Medieval brown bear discovery in the Netherlands

This is a 2018 video about brown bear subespecies in Alaska: grizzly, brown, and Kodiak bears.

From Lutra, the Dutch mammal biology magazine, latest issue:

One of the last wild brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Netherlands (Noordwijk)


Early in 2016, bones of a left front leg of a brown bear (Ursus arctos) were found in the dunes between Noordwijk and Zandvoort (Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen – Amsterdam Water Supply Dunes). The stratigraphical composition of the find horizon was identified as the old surface (palaeosoil) of the so-called ‘Oude Duinen’ (Old Dunes).

The find horizon has yielded many shells and malacological research has indicated the former presence of a centuries-old, undisturbed, moist, deciduous forest. This forest was located at the border of Rijnland and Kennemerland, and remained unaffected by man for a long time. Shifting sand has since formed younger dunes on top of older ones. This process started around the year 1000 AD.

The skeletal remains were 14C dated to 1140 ± 30 BP, which calibrates to 880-970 cal AD. This means that the remains are from the late Holocene age and belong to one of the last wild brown bears in the Netherlands, which was one of the largest mammals living in the Netherlands at this time. Zoological data and historical sources indicate that the last brown bear occurred in the Netherlands around the year 1000 AD.

To contextualise the finding we also present an overview of all finds of the brown bear known from the Dutch Holocene.

According to the glacier refuges theory, after the last glaciations the bears of northern Europe sought shelter in the South. Researchers now reject this idea: they have reconstructed the colonization of brown bears in the Iberian Peninsula and have shown that the lineage of the Pleistocene bears was lost: here.

6 thoughts on “Medieval brown bear discovery in the Netherlands

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