Research Items (323)
This short essay presents a reflection on how natural selection in our species can be fine-tuned by technical and cultural selection. Thanks to socialised technology, we humans can integrate diversity, thus preventing the extinction of behaviours, languages, and cultures. This point of view contrasts with the "single thinking" hypothesis, since our goal is to work towards critical thinking and action. Only by developing operational consciousness, will we be able to build what we really want for humankind, once the keys of social evolution be known. Reflecting upon what we want to do with our species will allow us intervene in the rules governing the future of humankind.
- Sep 2018
Middle Pleistocene unit TD10 of the Gran Dolina site is nearly four metres thick and is divided into four subunits (TD10.1, TD10.2, TD10.3, TD10.4). To date, the upper two subunits (TD10.1 and TD10.2) have been completely excavated and have been studied from zooarchaeological, taphonomic and occupational perspectives. The top of the sequence (Upper TD10.1), however, has not undergone these types of studies until now. In this paper we report the results of our analyses of the anatomical profiles, age, and the anthropogenic and carnivore-induced modifications in this assemblage. Methods employed to evaluate sequential scenarios (carnivore to hominin; hominin to carnivore; carnivore to hominin to carnivore) have led to contradictory results. We conclude that the formation of Upper TD10.1 is the product of the overlap of independent events (hominin only and carnivore only), with limited commensalism between the two agents. The type of accumulation is consistent with the characteristics of an accumulative palimpsest generated by different actors. Unlike those documented in the lower levels of TD10 (TD10.1BB and TD10.2BB), hominin occupations in this part of the sequence were very brief. This scenario completes the picture of the types of occupations that took place during the end of Middle Pleistocene at Gran Dolina. In short, level TD10 was the site of three types of occupation by Middle Pleistocene hominins: a kill/butchering site in TD10.2BB, a long-term residential camp in TD10.1BB, and finally, logistical and short-term occupations in Upper TD10.1.
The so-called “Gran Dolina site” (Atapuerca mountain range, N Spain) is a karstic cavity filled by sediments during the Pleistocene, some of which contain a rich ensemble of archaeological and paleontological records. These sediments have contributed significantly to our understanding of early human dispersal in Europe but, in contrast, older, interior facies deposits have received much less of attention. The stratigraphy of Gran Dolina reveals an abrupt sedimentary change of interior to entrance facies from bottom to top, reflecting a significant paleoenvironmental change that promoted the accumulation of sediments transported from the vicinity of the cave by water or “en masse”. Since the major magnetic polarity reversal known as the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary (0.78 Ma) was detected within the TD7 unit in the middle of the stratigraphic section, we carried out a new combined paleomagnetic, radiometric (U-Pb), and electron spin resonance (ESR) dating study of the lower part of the sequence in order to constrain the chronology of the interior facies at Gran Dolina. U-Pb analysis of speleothems did not produce age information as the samples proved to be extremely unradiogenic. The magnetic stratigraphy of the cave interior sediments reveals a dominant reverse magnetic polarity, coherent with a Matuyama age, and interrupted by a normal polarity magnetozone interpreted as the Jaramillo Subchron (1.0–1.1 Ma). ESR ages on quartz grains from the upper part of the interior facies sediments are coherent with such an interpretation. We conclude that the fluvial deposits (interior facies) that constitute the cave floor began accumulating before 1.2 Ma. The development of large cave entrances at Gran Dolina occurred shortly after the Jaramillo Subchron but before ca 900 ka ago.
Some years ago, The Homogeneity to Multiplicity Model (HMM) was introduced as a structural framework for understanding the appearance and evolution of early stone tool techno-systems. Presently, the HMM provides an alternative and complimentary conceptual scheme with which to explain how and why particular morphotypes appeared and proliferated through time and space. This paper is especially dedicated to the very first stage of this model, Homogeneity, which refers specifically to the origins of human technologies in Africa more than 3 million years ago. Research on numerous ancient African and Eurasian stone tool assemblages provides empirical examples indicating that the oldest known hominin technologies most likely emerged out of a previous phase of long-term practice of percussive technologies. While primates and other animals make and use tools, only humans have evolved complex operative schemes involving chains of action that are intermediary to the primary goal of satisfying a survival-related desire; such as accessing or processing foodstuffs. Compared to other species, humans demonstrate total reliance upon toolmaking for survival. This adaptive strategy precludes elaborate and lengthy learning and socialization processes that are the very foundation of human material culture. The Homogeneity phase marks a turning point for humanity, from which our destiny would be irrevocably detached from that of all other animal species with which we share the planet. It characterizes the very basic structural nature of first toolmaking, with simple cores, flakes and percussion implements, which provided the foundational Potential to evolve towards Oldowan Variability.
The Sierra de Atapuerca karst is an interesting inactive multilevel cave system, which is the result of the action of ancient base levels during the Plio-Pleistocene. It contains one of the most important prehistoric sites for the understanding of old settlements in Eurasia, and was listed by the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. These caves were formed on the bases of sub-horizontal conduits with SN paleo-drainage, with the discharge zone located in the head of Pico river. The conduits are organized into three main levels that appear perched between 90 and 60 m above the current course of the Arlanzón River, coinciding with the base levels generated mainly by the fluvial terraces T2, T3 and T5. Incision of the water table released the upper ducts from the action of water while the lower levels were being developed in the phreatic zone. The vadose caves would have been used by wildlife and hominids for more than 1.2 Ma, preserving the important archaeo-paleontological records of the Early and Middle Pleistocene. © 2018, Instituto Geologico y Minero de Espana. All rights reserved.
