Hyenas have stored tens of thousands of bones in Saudi Arabia’s lava tube for at least 6,000 years

Tens of thousands of bones, both animals and humans, were found on the floor of a dried-up lava tube in northwestern Saudi Arabia, which experts say was a feasting ground for hyenas for thousands of years.

Archaeologists have found the huge pile of bones while exploring the Umm Jirsan lava tube, whose radiocarbon has been dated to several eras spanning more than 7,000 years.

The team suggests that striped hyenas are behind the bed of bones, which is made up of 40 different species, including horses, donkeys, camels, goats, gazelles and even other hyenas.

In addition to the animal bones, three human skull remains were discovered – hyenas are known for scouring human graves in search of flesh.

Tens of thousands of bones, both animals and humans, were found on the floor of a dried up lava tube in northwestern Saudi Arabia, which experts say was a feasting ground for hyenas for thousands of years.

Striped hyenas are nocturnal and feed on just about anything, including herbivores, carnivores, insects, and plants.

They regularly look for the rotting flesh of other animals.

These animals also use their powerful jaws to gnaw and crush bones.

Hyenas are able to digest parts of prey that most animals cannot, such as hooves, horns, hair and tires.

Archaeologists have found the huge pile of bones while exploring the Umm Jirsan lava tube, whose radiocarbon has been dated to several eras spanning more than 7,000 years.  Images A and B show the opening of the lava tube.  C and D show the treasure of bones and the middle image highlights the location of the cave in Saudi Arabia

Archaeologists have found the huge pile of bones while exploring the Umm Jirsan lava tube, whose radiocarbon has been dated to several eras spanning more than 7,000 years. Images A and B show the opening of the lava tube. C and D show the treasure of bones and the middle image highlights the location of the cave in Saudi Arabia

The lava tube was first discovered in 2007, but researchers said they heard growls from within and refused to travel deep into the cave.  Scientists from the Saudi Geological Survey, King Saud University and Germany's Max Planck Institute braved the windswept cavern until they encountered chambers, each containing a sea of ​​bones

The lava tube was first discovered in 2007, but researchers said they heard growls from within and refused to travel deep into the cave. Scientists from the Saudi Geological Survey, King Saud University and Germany’s Max Planck Institute braved the windswept cavern until they encountered chambers, each containing a sea of ​​bones

They often store their food, such as bones, cuts of meat, or meat, in shallow holes dug with their snouts. They will also take away the excess flesh found on a scavenger.

The lava tube was first discovered in 2007, but researchers said they heard growls from within and refused to travel deep into the cave.

Scientists from the Saudi Geological Survey, King Saud University and Germany’s Max Planck Institute braved the windswept cavern until they came across chambers, each containing a sea of ​​bones.

“Boats, which usually represent carnivore deposits, were found everywhere and were mainly concentrated in the very western part of the system,” Mathew Stewart wrote with Max Planck and colleagues in the study published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Bones, which usually represent carnivore deposits, were found everywhere and were mostly concentrated in the very western part of the system

Bones, which usually represent carnivore deposits, were found everywhere and were mostly concentrated in the very western part of the system

Remains indicate the presence of 'wolves, foxes, hyenas, rock pigeons, bats, sheep or goats and swifts' and 'growls' heard during the exploration of the site suggest that Umm Jirsan still serves as a den for carnivores

Remains indicate the presence of ‘wolves, foxes, hyenas, rock pigeons, bats, sheep or goats and swifts’ and ‘growls’ heard during the exploration of the site suggest that Umm Jirsan still serves as a den for carnivores

‘Remains indicate the presence of ‘wolves, foxes, hyenas, rock pigeons, bats, sheep or goats and swifts’ and ‘growls’ heard during the exploration of the site suggest that Umm Jirsan still serves as a den for carnivores.’

The team further investigated a room they call the “Wolf Den” because of the sheer amount of bones found in it.

A total of 1,917 bones and teeth were collected from the tens of thousands of bones in the cave for further investigation, and 1,073 of those were identified by a specific skeletal element.

About 13 samples selected for radiocarbon dating, which showed that some of the bones were 6,839 years old.

‘Forty-two percent of the bone has evidence of carnivore processing, including gnawing marks, stomach etching and rounding from licking. Gnawing marks take the form of dental pits,” the study said.

A total of 1,917 bones and teeth were removed from the pit for further examination and 1,073 of these were identified by a specific skeletal element.  About 13 samples selected for radiocarbon dating, which showed that some bones were 6,839 years old

A total of 1,917 bones and teeth were removed from the pit for further examination and 1,073 of these were identified by a specific skeletal element. About 13 samples selected for radiocarbon dating, which showed that some bones were 6,839 years old

The hyenas are believed to have transported the entire bodies of small animals to the cave, while larger animals were torn to pieces and only feeding limbs were returned to the lava tube.

The human remains discovered in the Wolf Den were nothing more than skull caps.

Stewart, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Human History, said: Gizmodo: ‘They don’t seem very interested in skullcaps. We found maybe five or six skullcaps with gnat marks on them, but only the skullcaps. Nothing else.’

Located in the desert region of Haret Bani Rashid, to the east of Khaybar, the Umm Jirsan lava tube is believed to be one of several lava tubes in the area, caves formed thousands of years ago in lava from a nearby volcano.

The system consists of three lava tube passages separated by two collapses and is 4,859 feet long, making it the largest explored cave system in Saudi Arabia and the longest lava tube system in the entire Arabian Peninsula.

.