Author: Cajus G. Diedrich

Series Title: Famous Planet Earth Caves

Sophie’s Cave (Germany) - a Late Pleistocene Cave Bear Den

Volume 1

eBook: US $24 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $102
Printed Copy: US $90
Library License: US $96
ISSN: 2405-7207 (Print)
ISSN: 2405-7215 (Online)
ISBN: 978-1-68108-001-7 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-68108-000-0 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2015
DOI: 10.2174/97816810800001150101


Famous Planet Earth Caves - The new series presents important caves or rock shelters in any kind of rock types all over the world. Each book focuses on a single cave presentation covering different and most important disciplines of a cave: Geology (e.g. cave genesis, sedimentology, speleothems) such as Hydrogeology (e.g. speleothems for climate reconstructions, aquifer reconstructions), Paleontology (e.g. cave bear or carnivore dens), Archeology (e.g. Palaeolithic to Medieval camp or burial sites) and modern Biology (e.g. bat caves). The books are scientific chaptered monographs, sometimes of show caves, but often of non- or difficult to access caves. The well illustrated books are written in a mixed scientific and popular scientific way for a better understanding and larger readership, especially speleologists and natural scientists all over the world.

This volume gives details of Sophie’s cave in Ahorntal, Germany. The cave is notable for the presence of bears throughout the ice age and this has shaped the biological and hunting activities in its vicinity. Readers will find information about the speleology, ice age paleontology and archeology of this intriguing limestone show cave.

Indexed in: Scopus, Book Citation Index, Science Edition, Social Sciences & Humanities, EBSCO.


This book is focusing on a Late Pleistocene cave bear den in central Europe, which cave bear dens are larger cave systems, mostly filed up with ten thousands up to a half Million of cave bear bones. Herein, not only the bones of the Sophie’s Cave in Upper Franconia, Bavaria southern Germany) are studied – it is the “den” and its change within 100.000 years and its interesting Wiesent valley sided position to the river terraces (or probably valley glaciers) within the Last Ice Age. These interdisciplinary sedimentological studies make the cave locally important for the geomorphology development of the past 5 Mio years and important to the questions of “glacial signs” in Upper Franconia. The cave bear research of the past 10 years has changed drastically the picture of “the cave bear” of the former Kurtén 1976 and Rabeder et al. 2000 cave bear books – which bears are indeed today splitted by DNA and osteometrical newest studies on skulls and teeth (= “cave bear clock”) into several species and subspecies within the Late Pleistocene – the past 113.000 years. The cave bear ethology was for long misunderstood about European “cave bears”, because all the extinct top predtors - steppe lions, Ice Age leopards, Ice Age spotted hyenas, and Ice Age wolves - the antagonists of cave bears, were not included into the “cave bear story”. The predation and scavenging of cave bear carcass explained with perfect examples not only the Sophie’s Cave cave bear bone taphonomy, and finally explained their deep hibernation in caves as protection against predation, such as the non-existence of “Neanderthal bone flutes”, which were simply products of scavenging hyenas on cave bear cub hind leg bones. Whereas the large predators are few represented in the bone record, typical in Early/Middle Late Pleistocene middle high mountain boreal forests with nearly absence of the mammoth steppe game, quite unique in the European fossil record is a nearly complete Late Pleistocene weasel skeleton and den documentation. The herein presented Sophie’s Cave and other caves of central Europe are international important furthermore due its contribution to the understanding of the “cave bear” exctinction, which can be demonstrated to be a chain reaction starting with climate change, boreal forest and food source disappearance up to the Last Glacial Maximum, and predation stress by Cromagnon humans or large carnivores. It is the first cave, where in Europe a Late Palaeolithic shamanic related reindeer antler/bone depot is proven explaining now the absence of “Ice Age cave art” in German and other western European caves. This Gravettian sanctuary falls within the main “cave bear” hunt period (Aurignacien-Gravettian) of the last and largest European cave bears.

Dr. W. Bleicher
Former Scientific Leader
Heimatmuseum Schloss Hohenlimburg
Alter Schlossweg 30, 58119 Hagen-Hohenlimburg


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