The Arlanzón river is located in the NE Duero Depression (Castilian Plateau of northern Spain), where it drains the anticlinal ridge of the Sierra de Atapuerca, where a rich record of karstic and open air Palaeolithic archaeological sites are located, spanning the last 1.22 Ma. The geomorphological sequence of this valley is composedof fourteen fluvial terraces from T1 (+92-100 m), to level T14 (+2-3 m), ranging from the Early Pleistocene to the Holocene and mainly related to cold MIS. Available chronological data and terrace relative heights extracted from LiDAR data, have allowed the reconstruction of the downcutting phases of the valley, which show an acceleration of the incision rates throughout the Quaternary, probably related to tectonic uplift. In the Sierra de Atapuerca multilevel endokarst system, three sub-horizontal cave levels appear spatially and chronologically related to the Arlanzón fluvial terraces T2 (+82-91 m), T3 (+70-78 m) and T4 (+60-67 m)/T5 (+50-58 m). The association between fluvial terrace base levels and sub-horizontal phreatic caves suggests a relatively short period of time for the formation of these phreatic passages when compared to karstic vadose entrenchments related to the low incision rates of the Arlanzón river (<0.038-0.045 m/ka). In the valley, the incision of 0.061 m/ka caused the progressive exhumation of a neogene limestone layer containing flint, which erosion and successive re-sedimentation phases by alluvial and colluvial processes on the valley slopes during the Middle and Upper Pleistocene caused many wide captation areas of raw material, which were exploited by the Neanderthals during MIS 3 and 4. © 2018, Instituto Geologico y Minero de Espana. All rights reserved.
Level TE9c of the Sima del Elefante site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) is one of the oldest sites with evidence of human occupation in western Europe. We began excavating level TE9c in 2003, and the work there continues today. The studies of the archaeology, palaeontology and geology from this locality have provided an indispensable dataset with which to capture a picture in the scenario of the origin of humans in Europe. Based on these data, we raise and discuss several topics, such as the possible origin of the lineage of the first hominins that inhabited western Europe; their capacity to have active hunting or scavenging abilities; whether their subsistence strategies were successful; and what the environment and habitats where these hominin groups settled was like. The aim of this paper is to present the results and discussions obtained from the research team and to establish the primary features of early human occupations in southwestern Europe. Tentatively, we may conclude, based on the events recorded at TE9c, that the first humans were in the Iberian peninsula at around 1.2 Ma they used the caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca as shelters probably during their hunting activities; the cavities were surrounded by Mediterranean forest, rivers and water ponds, and varied habitats as suggested by the rich and diverse assemblage of fossils of vertebrates (fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds, large and small mammals); where humans possibly caught what they found in the surroundings.
Gran Dolina is a cavity infill of the Sierra de Atapuerca, containing three important Early and Middle Pleistocene archaeo-paleontological layers, including hominid bones, fauna and lithic remains. Due to the relevance of this site to understand human evolution in Europe, it is essential to define in detail the sedimentary processes and environments associated with the archaeological remains. Gran Dolina has a 19 m thick sedimentary infill divided into 11 lithostratigraphic units. In this work, we describe the sedimentary facies of the Early and Middle Pleistocene units and we update its stratigraphy. For that purpose, we have studied the stratigraphic excavation profiles available, where we have combined field observations with laboratory sedimentary analysis (sieving, laser diffraction, and image analysis) to characterize the texture and structure of the sediments. Through these studies, 19 sedimentary facies have been distinguished, grouped as sediment gravity flow facies, fluvial facies and autochthonous facies. The facies associations indicate two main trends in the allochthonous sequence. During the Early Pleistocene (TD4eTD7), the cavity acted as a stream sink, where channel and floodplain facies migrated along the sequence, and were interbedded with lateral gravity sediment flows. On the other hand, the Middle Pleistocene sequence between TD7 and TD10 is dominated almost exclusively by gravity flows. At least three main entrances have been inferred from input directions of the sediments, which changed over time. Sediment characteristics have allowed us to preliminarily infer environmental conditions around the cavity.
- Feb 2017
Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca, Spain contains one of the earliest hominin fragments yet known in Europe, dating to 1.2 Ma. Dental calculus from a hominin molar was removed, degraded and analysed to recover entrapped remains. Evidence for plant use at this time is very limited and this study has revealed the earliest direct evidence for foods consumed in the genus Homo. This comprises starchy carbohydrates from two plants, including a species of grass from the Triticeae or Bromideae tribe, meat and plant fibres. All food was eaten raw, and there is no evidence for processing of the starch granules which are intact and undamaged. Additional biographical detail includes fragments of non-edible wood found adjacent to an interproximal groove suggesting oral hygiene activities, while plant fibres may be linked to raw material processing. Environmental evidence comprises spores, insect fragments and conifer pollen grains which are consistent with a forested environment. For view-only of the full article please click on http://rdcu.be/nRtV
Gran Dolina is a cavity infilled by at least 25 m of Pleistocene sediments. This sequence contains the TD6 stratigraphic unit, whose records include around 170 hominin bones that have allowed the definition of a new species, Homo antecessor. This fossil accumulation was studied as a single assemblage and interpreted as a succession of several human home bases. We propose a complete stratigraphic context and sedimentological interpretation for TD6, analyzing the relationships between the sedimentary facies, the clasts and archaeo-palaeontological remains. The TD6 unit has been divided into three subunits and 13 layers. Nine sedimentary facies have been defined. Hominin remains appear related to three different sedimentary facies: debris flow facies, channel facies and floodplain facies. They show three kinds of distribution: first a group of scattered fossils, then a group with layers of fossils in fluvial facies, and third a group with a layer of fossils in mixed fluvial and gravity flow facies. The results of this work suggest that some of these hominin remains accumulated in the cave by geological processes, coming from the adjacent slope above the cave or the cave entry, as the palaeogeography and sedimentary characteristics of these allochthonous facies suggest.
