Giant hyenas, saber-toothed cats and giraffes roamed ancient European site 1.8 million years ago

November 14th, 2007 - 8:14 am ICT by admin  
These creatures’ remains were among a vast fossil hoard unearthed at an ancient hyena den. According to the BBC, about 4,000 fossils have been found, and they also include gazelles, wolves, wild boar and lynx.

The dig’s co-director, Dr Alfonso Arribas, said the specimens were the remains of carcasses scavenged by giant hyenas (Pachycrocuta brevirostris). The fossils are currently being exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Cartagena in Spain.

The Fonelas P-1 site is regarded as extremely important, because it dates to a time - the boundary between the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs - when early humans are thought to have first left Africa to colonise Europe and Asia.

So far, Dr Arribas and Guiomar Garrido, from Spain’s Geological and Mining Institute, have identified 24 species of large mammal, eight species of small mammal, two reptile species and one species of bird.

The brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) is found today only in the deserts of southern Africa. The discovery of its remains at Fonelas marks the first time the species has been found outside that region.

At Fonelas, African species like H. brunnea mixed with Asian animals such as Canis etruscus - the ancestor of today’s wolf - and a giraffe resembling a modern okapi.

The assemblage includes the oldest goat ever found and the earliest badger discovered in Europe.

The discoveries were presented at the Climate and Humans conference in Murcia, Spain.

At a different archaeological site in the same region, Arribas and colleagues have excavated stone tools made by primitive humans.

They are currently awaiting the results of magnetostratigraphy dating to determine the age of the site. (ANI)

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