[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, a new Early Pleistocene proximal hand phalanx (ATE9-2) from the Sima del Elefante cave site (TE – Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), ascribed to Homo sp., is presented and comparatively described in the context of the evolution of the genus Homo. The ATE9-2 specimen is especially important because of the paucity of hand bones in the human fossil record during the Early Pleistocene. The morphological and metrical analyses of the phalanx ATE9-2 indicate that there are no essential differences between it and comparator fossil specimens for the genus Homo after 1.3 Ma (millions of years ago). Similar to Sima de los Huesos and Neandertal specimens, ATE9-2 is a robust proximal hand phalanx, probably reflecting greater overall body robusticity in these populations or a higher gracility in modern humans. The age of level TE9 from Sima del Elefante and morphological and metrical studies of ATE9-2 suggest that the morphology of the proximal hand phalanges and, thus, the morphology of the hand could have remained stable over the last 1.2–1.3 Ma. Taking into account the evidence recently provided by a metacarpal from Kaitio (Kenya) from around 1.42 Ma, we argue that modern hand morphology is present in the genus Homo subsequent to Homo habilis.
Journal of Human Evolution 09/2015; 78:114-121. DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.08.007 · 3.87 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene mem- bers of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and im- plied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin.
PLoS ONE 05/2015; 10(5):e0126589. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0126589 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ages based on independent methods, such as combined ESR-U series, luminescence, and magnetostratigraphic analyses have been obtained for the upper stratigraphical section of Gran Dolina site (TD6 to TD11 levels). However, the chronostratigraphical framework of this European Paleolithic key site remains incomplete because of its great antiquity and the lack of reliable methods. This paper provides new radiometric dates by electron spin resonance applied to optically bleached quartz grains for the whole stratigraphic sequence. The results agree with the previous chronostratigraphical framework for the upper part of the stratigraphical sequence. The ages for the Homo antecessor remains from TD6 layer range between 800 and 900 ka. The lowest layers attributed to endogenous sediments (TD1) could be contemporaneous with the Sima del Elefante TE9 human bearing layer dated to 1.2 Ma. The results suggest a human occupation of possibly more than 1 Ma at the Gran Dolina site. This study confirms moreover the potential of ESR dating method applied on quartz in karstic environment.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Three sites at the Calvero de la Higuera complex (Camino Cave, Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter, and Buena Pinta Cave), near the village of Pinilla del Valle (Madrid, Spain), are known for their record of Neanderthals and other Late Pleistocene mammals. Occasionally, they also yield much more ancient reworked remains, which come from the Upper Cretaceous dolomites and carbonatic sandstones in which these caves and shelters are developed. These are mostly teeth of sharks and rays and vertebrae and teeth of bony fishes, but several reptile vertebrae and teeth have also been found. These reptile remains, which we describe here, likely belong to the pythonomorph incertae sedis Carentonosaurus cf. mineaui. This taxon is known from several outcrops in the southwest of France but is rare on the Iberian Peninsula; indeed, only a few remains possibly related to the genus have been found (in the Cabaña Formation, Asturias, Spain). The pythonomorph remains discussed here are the first fossils of marine reptiles from the Madrid region. Should the assignment to Carentonosaurus be confirmed, the teeth would provide novel data on the characteristics of this rather poorly known taxon, and might help clarify its phylogenetic relationship within Pythonomorpha.
Cretaceous Research 05/2015; 54. DOI:10.1016/j.cretres.2014.12.010 · 2.39 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Sima de Los Huesos (SH) is one of the many archaeo-palaeontological sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca. The characteristics of this palaeoanthropological site are unusual, due to the large size of the hominin accumulation and its location far from the karst entrances, at least today. In order to investigate the geological processes involved in the site formation and their relation to the hominin deposit, we have performed a study of the stratigraphical sequence and depositional history of SH. Analysis and correlation of the identified layers has allowed us to redefine the depositional structure of the site based on twelve lithostratigraphic units, which can be further grouped into five allostratigraphic units delimited by erosional boundaries. The results show that there was only one stratigraphic event of hominin accumulation. Cave bears and other carnivores occur with the hominin fossils in the same layer, but carnivores continued accumulating above the hominin deposit in an overlying layer. Our findings also argue against the hypothesis that the hominin or carnivore bones were transported to SH from a locus of primary accumulation remote from their present day location. The present study also reveals that, at the time of the hominin and carnivore fossil accumulations, the only possible access to the SH chamber was a deep vertical conduit, which was impossible to climb.