- Oct 2016
Gran Dolina is a cave (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) infilled by a 25 m thick sedimentary record, divided into 12 lithostratigraphic units that have been separated into 19 sedimentary facies containing Early and Middle Pleistocene hominin remains. In this paper, an automated image analysis method has been used to study the shape of the sedimentary particles. Since particle shape is interpreted as the result of sedimentary transport and sediment source, this study can provide valuable data about the sedimentological mechanism of sequence formation. The shape of the sand fraction in 73 samples from Gran Dolina site and Sierra de Atapuerca was analyzed using the Malvern Morphologi G3, an advanced particle characterization tool. In this first complete test, we used this method to the published sequence of Gran Dolina, defined previously through field work observations and geochemical and textural analysis. The results indicate that this image analysis method allows differentiation of the sedimentary facies, providing objective tools to identify weathered layers and measure the textural maturity of the sediments. Channel facies have the highest values of circularity and convexity, showing the highest textural maturity of particles. On the other hand, terra rossa and debris flow samples show similar values, with the lowest particle maturity.
- Feb 2016
Archaeomagnetic dating is probably one of the most known applications of magnetic methods to archaeology but there are others still underutilized and of particular interest to Palaeolithic archaeology. Here, we report a novel application of archaeomagnetism as a technique to determine temporal diachronies among combustion features from the same surface within palaeolithic palimpsests. The approach is based on the subtle directional changes of the Earth's magnetic field through time (secular variation, SV) and on the ability of burned materials to record such variations under certain conditions. Three Middle Palaeolithic hearths from level O (ca. 55 ka BP) at the Abric Romaní rock-shelter (NE Spain), were archaeomagnetically investigated. The studied surface (black homogeneous carbonaceous facies), recorded the magnetic enhancement produced by fire with a tenfold increase in concentration-dependent magnetic parameters in the uppermost centimetre with respect to its unburned or deeper counterparts. Pseudo-single domain (PSD) Ti-low titanomagnetite was identified as the main remanence carrier. The irreversibility of thermomagnetic curves suggests that these samples did not undergo enough high temperatures as to record a full thermoremanence (TRM). Additionally, the occasional occurrence of maghaemitized magnetite is interpreted as an indication of a thermochemical remanent magnetization (TCRM), making these samples unsuitable for absolute palaeointensity determinations. Two well-defined (α95 < 5°) and statistically indistinguishable archaeomagnetic directions were obtained with their mean directions within their respective confidences circles at the 95% level. The lack of directional changes and the similarity in the magnetic properties suggest that these hearths recorded simultaneously or closely confined in time the Earth's magnetic field direction at the time of cooling. These results agree well with archaeological evidence which indicates a synchronic occupation of this activity area. The possibility of determining temporal differences among combustion features in prehistoric sites arises as a promising tool in palimpsest dissection studies and may help to reconstruct occupation patterns of prehistoric groups. The practical limits of the method are discussed as well as its potential to identify post-depositional mechanical alteration processes.
- Feb 2016
We show the potential of paleomagnetism applied to sediments filling cave passages for chronology purposes, since the formation of caves cannot be directly dated. The Atapuerca karst system (N Spain) offers a suitable case scenario because it contains a multilevel karst system developed during the progressive incision of the Arlanzón River. This karst formed during the Quaternary in response to the incision of this tributary of the Duero River in the Cenozoic continental deposits. We present new magnetic polarity results from both clastic and chemical deposits from cavities of the Atapuerca karst. These deposits provide minimum ages for the multilevel karst development, and they have implications for the incision history and water-Table evolution during the Pleistocene. We find that the karstification of the studied levels developed during the Matuyama chron, before the middle Pleistocene, as suggested by the magnetostratigraphic and also cosmogenic burial ages of sediments infilling the karstic passages.
The Lower Pleistocene unit TD6 at the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) has yielded human remains attributed to Homo antecessor. Many of these require some conservation treatment after recovery in order to be visible and consistent enough to be studied, safely handled, and preserved. In this paper we report the conservation tasks carried out on the human fossils collected during the second period of the excavation of unit TD6 (2003–2011). The main problems with these fossils are derived from the karst sediment filling in which they are found, essentially made up of clays, silt, and gravels that may be compacted and cemented and occasionally solidly adhered to the bones. In short, the treatments consisted of removing the matrix with manual and automatic tools, consolidating and rebuilding the fossils. The extent of treatments was adapted to the needs of the research and the entire process as well as the fossils before and after the intervention were strictly recorded. With this paper, we primarily aim to provide information that often remains unpublished and to share procedures that may be applied to fossils with similar problems. But in describing these treatments, we also aim to show that remedial conservation methodology is based equally on the mastery of the techniques and materials used for treatment and on the knowledge of fossils and the requirements of the studies conducted on them.
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.
Cultural dental wear provides useful information about the use of anterior teeth for non-masticatory purposes. Non-alimentary tasks are usually related to economic and cultural activities. The presence of cultural dental wear has been checked in four different Homo species from the Sierra de Atapuerca sites (Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina-TD6, Sima de los Huesos and El Mirador cave). The chronology of these sites ranges from more than one million to 4000 years ago.Evidence of dental wear has been documented in the four Homo species analysed, confirming that hominins began using their teeth as tools as far back as one million years ago. Each species exhibits specific typologies and frequencies of dental wear features. Also, dental features are located on different dental surfaces and tooth types, indicating a diversity of activities carried out using the anterior teeth as a tool.The use of the teeth as a tool was a widespread habit in the genus Homo. However, the diversity of dental wear patterns can be related to cultural and economic activities, broadening our knowledge of the behaviour of ancient hominins.
