In April, a large exhibition opened in France, the central exhibit of which is a cave lion cub, named Uyan, which was found in Yakutia.
Paleontologist Albert Protopopov, head of the Mammoth Fauna Department of the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, has returned from France, where a large exhibition Lions and People has recently opened. Its central exhibit is this cave lion, Uyan. Uyan and another lion cub, Dina, were found in Abyisky district in 2015. They were named after the Uyandina River, on the bank of which they were found.
Uyan was brought to France by a Yakut delegation led by Albert Protopopov and Yakov Androsov, director of the non-profit museum Northern World. It was Androsov who discovered the remains of an ancient animal four years ago. A lion cub carcass was transported abroad in a special refrigerating chamber.
The cave lion cubs Uyan and Dina, found in the Abyisky region, made a great sensation in the scientific community of 2015. Prior to this, scientists have only found the bones of cave lions and cubs Uyan and Dina became the first case when frozen carcasses were found. They have well preserved fur, soft tissues, ears and even a mustache. Later in Yakutia, other cave lion cubs were found - Boris and Spartak.
“The exhibition organizers in France came to Yakutsk two years ago,” said Albert Protopopov. "They signed a cooperation agreement with the Academy of Sciences of the Republic and the Northern World Museum. And then we agreed that an exhibition would open in 2019, with Uyan as a central exhibit.”
The exhibition Des Lions et Des Hommes opened on April 6 at the Chauvet-2 museum complex. The museum is unusual. This is an exact replica of the famous prehistoric cave - Grotte Chauvet. This cave near the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc is known for its hundreds of primitive rock paintings, created about 36 thousand years ago. No other cave in the south of France has such a number of well-preserved cave paintings.
“The ancient people drew rhinos, bison, lions, and ancient horses with coal and cinnabar,” says Protopopov. "The drawings are completely unique: they can see the perspective, chiaroscuro, and different angles. Some images with multiple contours layered on each other. It is believed that this is a kind of primitive animation. When in a dark cave you quickly move the torch back and forth along the drawing, the images of lions and rhinos seemed to come to life and move. The cave is very well preserved due to the fact that there was a rockslide about 20 thousand years ago. Cavers discovered it just in 1994."
Now the Chauvet Cave is closed to the public, since a change in humidity can lead to the disappearance of cave paintings. An exception is made twice a year only for small groups of scientists. “We were lucky to get into the Chauvet Cave,” said Albert Protopopov. During the inspection of the drawings with the French colleagues, we discussed the appearance of the extinct animals painted on the walls and the environment in which they lived. French paleontologists have a huge array of petroglyphs for research, and we study the mummies of extinct animals that are well preserved in the permafrost and we know how modern animals adapt to the cold climate. Therefore, we have something to offer each other.”
In 2015, the Chauvet-2 museum complex, a complete copy of the famous cave, appeared not far from the Chauvet Cave. The main exhibition display is dedicated to the ancient animals of the Pleistocene era - mammoths, rhinos. The Lions and People exhibition, which will be held until September 22, is devoted to lions, tigers and jaguars, their display in art, and paleontological research.
“The lion, of course, caused a great stir,” said Albert Protopopov. “At the opening there were many visitors and journalists. The biggest interest of the exhibition with mammoths and cave lions is traditionally caused in Japan and France. This can be explained by the fact that several caves with rock paintings and remains of ancient animals were found in France. For example, in the Chauvet Cave, paleontologists found more than 50 skulls of cave bears. Bears slept in a cave during wintering, and in the summer there were ancient people in the cave. They drew pictures, conducted various rites, but did not live there.”
In France, Yakut researchers gave several press conferences and met with colleagues — paleontologists and archaeologists.
“Most of all French journalists asked us about the research we are doing and about other cave lion cubs found in Yakutia,” the paleontologist said. “Many were interested in how adult cave lions looked like. But the fact is that scientists have not yet recreated their authentic appearance. According to our research, cave lions looked almost the same as modern African lions. But it is still unknown whether adult lion males had a mane. In all the cave paintings, lions are always depicted without a mane, and in some of the images they even have spots. We pin great hopes on the lion cub Boris, who was found in 2017 in the Abyisky district. This lion cub is the largest and most adult of the cubs found in Yakutia. We are currently studying its coat to recreate the look of ancient cave lions.”
The Academy of Sciences is confident that the exhibition in France will strengthen cooperation between French and Yakut paleontologists. “Participation in such exhibitions is, first of all, popularization of scientific knowledge and promotion of the Yakut science, in particular paleontology,” says Albert Protopopov. “It is also the establishment of international relations. We often make up large teams of scientists from different cities and countries for joint expeditions and research.”
The exhibition in France with a cave lion cub from Yakutia as a central exhibit, will be held at the replica museum of the Chauvet Cave until September 22. After the exhibition, the ancient animal will go back to Yakutia.