The Pestera cu Oase is a sealed limestone cavern in southwestern Romania which served principally as a hibernation den for Pleistocene cave bears and wolves, but also contained the fossil remains of the earliest modern humans in Europe. Currently inaccessible except through cave diving and rock climbing, the cave preserved its contents undisturbed for tens of thousands of years. To understand the cave, its contents, the bear and wolves, and especially the humans, an international team mapped and excavated the Pestera cu Oase from 2002 to 2005, and has since analyzed its remains in detail. The result was a wealth of information on the geology and paleontology of this cave as a reflection of life in the southwestern Carpathians 40-50 thousand years ago.
This volume presents those findings. Among other things, the large cave bears provided the first solid evidence of the omnivorous nature of these not-so-gentle giants. The deer remains brought into the cave by wolves are among the largest known in Europe and document the westernmost extent of the eastern (wapiti) variant of this species. And the human remains, a complete lower jaw of a young adult and a largely complete skull of an adolescent, furhish detailed information on the anatomy of the earliet modern Europeans, who were modern without being fully modern. They combine an overall distinctly modern anatomy with traits reminescent of earlier archaic humans and among the largest rear molars in the genus Homo. They thus document the initial spread of modern humans into the cul-de-sac of Europe, the complex ancestry of those humans, and the ongoing nature of human evolution after the established of people like ourselves.
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