- May 2015
Gran Dolina is a cavity infill of the Sierra de Atapuerca, containing three important Early and Middle Pleistocene archaeo-paleontological layers, including hominid bones, fauna and lithic remains. Due to the relevance of this site to understand human evolution in Europe, it is essential to define in detail the sedimentary processes and environments associated with the archaeological remains. Gran Dolina has a 19 m thick sedimentary infill divided into 11 lithostratigraphic units. In this work, we describe the sedimentary facies of the Early and Middle Pleistocene units and we update its stratigraphy. For that purpose, we have studied the stratigraphic excavation profiles available, where we have combined field observations with laboratory sedimentary analysis (sieving, laser diffraction, and image analysis) to characterize the texture and structure of the sediments. Through these studies, 19 sedimentary facies have been distinguished, grouped as sediment gravity flow facies, fluvial facies and autochthonous facies. The facies associations indicate two main trends in the allochthonous sequence. During the Early Pleistocene (TD4–TD7), the cavity acted as a stream sink, where channel and floodplain facies migrated along the sequence, and were interbedded with lateral gravity sediment flows. On the other hand, the Middle Pleistocene sequence between TD7 and TD10 is dominated almost exclusively by gravity flows. At least three main entrances have been inferred from input directions of the sediments, which changed over time. Sediment characteristics have allowed us to preliminarily infer environmental conditions around the cavity.
This article focuses on the origins for technological variation during the Middle Pleistocene through the analysis of the lithic assemblages from Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (Atapuerca, Spain). The technological study was organized into three main levels of analysis. The first stage consisted of the technological characterization of the whole assemblage (e.g. the general composition of each sample, the exploitation and shaping methods used, and the characteristics of each item). The second stage involved the morphometric analysis of the large tools, mainly handaxes and cleavers, given the significance of these instruments in Middle Pleistocene assemblages. In this case, we combined traditional technical and metrical analyses with current morphometric methods. Lastly, taking into account the general characteristics of these sites, the third stage consisted of assessing how the different occupational strategies affected the lithic representation. These analyses allowed us to define three technological groups. The first includes unit Galería-GIIa, which corresponds to the appearance of the Acheulean in the Atapuerca caves. The second is represented by the rest of the sequence of the Galería site, mainly the upper part of the sequence (unit GIII). And the third technological corresponds to Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1. Thus, the Galería sequence shows the technological evolution of the Acheulean over a period of 250 ka. Furthermore, subunit TD10.1 represents a new occupational strategy combining traditional Acheulean tools with more evolved technical strategies.
Archaeologists can use different kinds of data to identify recycling. However, most approaches to recycling are based on lithic artefact attributes, especially on surface alterations, suggesting a period of discard between different events. Recycling can also be approached by means of faunal remains based on bone damage characteristics. Bone breakage processes, aimed at maximizing the nutritional value of consumed animals, generate a high number of small- and large-sized fragments, which are eventually discarded. Some of these are morphologically suitable for human use. It is necessary to distinguish between the use of bone as raw material from pre-existing very large-sized carcasses such as elephants (in cases where it is not certain if these had a nutritional purpose) and the recycling of fragments resulting from bone marrow extraction of smaller mammals that were obtained and consumed by human groups. In the first case, when the bones of a pre-existing elephant (including natural deaths) are exploited for tool making, the bones can be considered raw material, very similar to collecting stones as raw material for the lithic industry. In the second case, the bones of smaller mammals are selected to be used in a subsequent life cycle, after being broken for nutritional purposes and discarded. Here, we present some early cases of recycled bones from the Middle Pleistocene sites of Gran Dolina TD10-1 and Bolomor Cave in Spain and Qesem Cave in Israel. The studied elements appear to have been part of a previous faunal processing sequence (nutritional in nature), which were later discarded, and then used or modified for purposes other than the original ones. These fragments are dated to MIS 9 and show damage produced by use (retouched and unmodified soft retouchers) or shaped forms (bone artefacts). This study is an attempt to provide new data on recycling activities of faunal remains in the Middle Pleistocene and discuss the origin of this behaviour.
[CAT] Ens farem humans? Aquesta és la pregunta clau que es planteja l’arqueòleg Eudald Carbonell, el qual no només s’interroga sobre el futur de l’Homo sapiens, sinó que també defineix una sèrie de reptes de cara culminar el procés de socialització de l’espècie. I ho fa pensant en el planeta i en l’univers que l’envolta, entenent la planetització no com un procés de globalització, sinó com un procés natural en què la intervenció humana prioritza la nostra consciència d’espècie i l’autoconsciència com a planeta. Serem humans quan l’atzar sigui substituït per la lògica. En el moment que la selecció cultural substitueixi la selecció natural, haurem completat el procés d’humanització. Amb la col·laboració de Policarp Hortolà.
- Jan 2015
Numerous studies have attempted to identify the presence of uniquely derived (autoapomorphic) Neandertal features. Here, we deal with the medial pterygoid tubercle (MTP), which is usually present on the internal face of the ascending ramus of Neandertal specimens. Our study stems from the identification of a hypertrophied tubercle in ATD6-96, an Early Pleistocene mandible recovered from the TD6 level of the Atapuerca-Gran Dolina site and attributed to Homo antecessor. Our review of the literature and study of numerous original fossil specimens and high quality replicas confirm that the MTP occurs at a high frequency in Neandertals (ca. 89%) and is also present in over half (ca. 55%) of the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos (SH) hominins. In contrast, it is generally absent or minimally developed in other extinct hominins, but can be found in variable frequencies (<ca. 25%) in Pleistocene and recent H. sapiens samples. The presence of this feature in ATD6-96 joins other traits shared by H. antecessor, the SH hominins and Neandertals. Since the TD6 hominins have been attributed either to MIS 21 or to MIS 25, it seems that a suite of assumed derived Neandertal features appeared in the Early Pleistocene, and they should be interpreted as synapomorphies shared among different taxa. We suggest that H. antecessor, the SH hominins and Neandertals shared a common ancestor in which these features appeared during the Early Pleistocene. The presence of the MTP in taxa other than H. neanderthalensis precludes this feature from being a Neandertal autapomorphy. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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.
