Author: Cajus G. Diedrich

Series Title: Famous Planet Earth Caves

Hermann’s Cave (Germany) – A Late Pleistocene Cave Bear Den

Volume 2

eBook: US $29 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $161
Printed Copy: US $147
Library License: US $116
ISSN: 2405-7207 (Print)
ISSN: 2405-7215 (Online)
ISBN: 978-1-68108-531-9 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-68108-530-2 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2017
DOI: 10.2174/97816810853021170201


Famous Planet Earth Caves presents information about geologically important caves or rock shelters in different kinds of rock formations all over the world. Each volume of this series is a focused monograph on a single cave. The series covers many disciplines that can be applied to study a cave: geology (cave genesis, sedimentology, speleothems), hydrogeology (speleothems for climate reconstructions, aquifer reconstructions), paleontology (cave bear or carnivore dens), archaeology (Palaeolithic to Medieval camp or burial sites) and modern biology. Each volume is beautifully illustrated and written in a simple manner that will be of interest to general readers, speleologists and natural scientists, alike.

This volume gives details of Hermann’s Cave in Rübeland near Wernigerode, Germany. It is one of the largest show caves in Germany and Europe. The cave gives us information about the region in the Ice Age dating back to 350.000 years (which implies its significance in the Late Pleistocene epoch). The cave is within a beautiful granite (Brocken Peak) and limestone rock and valley cut landscape. The volume presents information about the Late Pleistocene fauna discovered within the cave and other archaeological findings. Specifically, the volume gives details about the small and large cave bear species within the cave, their ecological relationship to the region (including interactions with steppe lions and Cromagnon humans), and their survival in taiga forest mountain areas of central Europe. This volume continues the premise of the book series on bringing information about fossils and archaeological records of well-known caves to light and will give readers an interesting peek into Hermann’s Cave by bringing some of its Ice Age stories to life.


This book is focusing on a Late Pleistocene Weichselian Glacial cave bear den in north-central Europe. Such cave bear dens are larger cave systems, mostly filled up with ten thousands up to a half Million of cave bear bones. However, this book does not survey only the bones of the Hermann’s Cave in the Harz Mountains, Saxony-Anhalt (northern Germany), but also highlights the paleoecological change of the den during 113.000 years located in the Bode River valley close to former valley glaciers present in the Last Ice Age. Interdisciplinary geological, paleontological and archaeological studies make the cave important for our knowledge on the local geomorphological development of the Harz Mountains during the last three Ice Ages (Elsterian, Saalian and Weichselian) reflecting the impact of the most northern mountain valley glaciers in Germany. Recent research during the past 10 years has changed dramatically our view on “the cave bear”. New molecular data and osteometric evidence from skulls and teeth (= “cave bear clock”) suggest that speciation processes resulted into the separation of several species and subspecies within the Late Pleistocene – the past 113.000 years. The behavior and ecological role of European cave bear taxa was consequently misunderstood for a long time and the antagonistic interactions with the other extinct top predators - steppe lions, Ice Age leopards, Ice Age spotted hyenas, and Ice Age wolves – have not been fully considered. The predation and scavenging of carcasses representing a smaller and a larger cave bear species/subspecies are explained in this book as spectacular examples of the interaction with steppe lion whose skeletons (at least three) were discovered deeper in the Hermann’s Cave. This extraordinary book on Hermann’s Cave provides clear evidence for its international paleoecological importance. It deepens our knowledge and understanding of life and extinction of cave bear taxa which appears as a series of events beginning with changing climate leading to the expansion of boreal forests and the reduction of food resources during in the Last Glacial Maximum, and followed by the predatory impact of large carnivores and Cromagnon humans. In the deeper part of the cave Aurignacien hunters left with their tools the oldest cave bear hunt proves most probably with propulsion weapon technique during the bears´ winterly inactivity period.

Prof. Dr. U. Sinsch
University of Koblenz-Landau, IfIN, Dep. Biology,
AG Zoology, Universitätsstr. 1
D-56070 Koblenz,