The Slovenia Times

Slovenian prehistoric fauna incredibly diverse

Exhibition on Ice Age animals in Slovenian lands at the Notranjska Regional Museum in Postojna.
Photo: Eva Horvat/STA

When thinking about Slovenian animals, most would consider bees, bears and Lipizzan horses, but an exhibition of prehistoric fossil bones and teeth is adding animals such as macaque monkeys, giant hyenas and Merck's rhinos to the list.

The exhibition Early Ice Age in Slovenian Lands: New Discoveries opened on 17 June at the Notranjska Regional Museum in Postojna.

It features finds from the Middle Pleistocene from two sites in southwest Slovenia. Archaeological discoveries from that period are more rare in Slovenia and thus that much more important, biologist Slavko Polak, one of the curators of the exhibition, has told the STA.

Teeth of the European sabretooth cat were found at the quarry in Črni Kal, at a site estimated to be between 700,000 and 800,000 years old. "This is a cat the size of a lion with long canines, similar to Diego from the Ice Age films," Polak says. The sabretooth cat disappeared from the area about half a million years ago.

At Črni Kal just a bit further from the first finds, Polak and Tomaž Hitij also found teeth of a giant hyena and macaque monkeys. According to Polak, the monkeys "were very similar to Barbary macaques now living in the forests of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco."

This site was host to more recent and thus more familiar fauna, including the wild horse, cattle, leopard, wild cat and a prehistoric wolf the size of a jackal.

The second site, located in a small cave near Ilirska Bistrica, is dated at around 150,000 years ago. Finds from Uršnja Luknja include the bones of Merck's rhinoceros, the Alpine wolf, porcupine, horse and other animals.

The early Neanderthal was also active in the cave, as evident by simple tools and carve marks on bones, proving that Homo neandertalensis cut meat from the bone. "We found many completely shattered bones, which shows that he tried to get to the nutritious bone marrow," says Polak.

Most Slovenian Neanderthal-related discoveries are more recent, such as a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal flute, considered to be one of the oldest if not the oldest musical instruments in the world.

"The finds from the cave are a phenomenal discovery, as the sediment is more than 150,000 years old," says Polak, adding that they proposed the cave be protected as an archaeological site.

The exhibition will run until 30 September.


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