- Sep 2014
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.
- Sep 2014
- XVII World UISPP Congress 2014
The Sierra de Atapuerca is an anticlinal ridge of Mesozoic carbonate rocks on the NW edge of the Iberian Chain (Northern Spain, Burgos), surrounded by subhorizontal continental sediments of the NE Duero Cenozoic Basin under endorheic conditions. The shift to exorheic conditions in the Duero Basin lead to the onset of an episodic downcutting phase and the development of the Atapuerca multilevel cave system, containing several sites from the Early and Middle Pleistocene. In this work, we have reconstructed the Pleistocene palaeogeographical evolution of the SW flank of the Sierra de Atapuerca, where these archaeological sites are located. The study is based on a detailed geomorphological and geological analysis, combined with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and 3D LiDAR data, and GIS modeling. These techniques have been applied to analyse the small valleys and the interfluve on the SW flank of the SW Sierra de Atapuerca. The results were combined with the regional base levels recorded by fluvial terraces and the chronostratigraphic sequences of the Sierra de Atapuerca sites. These reconstructions have allowed us to model the palaeogeographical evolution in the nearby area of the cave sites during the Early–Middle Pleistocene, coupling the main formation phases of the sites with the local physical landscape changes that occurred outside the caves. Surface processes are defined by incision phases entailing mitigate knickpoint recession and slope retreatment, and local aggradational phases associated with caves opened and captured by fluvial incision. This reconstruction provides the local physical palaeogeographical habitats developed during the Pleistocene hominid occupation of the Sierra de Atapuerca.
The first arrivals of hominin populations into Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene are currently considered to have occurred as short and poorly dated biological dispersions. Questions as to the tempo and mode of these early prehistoric settlements have given rise to debates concerning the taxonomic significance of the lithic assemblages, as trace fossils, and the geographical distribution of the technological traditions found in the Lower Palaeolithic record. Here, we report on the Barranc de la Boella site which has yielded a lithic assemblage dating to ∼1 million years ago that includes large cutting tools (LCT). We argue that distinct technological traditions coexisted in the Iberian archaeological repertoires of the late Early Pleistocene age in a similar way to the earliest sub-Saharan African artefact assemblages. These differences between stone tool assemblages may be attributed to the different chronologies of hominin dispersal events. The archaeological record of Barranc de la Boella completes the geographical distribution of LCT assemblages across southern Eurasia during the EMPT (Early-Middle Pleistocene Transition, circa 942 to 641 kyr). Up to now, chronology of the earliest European LCT assemblages is based on the abundant Palaeolithic record found in terrace river sequences which have been dated to the end of the EMPT and later. However, the findings at Barranc de la Boella suggest that early LCT lithic assemblages appeared in the SW of Europe during earlier hominin dispersal episodes before the definitive colonization of temperate Eurasia took place.
Seventeen Middle Pleistocene crania from the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca, Spain) are analyzed, including seven new specimens. This sample makes it possible to thoroughly characterize a Middle Pleistocene hominin paleodeme and to address hypotheses about the origin and evolution of the Neandertals. Using a variety of techniques, the hominin-bearing layer could be reassigned to a period around 430,000 years ago. The sample shows a consistent morphological pattern with derived Neandertal features present in the face and anterior vault, many of which are related to the masticatory apparatus. This suggests that facial modification was the first step in the evolution of the Neandertal lineage, pointing to a mosaic pattern of evolution, with different anatomical and functional modules evolving at different rates.
Seventeen Middle Pleistocene crania from the Sima de los Huesos site (Atapuerca, Spain) are analyzed, including seven new specimens. This sample makes it possible to thoroughly characterize a Middle Pleistocene hominin paleodeme and to address hypotheses about the origin and evolution of the Neandertals. Using a variety of techniques, the hominin-bearing layer could be reassigned to a period around 430,000 years ago. The sample shows a consistent morphological pattern with derived Neandertal features present in the face and anterior vault, many of which are related to the masticatory apparatus. This suggests that facial modification was the first step in the evolution of the Neandertal lineage, pointing to a mosaic pattern of evolution, with different anatomical and functional modules evolving at different rates.
The current debate about Mousterian core technologies mainly focuses on the issues of flake predetermination and the morphological similarities of blanks in discoid and centripetal recurrent Levallois methods. To date, the arguments presented have either been based on qualitative analyses of the cores or on the use of ratios of linear measurements to infer the shape of the detached flakes. This paper presents the results of applying 2D geometric morphometric analysis to the flake assemblages in the archaeological collections from the O and M levels of the Abric Romaní rock-shelter and from materials produced by experimental knapping. The results reveal a pattern of core configuration in the Levallois artefacts from level O and a high level of morphological correspondence between the core-edge flake outlines in discoid and Levallois recurrent centripetal technologies. This evidence reinforces the hypothesis that the discoid and the Levallois recurrent centripetal methods share some techno-morphological features. The knappers' ability and the purposes of the reduction sequences play important roles in metrically differentiating between them, otherwise the differences between the two methods would be even smaller. The use of geometric morphometric analysis of flake assemblages can enhance discussions of flaking technologies in lithic studies and quantitatively improve our understanding of the patterns of core configuration and the skills of the prehistoric knappers.
A 314 km2 archaeological survey in Sierra de Atapuerca between 1999 and 2003 found 180 open air settlements. The objectives of this study were twofold: to develop a fieldwork methodology with full-coverage and high-intensity that would permit the discovery of all prehistoric settlements in and around Sierra de Atapuerca; and to document and study the Upper Pleistocene, the only hitherto unknown period in the Sierra de Atapuerca, as it has not been preserved in the caves under excavation, and also the groups which inhabited Atapuerca at this time, the Neanderthals. Results from 31 Middle Palaeolithic sites confirm the inhabitation of the Sierra in MIS 4–3 and show settlement patterns of hunter–gatherer groups which inhabited Sierra de Atapuerca in the Upper Pleistocene.
