Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Prehistoric Pet


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

When Louis Chaix first saw this 6,000-year-old bear jaw, he was struck by the strange indentation between its molars. Chaix, an archeozoologist at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva, was asked to examine the jaw after it was unearthed from a rock shelter in Isere, France, near Grenoble. The groove in the jaw suggests that humans once held the brown bear captive with a wood or leather thong that was fastened around its lower jaw when the animal was just a few months old. Why they may have kept the bear is a mystery. At the time, the people of this region were hunter-gatherers who speared wild boar and red deer. Since the bear was no older than seven when it died, Chaix thinks that it may have been sacrificed in some ritual, perhaps one similar to those involving sacrificial bears conducted by some medieval Swedes or by the Ainu of the island of Sakhalin near Japan. The find suggests a new type of interaction between humans and animals in this era, says Chaix. "The other relationships that I know for this period are just predatory, just hunting. And this suggests that there were maybe some religious relationships between man and animals during this old time."

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In