A Saudi Arabian cave believed to be a lava tube from ancient times held a gruesome discovery for researchers. The cave had a lot of bones from both animals and humans. The cave is known as Umm Jirsan and it is located under the fields of Harrat Khaybar. The area is found in the northwest region of the country, and it extends from 1.5 kilometers, an impressive size for lava tubes in this country.
The non-humans bones belong to various animals, including camels, rodents, horses and cattle. Scientists believed that the cave contains bones from at least 14 types of animals. What is worse, human bones can be found lying on the floors of the dark tunnels too. While this discovery is chilling, it appears that the striped hyenas can be blamed for the diverse collection of bones.
“These critters are avid collectors of bones, which they transport to dens to be consumed, fed to young, or cached. The material at Umm Jirsan has accumulated over the last 7,000 years, attesting to the excellent conditions for preservation of bone within the lava tube,” explained the zooarchaeologist Mathew Stewart from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
The cave appears to be an old residence for hyenas, but researchers believe that the striped animals continue to live there as growling was heard during previous excavations. Given the fact that hyenas are known to transport the prey, scientists believe that they are the most likely suspects, ruling out other animals such as wolves or foxes.
Happy to introduce the Umm Jirsan lava tube, Saudi Arabia, in our new paper just out in AAS.
— Stewie Stewart (@StewieStewart13) July 21, 2021
“Taken together, the large size of the assemblage, the overabundance and intensive processing of ungulate limb bones, abundant hyena coprolites, and presence of juvenile hyena and human cranial remains suggest that Umm Jirsan served primarily as a striped hyena den, and, on occasion, as a maternal den,” concluded the study regarding the cave discoveries.