Fossil Bear Bones in the Belgian Upper Paleolithic: The Possibility of a Proto Bear-Ceremonialism

Mietje Germonpré and Riku Hämäläinen


This paper examines several fossil bear bones from Upper Paleolithic deposits recovered from Belgian caves. The bones exhibit traces of ochre. The paper examines the archaeological and archaeozoological data in detail, comparing the finds with other sites containing fossil bear remains and identifying patterns suggesting purposeful staining of bear bones. These patterns are compared with ethnographic examples of bear ceremonialism. On the basis of similarities found in these analyses, the authors argue that a proto bear-ceremonialism existed during the Upper Paleolithic.

  • Mietje Germonpré, Department of Palaeontology, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Vautierstraat 29, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium

  • Riku Hämäläinen, Department of Comparative Religion, Unioninkatu 38E FIN-00014, University of Helsinki, Finland

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