Hyenas Stash 7,000 Years of Bones in Lava Tubes

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Researchers uncovered the remains in the Umm Jirsan lava tube in Saudi Arabia. (Stewart et al. / Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 2021)

Hyenas Hoarded Thousands of Human, Animal Bones in Saudi Arabian Lava Tube

by Isis Davis-Marks/Smithsonianmag.com

Archaeologists in northwestern Saudi Arabia have unearthed a massive collection of bones likely stockpiled by striped hyenas over the past 7,000 years.

Found in the Umm Jirsan lava tube system—a sprawling network of tunnels formed by volcanic activity—the hundreds of thousands of bones belong to at least 14 kinds of animals, including cattle, caprids, horses, camels, rodents and even humans. The researchers’ findings are newly published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Lead author Mathew Stewart, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, tells Gizmodo’s Isaac Schultz that the team identified hyenas as the culprits after analyzing cuts, bites and digestion marks found on the bones.

“Striped hyena are very avid accumulators of bones,” Stewart says.

Researchers have been investigating the site, which is located in the country’s Harrat Khaybar lava field, since 2007. But they only ventured into the cavern’s depths a few months ago. (Per Gizmodo, another group of archaeologists reported hearing possible hyena snarls in the tubes, prompting them to keep their distance.)

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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