04/03/2014 10:54 EDT

Saber-Toothed Tigers And Humans Met About 300,000 Years Ago At Schöningen In Present-Day Germany

Jim Linwood/Flickr
Walk With Beasts exhibition, Horniman Museum, London.The Smilodon is also colloquially known as Saber-toothed cat or Saber-toothed tiger. The Smilodon is the prehistoric cat that is best known to researchers. In truth, all modern day cats, including tigers, came from a completely different line.

An encounter between at least one of humanity's ancestors and a saber-toothed tiger has been preserved for the ages, according to German researchers.

And that meeting bears every indication of what one might expect -- violence.

The site, a coal mine in the north-central region of the country, has yielded both the remains of the legendary cat -- along with tell-tale wooden spears, scientists at the Lower Saxony Heritage Authority and of the University of Tübingen say.

The excavation, some 300,000 years old, unearthed what was once an early human (homo heidelbergenis, to be clear) settlement on the banks of a shallow lake at the present-day town of Schöningen.

Archaeologists at the University of Tübingen describe the encounter in unnerving detail:

"It is highly likely that humans were confronted by saber-toothed cats at the Schöningen lakeside," a University of Tübingen press release reads. "In that case, all the human could do was grab his up to 2.3 metres long spear and defend himself."

Those weapons, dubbed Schöningen spears, have been hailed as the world's oldest spears.

And, in this case, they look to have come in handy. Archaeologists found saber-tooth bones alongside the spears and stone tools at the ancient embankment.

The find is an early indication that earliest humans were using weapons against animals of prey. And it suggests they had violent clashes with the great cat -- an animal believed to have died off some 12,000 years ago.

No casual predator, the sabre-toothed cats packed fangs nearly a foot long, which scientists speculate, were used for stabbing and slashing prey.

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