Prehistoric fauna on show in Postojna

Postojna, 19 June - The Notranjska Regional Museum in Postojna opened on Saturday an exhibition of finds from the Pleistocene, including fossilised bones and teeth of macaque monkey, large cats, hyenas and a rhino. The exhibition will run until 30 September.

Fossil bones of Merck's rhino at the exhibition on Ice Age animals in Slovenian lands at the Notranjska Regional Museum in Postojna.
Photo: Eva Horvat/STA

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

The finds come from the Črni Kal quarry and the Uršnja Luknja cave in the south-west of Slovenia and are from the Middle Pleistocene, meaning the period before the last Ice Age.

Archaeological finds from that time are more rare in Slovenia and that much more important, one of the exhibition's creators, biologist Slavko Polak told the STA.

Polak created the exhibition with stomatologist and amateur palaeontologist Tomaž Hitij and archaeologist specialised in the Palaeolithic Draško Josipovič.

Polak and Hitij discovered two sites at the Črni Kal quarry. The first is estimated to be between 700 and 800 thousand years old and home to teeth of the European sabretooth cat that went extinct in the area half a million years ago. "This is a cat the size of a lion with long canines, similar to Diego from the Ice Age movies," Polak said.

Teeth of a giant hyena were found at the same site, as well as macaque monkey teeth. According to Polak, the monkeys "were very similar to Barbary macaques that now live in the forests of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, even in snow."

The second, more recent site at the quarry was host to more familiar fauna, including the wild horse, aurochs, leopard, wild cat and a prehistoric wolf the size of a jackal.

Finds from the Uršnja Luknja cave are dated at around 150 thousand years and include the bones of Merck's rhinoceros, the Alpine wolf, porcupine, horse and other animals.

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

Since most Slovenian Neanderthal-related discoveries date back to the last Ice Age or just before it, the finds from Uršnja Luknja are a phenomenal discovery, as the sediment is more than 150 thousand years old, said Polak, adding that they proposed the cave be protected as an archaeological site.