Quaternary International 03/2015; In press. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.02.044 · 2.13 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Iberian lynx, endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, is the most threatened carnivore in Europe and the most endangered felid in the world. Widely distributed throughout Iberia during the Pleistocene and Holocene it is now confined to two small populations in southern Spain. Lynx species differentiation, based solely on morphological analysis from skeletal traits, is a difficult task and can potentially lead to misidentification. In order to verify whether Iberian lynx had a wider geographical distribution in the past, we successfully sequenced 152 base pairs (bp) of the cytochrome b gene and 183 bp of the mitochondrial control region in 20 Late Pleistocene and Holocene fossil remains of Lynx sp. from southern Europe. Our results confirm the presence of Iberian lynx outside the Iberian Peninsula demonstrating that this is a palaeoendemic species that had a wider distribution range in southern Europe during the Holocene and the Late Pleistocene. In addition, we documented the presence of both Palaearctic extant lynx species in the Arene Candide (north Italy) site during the Last Glacial Maximum.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fracture pattern analysis implement the taphonomic information obtained and it help understanding the largest accumulation of human remains from the Middle Pleistocene known, the Sima de los Huesos (SH) sample. The SH hominin long bones exhibit a fracture pattern characterized especially by the dominance of transverse fractures of the long axis, complete circumferences and fracture edges with right angles and jagged surfaces. These properties are expected for post-depositional fractures and are compatible with collective burial assemblages. The very small proportion of fractures typical of biostratinomic stage could be due to a blunt force trauma produced by a free-fall down the vertical 13 m shaft that constitutes the access to the SH chamber.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site more than 6500 human fossils have been recovered to date. They represent a minimum of 28 individuals and have been considered ancestors of Neandertals. All skeletal elements are represented in the Sima de los Huesos sample, and more than 500 specimens belong to the foot. Here we present the analysis of two nearly complete feet (Foot 1 & Foot 2) from within the collection. They are comprised of 23 tarsal and metatarsal bones that belonged to a fully adult, probably male, individual.
Morphologically, this individual displays robust and broad feet. Moreover, both feet show broad lateral talar malleolar surfaces, broad calcanei, stout naviculars and robust metatarsals. These two feet are indistinguishable from thoseof modern humans in the implied locomotor capabilities and similar in overall size and proportions. However, the robusticity and some metrical traits help us to differentiate them from
modern human populations. Based on regression equations of modern humans, a stature of around 173-174 cm has been calculated for this individual. The chronology of around of 430 ka for the site, and the results of this study make this association the oldest robust modern-like feet in the genus Homo.
84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Saint Louis (USA); 01/2015
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: El objetivo de este trabajo es la aproximación a la gestión del ganado ovicaprino
en los niveles del Calcolítico y Bronce del yacimiento de El Portalón
(Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos)a partir del análisis zooarqueológico y tafonómico
de los restos óseos de las ovejas y cabras. En el nivel calcolítico de
El Portalón la explotación de esta cabaña ganadera está enfocada hacia la
obtención de productos secundarios (lana, leche, productos lácteos), complementada
con el consumo de la carne, como sucede en otros yacimientos
calcolíticos peninsulares. En el Bronce de El Portalón esta explotación está
enfocada, principalmente al consumo de la carne (61,9%), y en menor medida
hacia la obtención de productos secundarios (38,1%). En yacimientos
peninsulares de esta cronología se observa una dualidad en la explotación
de los ovicaprinos, con algunos en los que está orientada hacia los productos
primarios (Este y Norte de España) y otros hacia productos secundarios
(yacimientos argáricos del Sureste peninsular).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The archaeological karstic infill site of Galería Complex, located within the Atapuerca system (Spain), has produced a large faunal and archaeological record (Homo sp. aff. heidelbergensis fossils and Mode II lithic artefacts) belonging to the Middle Pleistocene. Extended-range luminescence dating techniques, namely post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) dating of K-feldspars and thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of individual quartz grains, were applied to fossil-bearing sediments at Galería. The luminescence dating results are in good agreement with published chronologies derived using alternative radiometric dating methods (i.e., ESR and U-series dating of bracketing speleothems and combined ESR/U-series dating of herbivore teeth), as well as biochronology and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions inferred from proxy records (e.g., pollen data). For the majority of samples dated, however, the new luminescence ages are significantly (~50%) younger than previously published polymineral thermoluminescence (TL) chronologies, suggesting that the latter may have overestimated the true burial age of the Galería deposits. The luminescence ages obtained indicate that the top of the basal sterile sands (GIb) at Galería have an age of up to ~370 thousand years (ka), while the lowermost sub-unit containing Mode II Acheulean lithics (base of unit GIIa) was deposited during MIS 9 (mean age = 313 ± 14 ka; n = 4). The overlying units GIIb-GIV, which contain the richest archaeopalaeontological remains, were deposited during late MIS 8 or early MIS 7 (~240 ka). Galería Complex may be correlative with other Middle Pleistocene sites from Atapuerca, such as Gran Dolina level TD10 and unit TE19 from Sima del Elefante, but the lowermost archaeological horizons are ~100 ka younger than the hominin-bearing clay breccias at the Sima de los Huesos site. Our results suggest that both pIR-IR and single-grain TT-OSL dating are suitable for resolving Middle Pleistocene chronologies for the Sierra de Atapuerca karstic infill sequences.
