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Last Updated: Saturday May 03 2008 11:00 GMT

Kids unearth bear bones at school

L-R:Mary, Immy and Billy with the ancient bear bone

It's not very often you discover real treasure while playing pirates with your mates, but that's exactly what's happened to three children in Bristol.

Immy Price, Billy Thomas-Connolly and Mary Barker, unearthed two teeth and a leg bone belonging to a 40,000-year-old cave bear, in their school playground.

Immy, who found the female bear's thigh bone under decking at Bristol Steiner School, said it was very exciting.

And experts say the bones are a really important discovery for their research.

Bear quiz
A brown bear
Immy said it was amazing to have found something so old: "I was playing pirates with my friends and it was my job to sort out the deck.

"There was a big pile of rubble and as I was clearing it I came across what looked like an animal bone.

"I ran inside and washed it off, then I took it to Bristol Museum. A few days later they phoned me back saying it was actually the bone of a cave bear, from the last Ice Age and it was 40,000 years old.

"Billy and Mary found the bear teeth at Christmas, and after that everybody was digging to find some bones."

'Incredibly important'

The bear bone next to a 50p coin
The bear bone is about 40,000 years old
Cave bears are thought to have looked like grisly bears, but larger, and used to be hunted on Bristol's Durdham Downs.

The bear whose bone Immy found was about 3.5m long and 1m wide across its shoulders. Its teeth helped experts work out how old it was.

Dr Tim Ewin, from Bristol Museum, said: "The children's find is incredibly important from a research point of view because they will help us discover more about exactly how many there were, how big they were and what they ate."