This work presents a study of the oldest Acheulean lithic assemblages from the Galería site, specifically the GIIa subunit, which has been dated to c. 503 ± 95 ka, and compares them with the subsequent subunit in the sequence, GIIb, dated to around 237–269 ka. The main goals of this study are to offer a detailed technological characterization of the earliest Acheulean presence in Atapuerca and to assess the elements determining the technological variability in a given site by studying the sequence, evaluating the concept of variability and defining the aspects which determine it. The Galería site does not display the features of a living space. It is a cave which was accessed by both humans and carnivores in order to obtain the animal biomass of the herbivores that had fallen down into the cave through a natural shaft. The archaeological record is therefore incomplete and fragmented, since it is the product of highly changeable occupational dynamics. In the lower Galería levels, we identified the development from an almost exclusive use of cobbles as blanks for knapping activities in the earliest periods to an increasing use of flakes. In terms of raw materials, the initially predominant use of Neogene chert and quartzite evolved towards a more balanced use of six raw materials. Furthermore, there was an increase in the size of the large tools. After comparing these two Acheulean assemblages, it is important to put them into context by taking into account a) the significance of cobbles and flakes as blanks; b) the significance of cleavers; and c) the use of raw materials such as quartzite, sandstone or chert. These aspects have traditionally been used to facilitate comparisons of the technologies used within the Iberian Peninsula, and comparisons between the Acheulean technology of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa and the European (i.e. trans-Pyrenean) Acheulean technology.
The Sierra de Atapuerca caves are located in the southern flank of an anticline formed by Upper Cretaceous limestones and dolomites. These caves are mainly sub-horizontal passages or water table caves recording palaeodrainage from south to north, roughly parallel to the anticline axis. In the south, groundwater recharge is mainly associated with fractures at the contact between Mesozoic carbonates and the overlying Miocene marls, while the discharge area is located to the north, in the headwaters of the Pico River. The passages are arranged in three main levels interconnected by shafts and chambers. These cave levels are perched around +90, +70 and +60 m above the Arlanzón River, coinciding with the relative heights of fluvial terraces. Episodic fluvial downcutting led to the formation of successively lower karst levels and the entrenchment of the upper conduits under vadose conditions. Accessible dry caves were used by fauna and hominids, preserving an exceptional archaeo-palaeontological record spanning from ~1.2 Myr until the end of the Middle Pleistocene. The sites of Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería and Sima de los Huesos have provided exceptional findings for understanding the first steps of human evolution in Europe. These sites relate to the occupation of the ancient cave entrances and areas inside the cave.
Here we describe the new, rich lacustrine paleontological and archeological site of Wadi Sarrat (Le Kef, northeastern Tunisia), dated to the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, ∼0.7 Ma, by a combination of paleomagnetism and biochronology. This locality preserves the earliest record of auroch, Bos primigenius, the ancestor of the worldwide extant domestic cattle species Bos taurus, which is represented by a nearly complete, giant-sized cranium (specimen OS1). Both the cranial anatomy and the size of this specimen reflect the phylogenetic legacy inherited from its ancestor, the late Early Pleistocene African Bos buiaensis, recorded in the eastern African paleoanthropological site of Buia, Eritrea (1.0 Ma). Given that the latter species is an evolved form of the classical Early Pleistocene African buffalo Pelorovis oldowayensis, the finding of B. primigenius at Wadi Sarrat shows that the genus Bos evolved in Africa and dispersed into Eurasia at the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, which coincides with the spread of the Acheulian technocomplex in northern Africa and Europe. Therefore, the lineage of Pelorovis-Bos has been part of the human ecological landscape since the appearance of the genus Homo in the African Early Pleistocene.
Establishing a reliable chronology on the extensive hominin remains at Sima de los Huesos is critical for an improved understanding of the complex evolutionary histories and phylogenetic relationships of the European Middle Pleistocene hominin record. In this study, we use a combination of ‘extended-range’ luminescence dating techniques and palaeomagnetism to provide new age constraint on sedimentary infills that are unambiguously associated with the Sima fossil assemblage. Post-infrared-infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) dating of K-feldspars and thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of individual quartz grains provide weighted mean ages of 433 ± 15 ka (thousands of years) and 416 ± 19 ka, respectively, for allochthonous sedimentary horizons overlying the hominin-bearing clay breccia. The six replicate luminescence ages obtained for this deposit are reproducible and provide a combined minimum age estimate of 427 ± 12 ka for the underlying hominin fossils. Palaeomagnetic directions for the luminescence dated sediment horizon and underlying fossiliferous clays display exclusively normal polarities. These findings are consistent with the luminescence dating results and confirm that the hominin fossil horizon accumulated during the Brunhes Chron, i.e., within the last 780 ka. The new bracketing age constraint for the Sima hominins is in broad agreement with radiometrically dated Homo heidelbergensis fossil sites, such as Mauer and Arago, and suggests that the split of the H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens lineages took place during the early Middle Pleistocene. More widespread numerical dating of key Early and Middle Pleistocene fossil sites across Europe is needed to test and refine competing models of hominin evolution. The new luminescence chronologies presented in this study demonstrate the versatility of TT-OSL and pIR-IR techniques and the potential role they could play in helping to refine evolutionary histories over Middle Pleistocene timescales.
