First direct evidence of lion hunting and the early use of a lion pelt by Neanderthals.
During the Upper Paleolithic, lions become an important theme in Paleolithic art and are more frequent in anthropogenic faunal assemblages. However, the relationship between hominins and lions in earlier periods is poorly known and primarily interpreted as interspecies competition. Here we present new evidence for Neanderthal-cave lion interactions during the Middle Paleolithic. We report new evidence of hunting lesions on the 48,000 old cave lion skeleton found at Siegsdorf (Germany) that attest to the earliest direct instance of a large predator kill in human history. A comparative analysis of a partial puncture to a rib suggests that the fatal stab was delivered with a wooden thrusting spear. We also present the discovery of distal lion phalanges at least 190,000 old from Einhornhöhle (Germany), representing the earliest example of the use of cave lion skin by Neanderthals in Central Europe. Our study provides novel evidence on a new dimension of Neanderthal behavioral complexity.