without, I've finally got a few cave bear paws in stock. The price went a little crazy, and I'm not sure I'll be able to buy them again unless a new find is made. Not unlikely, but just a case of wait-and-see. I came very close to buying a complete cave bear skeleton a while ago, but chickened out thinking I'd not have the space to display it. Wish I had now, as the price has trebled since. At this point, as some seem to get disproportionally upset by this, I should point out that these paws are from Ursus uralensis, which is not the true cave bear, but rather more similar to a modern grizzly. They still spent long enough in caves to fall down big holes and pile up in great numbers, though, so I'm not particularly bothered with the distinction. Fact is that cave bears were so named because most of their fossils were found in caves, so it was assumed that's where they spent most of the time. The same assumption can easily be made for uralensis, though they were clearly different animals.

Proper cave bears - Ursus spelaeus - lived all across Europe until a little over 27,000 years ago at the onset of the peak of the last ice age. Possible reduction in available foods and likely competition for shelter with humans are thought to be responsible for their demise. They looked like large brown bears, but had slightly wider skulls and heavier limbs. Their dentition was slightly different, too, and it's thought their diet was more vegetarian than that of brown bears.

The Carpathian Mountains have proved a huge source of cave bear remains, with sites in Romania and Slovakia being particularly rich. We had a cave bear skull once, which sold for a good bit less than it'd cost to replace now. Teeth are reasonably easy to keep in stock, and are good sellers, while claws are harder to come by and don't sell as well. We even had a baculum once, I remember. I had to make an extra little sign to sit beside it, saying 'Yes, really.' Baculum are penis bones, which almost all mammals have, to some extent. Not humans, as you may have noticed. I've linked the word above to the Wiki entry, to save you googling 'penis bone'. I'd advise against that. Walrus baculum, known in Alaska as oosik, can be two feet long, and were used as clubs. What a way to go.

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