Pleistocene level TD6-2 of the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) is the result of anthropogenic accumulation. Hominin groups occupied the cave as a home base, where they brought in, butchered and consumed the carcasses of ungulates and other hominins. In this paper, we reassess the role of carnivores in the formation and/or modification of the assemblage. We employed different methods to explore the scenario in which the TD6-2 assemblage was formed: (1) identifying the actor responsible for tooth marks; (2) determining the frequency of carnivore tooth marks and their distribution; (3) identifying the co-occurrence of modifications (butchering marks and carnivore tooth marks); (4) calculating the percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio. Carnivore tooth marks are scarce, as is the co-occurrence of hominin and carnivore modifications. However, not all tooth marks have been attributed to a particular agent due to the high equifinality between human and carnivore tooth marks. For these reasons, the frequency of tooth marks and the co-occurrence of modifications have been of little help in interpreting the role of carnivores. Axial skeletal remains and the epiphyses of the long bones are in large part missing. The percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio suggest moderate carnivore ravaging activity. Our data indicate that the role of carnivores in TD6-2 seems to have had an impact on the original assemblage after hominins had extracted a large amount of nutrients from the carcasses. Cannibalized hominin remains showed no carnivore tooth marks and have a greater presence of low survival bones compared to ungulate remains. These findings point to a different taphonomic history suggesting that TD6-2 represents a succession of settlements having different characteristics.
Los yacimientos del Paleolítico inferior de la cuenca del Ter han sido ampliamente investigados desde principios de los años 70. El hecho de tratarse mayoritariamente de conjuntos en superficie sin fauna ha centrado la atención en el estudio de la industria lítica. Con el objetivo de ofrecer un esquema evolutivo de estas industrias se revisan los yacimien-tos más importantes del Ter: el Puig d’en Roca (I-II, Excavació, III y IV), el Cau del Duc de Torroella de Montgrí y La Selva (Puig d’Esclats, Casa Nova d’en Feliu y Can Burgés). La presencia de yacimientos del Modo 1, 2 y 3 en las terrazas bajas (T2), medias (T3) y superiores (T4) del Ter y en los depósitos aluvia-les pleistocenos del Onyar, junto con las dataciones absolutas de niveles travertínicos y volcánicos entre unos 350 y 85 ka BP, permiten defender una continuidad poblacional en la región entre el Pleistoceno medio y superior inicial.
The Lower Palaeolithic sites of the Ter River basin have been exhaustively investigated since the beginning of the 1970s. The fact that most of them are surface sites and devoid of fauna has fo-cused attention on the study of their lithic indus-try. The most important of the Ter basin sites have been revisited in order to compile an evolutionary outline of these industries: Puig d’en Roca (I-II, Excavació, III and IV), Cau del Duc de Torroel-la de Montgrí and La Selva (Puig d’Esclats, Casa Nova d’en Feliu and Can Burgès). The presence of Mode 1, 2 and 3 sites on the lower (T2), middle (T3) and upper (T4) terraces of the Ter River and in the alluvial Pleistocene deposits of the Onyar, together with the absolute dates of travertine and volcanic levels between about 350 and 85 ky, enable to defend the settlement continuity within the region between the Middle Pleistocene and the early Upper Pleistocene.
This article reinforces the hypothesis that humans were well established in Europe by the time of the Jaramillo subchron (1.07–0.98 Ma). The lithic industry found in the Untermassfeld site demonstrates human occupation at 50° N in Europe. This evidence extends human occupation beyond the Mediterranean, as do other sites such as Kozarnika Cave (1.6–1.4 Ma), Pont de Lavaud (1.1 Ma), and Happisburgh 3 and Pakefield at the Matuyama–Bruhnes limit. Demonstrating the presence of humans at Untermassfeld has important implications regarding the human settlement of northern latitudes. Its stone tool assemblage shares the same open-air alluvial situation, chronological proximity, Epivillafranchian faunal association and Mode 1 technology as that of Vallparadís, which allows us to hypothesise that human groups with the same technology and acting as predators spread throughout the continent from the Jaramillo subchron onwards. These groups moved from already inhabited areas in the Mediterranean such as the Iberian Peninsula (the Trinchera Elefante-TE9 and Orce sites), and/or from the Near East along coastal routes around the Black Sea, along the Danube and/or along the Rhône-Saône-Rhine route (“Belfort Gap”) to the north-western coastline of Europe. The finds from Untermassfeld as well as the probably slightly more recent archaeological sites of Happisburgh 3 (England) and Dorn-Dürkheim 3 (Germany) suggest that landscapes in latitudes around 50° N were already part of the initial colonisation period of Europe in the late Early Pleistocene using Mode 1 technologies. The latter sites bridge the time period between Untermassfeld and the early Middle Pleistocene of mid-latitude Europe, as is indicated by Pakefield in Britain, and may indicate that north-western and central parts were at least intermittently recolonised from southern Europe after periods of full glaciation. This model is supported by the absence of early Mode 2 lithic industry in Europe in the second half of the Early Pleistocene which would have accompanied recolonising populations if the primary population source of Europe came from south-west Asia. Thus, the fact that Mode 1 lithic industry remains present during this period argues against the depopulation of Europe at this time.
Early and Early-Middle Pleistocene archeological sites provide data about human dispersals into Europe from at least 1.2 Ma. Up to now, the fragmentary archeological record indicated only sporadic hominin presence, with punctated migration “waves” not necessarily leading to colonization. We consider an alternative demographical picture in which hominin presence in Europe could have been sustained from this time. This paper explores the possibility that early hominin groups confronted different landscapes by adapting their technology to changing ecosystems. Innovative technological achievements were developed into new forms out of potential existing within the variability of early stone industries, leading to the production of a more diversified toolkit. Among these innovations, the increased secondary knapping of flakes points to conceptually more complex production sequences. This paper proposes a comparative view of secondary knapped flakes from some key Early-Middle Pleistocene sites in order to explore the hypothesis of demographical stability in Western Europe from this time.