PLoS ONE 10/2014; 9(10). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0110169 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Appropiate identification of goat remains at an archaeological site provides important information about the structure and behaviour (subsistence strategies) of ancient human societies. Traditionally, Iberian wild goats (Capra pyrenaica) and domestic goats (Capra hircus) have been differentiated using biometric criteria whereas morphological identification of these species has remained poorly studied.
We tested the biometric and morphological criteria for goat species identification in a set of 35 anatomical elements. From these, 20 bones belonged to modern domestic goats obtained from comparative anatomical collections of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of
the University of Haifa, the National Natural History Collections of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Department of Archaeology of the University of Sheffield. The remaining 15 bones correspond to fossil material of wild and domestic goat from Paleolithic and Neolithic levels from the site of Chaves in Huesca, Spain.
We used mitochondrial DNA markers to genetically identify the fossil remains through ancient DNA analysis in order to verify the criteria used to differentiate wild from domestic goats with non-genetic analysis. Thus, the genetic results of the ancient material were furthered contrasted to those of modern goats obtained with biometric and morphological analyses.
The identification of modern goats using morphological and biometrical criteria show highly similar results. In the fossil data set we observed a positive correlation between the genetic species assignation and the morphological and biometrical identification.
We observed little discrepancy between the morphological criteria used in this study for the
identification of wild and domestic goats and the DNA results. However, the reliability of the identification criteria for some anatomical elements was not clear, particularly for mandibles and metacarpals.
This is a pilot study and therefore we are still working in increasing our sample size in terms of individuals but also in terms of the anatomical elements to be analysed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The horse has played an important role in the prehistoric societies along the time. During the Paleolithic the horse was frequently hunted and consumed by man. In the Iberian
Peninsula, the horse was a common element at the end of the Late Pleistocene, after which there was a long period during the Early Holocene when sites containing horse remains were very rare. It was not until the Chalcolithic or Bell Beaker culture when more equine remains were found in certain regions.The horse was exploited for various reasons in the Iberian Peninsula during the Bronze Age. In some cases, horses were used for their meat. They were also used as pack or draft animals, and only after they fulfilled this purpose,
were eventually consumed. Another possible purpose of horse exploitation could be to obtain milk. Nonetheless,no evidence has been found at any site in Iberia that indicates
mare’s milk consumption. Lastly, during the Bronze Age, horses could have been considered goods that represented prestige. The possession and consumption of horses could have served to distinguish between different social classes living in settlements in that period. This is difficult to verify with the zooarchaeological record.
