Ursus spelaeus. Hartelsgraben near Hieflau, Styria. 35,000 years.
The only complete skeleton of a young cave bear.
Cave bears were widely distributed in Europe during the last Ice Age, and only died out about 15,000 years ago. Although they were significantly larger than modern brown bears, they fed mainly on plants. In contrast to what the name might suggest, they did not live in caves for the entire year. In summer, they searched the forests for food, storing as much fat as possible. During the winter, they slept in caves, where the young were born at the end of the cold season.
Very young and old animals often did not survive hibernation, and their bones have been found in large quantities in caves. Many dragon legends originate in such collections of bones. Scientists have yet to discover why this cub died in a cave at the end of the summer.
To avoid destroying the fragile bones of the cub during examination, they were scanned by computer tomography and a replica was made with lasers in acrylic resin. This also made it possible to determine the age of seven months – the skull shows that the cub was just in the process of teething.