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David Miles, English Heritage
"This is the first site in Britain where we have found cave people living out in the open."
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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Woolly rhino offers Ice Age clues
Excavation site director John Thomas
The den may have been a hunting post for early man
Hyena droppings, flint tools and the bones of a woolly rhino could unlock secrets to life in Leicestershire during the Ice Age.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester discovered the 30,000-year-old hyena den on a ridge-top near the town of Oakham during an excavation funded by English Heritage.

They believe the den could have been used as a hunting post by early human beings, possibly Neanderthals.

The finds will tell us a great deal more about the Ice Age

Archaeologist David Miles

English Heritage chief archaeologist David Miles said the rare discovery is the first of its kind using modern excavation methods.

"Today's resources, including pollen and bone analysis, mean the finds will tell us a great deal more about the Ice Age at this time than those from previous excavations," he said.


Scientists hope the site will solve questions about early hunters and their environment.

The 100 animal bones and droppings suggest they hunted in a land where animals such as the woolly rhino, normally associated with cold areas, coexisted with spotted hyenas, only found in Africa today.
Drawing of spearhead alongside discovery
The "leaf point" may have been used as a spearhead

Dr Roger Jacobi, a specialist curator at the British Museum, said a three-inch long "leaf point" found among the animal bones was probably used as a spear tip.

"This is the best documented occurence of a leaf point that we have," he said.

"It is a type similar to examples from southern Poland, dated to 38,000 years ago.

"There are increasing suggestions this technology may have been created by the last of the Neanderthals rather than early modern man."

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29 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Neanderthals not human ancestors
01 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Neanderthals were cannibals
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