In this study, an exceptional consumption of horse remains in Early Bronze Age is documented. These remains were discovered during the sixth excavation campaign
of the El Portalón site directed by J. M. Apellániz in 1979.The material consists of 103 bones and teeth, belonging to a minimum number of six individuals of Equus sp., recovered
in a thin stratigraphic interval (around 70 centimeters) and a 2 m2 of area (called Horse stratigraphic unit: HSU). It is dated c. 2000 yr cal B.C. The mortality profile (three of the six individuals were slaughtered before reaching four years of age), butchery marks (on 27.18% of the bone remains), thermal alteration and the percussion marks suggest horse meat as an
important resource for the inhabitants from the Bronze Age of El Portalón. This is unusual among other Iberian sites where ovicaprines, bovids and suids provide the majority of the meat. The high percentage of equid remains identified in the HSU (43% of total NISP) makes
this place one of few Holocene Iberian sites (with Cerro de La Encinaand the phase III of Pic del Corbs) where the horse is the most abundant species.The mentioned evidences and the low representation of the equid remains in the other levels of the whole site’s stratigraphic sequence bring forward the exceptional character of equid consumption represented in this site, and, together with other contextual evidences, suggest that this accumulation of horse remains could be the result of a feast.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The main goal of this work is to introduce the archaeological
characteristics of a collective burial excavated in
the level 7/8 from “El Portalón de Cueva Mayor” site (Sierra
de Atapuerca, Burgos). The radiocarbon dating for this
funerary level, obtained from seed, faunal and human
remains, indicates dates of4350 ± 30 BP. This, together
with the typology of cultural material places this burial
in the pre-Bell Beaker pottery Chalcolithic period of the
Spanish North Plateau (between 4600 and 3950 BP).
The level 7/8 represents a tumular structure in which
several burials were performed. Over 93 human remains
have been recovered from this level, belonging
to a minimum number of 11 individuals, four adults and
seven subadults. Because these burials were disturbed
by later chalcolitic dweller, in most cases, it is not possible
to establish a clear association among the human
remains and the cultural materials (grave godos) found
in this level. Therefore the funerary ritual related to these
human remains is hard to describe.
Fortunately, during 2012 field season, an intact burial
with a complete human subadult skeleton was recovered
from this level. The burial was clearly associated to
both, cultural and faunal remains. Our study show that
the level 7/8 from El Portalón fits well with the pattern
of the Chalcolithic funerary world that is defined by the
collective character of the burials and by the no spatial
coincidence of them and habitat areas.
This extraordinary discovery provides an important
source of knowledge regardfg the funerary behaviour
during this prehistoric period in the Spanish North Plateau.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The emergence of alternative luminescence dating techniques, such as thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL), post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IRSL) and OSL dating of individual quartz ‘supergrains’, has opened up new possibilities for establishing numerical age control on sedimentary deposits that exceed the traditional upper age limits of quartz OSL dating. In this study, we evaluate the reliability of these ‘extended-range’ luminescence dating techniques over Middle and Early Pleistocene timescales using two approaches: (i) a broad-scale synthesis of extended-range luminescence chronologies published so far as part of known-age comparison studies; (ii) a series of new TT-OSL and pIR-IRSL case studies at the palaeoanthropological sites of Galería, Sima del Elefante and Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain). The published known-age TT-OSL datasets (n = 82) and supergrain OSL datasets (n = 3) display good correspondence (i.e., suitably linear and proportion relationships) with associated age control. The known-age pIR-IRSL datasets (n = 228) display more inter-sample scatter, though there is general support for the reliability of more stringent pIR-IRSL protocols and multiple-elevated temperature pIR-IRSL approaches over Late and Middle Pleistocene timescales. While these reliability assessments are encouraging, there remains a clear need for more widespread, known-age empirical assessments of extended-range luminescence techniques beyond ∼300–400 ka. The ages obtained at Atapuerca using single-grain TT-OSL and pIR-IRSL measurement temperatures of 225 °C (pIR-IR225) are in agreement with independent age control over an age range spanning ∼240–930 ka. In contrast, the pIR-IRSL chronologies obtained using a more stringent measurement temperature of 290 °C (pIR-IR290) consistently overestimate the expected ages of the Atapuerca sequences. The single-grain TT-OSL ages obtained at Gran Dolina permit calculation of a new weighted mean age of 846 ± 57 ka for the Homo antecessor palaeoanthropological horizon (unit TD6). The known-age Atapuerca case studies highlight the feasibility, and advantages, of applying TT-OSL dating at the single-grain scale of analysis and demonstrate that the suitability of pIR-IRSL dating protocols can vary significantly at a site or regional scale. Together, our analyses show that no single extended-range luminescence dating technique is likely to be universally applicable to all samples. Collectively, however, these approaches offer good potential for obtaining reliable chronologies, and they are likely to offer the greatest benefits when applied in tandem to individual samples.
Quaternary International 09/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.08.010 · 2.13 Impact Factor