May’s Curiosity of the Month has been written by Ian Gregory. Photos by Ben Jones.

lion skull in situ

We have in Buxton Museum, a replica of a gentleman’s study called The Boyd Dawkins Room. On one of the desks sits the skull of a cave lion. It must have been powerful. Sharp canines touch polished wood. Wide flanges of bone on either side once carried muscles. There would have been alert eyes where now there are empty sockets. The lion would have seen a very different world to our own; one of mammoths and woolly rhinos. A large hollow at the front held a nose far keener than mine.

lion skull front

Despite their physical power, cave lions became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age. Some say that a changing climate killed them; others think that humans over-hunted the game which lions relied on. Whatever happened, who would have thought that 10,000 years ago, a physically puny primate would outlast such mighty predators. Homo sapiens coped with whatever felled the cave lion.

lion skull rear

I don’t know how this animal died but it would be nice to think that when it did, its pride was around it.