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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Ice Age Cave Bear - The Giant Beast that Terrified Ancient Humans

Reviewed: August 16, 2005
By: Barbara Hehner / illustrations by Mark Hallett
Publisher: Scholastic / Madison Press
32 pages, $10.99

We don't know exactly what ancient humans thought about cave bears. We know that they painted them on the walls of the caves they lived in, but we don't know just why. Competing theories include magic and cave bear worship. This book pretty much discounts the latter theory, but does suggest that humans had a lot to learn from these bears, including which plants were safe to eat

The book tell how some of the early cave bear drawings were discovered and shows photos of skeletons that have been reconstructed. It traces the bear from its unspectacular beginnings as a weasel like creature called a Miacis, 30 to 40 million years ago.

The cave bear was about the size of today's Kodiak grizzlies, though their heads were bigger. While they ate meat, their teeth indicate they were also big plant eaters.

Though we don't know exactly what killed off all the giant animals that roamed the planet during the ice age, one speculation is that humans contributed to cave bears' end. As successful hunters, we killed a lot of the game that had been their prey and thus pushed the bears to extinction.

This book covers its subject in two page sections, each one with a chapter of text accompanied by photos or paintings.

This is part of a series on Ice Age mammals that also includes books on Mammoths and Sabertooths.

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