The Vallparadís site contains a long and continuous archaeological sequence dating to between the late Early Pleistocene and the first half of the Middle Pleistocene. Levels 10 and 10c (unit EVT7) have yielded abundant macrofauna and Mode 1 stone tools calibrated by paleomagnetism and by biostratigraphy to the upper limit of the Jaramillo subchron (0.98 Ma) and by U–series/ESR to 0.83 ± 0.13 Ma. The industries, elaborated from local raw materials, are of small size. The chaînes opératoires used for lithic production are poorly elaborated and are based on an anvil knapping technique. Shaped tools include notches, becs, scrapers and denticulates on small pebbles, clasts, fragments and flakes as well as a large single chopper. Using a techno-typological study and comparisons with other known Early Pleistocene sites in Spain (Orce and Atapuerca) and elsewhere in Eurasia, we propose that these sites belong to an analogous Mode 1 techno-complex with a variability range. The fundamental difference between them lies in the retouched tools because these are poorly represented in Europe prior to around 1 Ma. In contrast, orthogonal knapping methods were used in the exploitation of the cores during all this period. The successive episodes of interbreeding and independent evolution regarding the phylogenetic reports on the hominin remains from Atapuerca would have probably led to regional technological traditions in the European Mode 1 lithic record.
The archaeological site at Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain) contains a continuous archaeostratigraphic sequence that extends from the upper limit of the Jaramillo subchron (0.98 Ma) to the first half of the Middle Pleistocene (c. 0.6 Ma). Evidence of human occupation (lithic tools and cut-marks) has been identified in this sequence in the levels with reverse polarity from the Early Pleistocene (EVT7/4) and in the levels with normal polarity from the Middle Pleistocene (EVT3/2). In contrast to unit EVT7, which was excavated using an extensive archaeological methodology, the other levels were a rescue excavation. The latter yielded a reduced lithic assemblage, providing evidence of a multiple occupation sequence by hominins at Vallparadís. This evidence call into question the proposal that there was a gap in the hominin settlement before the appearance of Mode 2 technology in Europe, a hypothesis that is based on stratigraphic sequences such as Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain) and the mid Loire region (Massif Central, France). Regarding the Early Pleistocene lithic tools from unit EVT7 at Vallparadís, the upper phase of the sequence (EVT4/2) shows longer chaînes opératoires, an increase in size of the lithic artefacts and the selection of better quality raw materials, which in turn indicate changes in the source areas from which they were selected.
Excavations of a complex of caves in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain have unearthed hominin fossils that range in age from the early Pleistocene to the Holocene. One of these sites, the 'Sima de los Huesos' ('pit of bones'), has yielded the world's largest assemblage of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils, consisting of at least 28 individuals dated to over 300,000 years ago. The skeletal remains share a number of morphological features with fossils classified as Homo heidelbergensis and also display distinct Neanderthal-derived traits. Here we determine an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos and show that it is closely related to the lineage leading to mitochondrial genomes of Denisovans, an eastern Eurasian sister group to Neanderthals. Our results pave the way for DNA research on hominins from the Middle Pleistocene.
a b s t r a c t We carry out a new paleomagnetic study across stratigraphic layer TD7 of Gran Dolina Site, Atapuerca, and reassess the existing absolute ages (thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance) obtained at this site. The new and more detailed magnetostratigraphic record of the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary, combined with absolute ages, enables further constraint on the age of the underlying human-bearing level or Aurora Stratum. Paleomagnetism of the studied silts and sandstones reveals stable, dual polar-ity Characteristic Remanent Magnetization directions. A new normal magnetic polarity short interval is found at several consecutive sampling localities in the upper part of TD7, providing a new ante quem date for the human-bearing sediments of 0.9 Ma, possibly formed during MIS 25. Ó 2013 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Résumé La variabilité est l’un des sujets les plus débattus dans les études lithiques. En ce qui concerne la période du Pléistocène moyen, ce débat s’est centré spécifiquement autour de la signification des grands outils standardisés comme les bifaces et les hachereaux. Cet article présente l’assemblage lithique de Covacha de los Zarpazos qui fait partie du gisement de Galería à la Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Espagne). Nous analysons ici la gestion des matières premières, les séquences de taille identifiées, et la variation morphologique des grands outils standardisés. Les résultats montrent que, bien qu’elles ne présentent aucune contrainte réelle, les matières premières jouent un rôle important dans la variabilité morphologique définitive. Nous démontrons également que la variabilité globale d’un ensemble lithique est déterminée par une stratégie d’occupation régulière et des activités spécifiques développées dans le site. Abstract Variability is one of the most debated topics in lithic technology studies. For the Middle Pleistocene period, this debate has specifically focused on the significance of large cutting tools such as handaxes and cleavers. This paper presents the stone tool assemblage from Covacha de los Zarpazos site, included in the Galería complex at Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). We analyse the management of lithic raw materials, the reduction sequences identified, and the morphological variation in the shape of large cutting tools. The results show that raw materials play an important role in the final variability of tool shape, although they do not represent any real constraint. However, what determines the main variability of a whole lithic assemblage is the occupation strategy and the specific activities carried out in a given site.
A central problem in paleoanthropology is the identity of the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans ([N-MH]LCA). Recently developed analytical techniques now allow this problem to be addressed using a probabilistic morphological framework. This study provides a quantitative reconstruction of the expected dental morphology of the [N-MH]LCA and an assessment of whether known fossil species are compatible with this ancestral position. We show that no known fossil species is a suitable candidate for being the [N-MH]LCA and that all late Early and Middle Pleistocene taxa from Europe have Neanderthal dental affinities, pointing to the existence of a European clade originated around 1 Ma. These results are incongruent with younger molecular divergence estimates and suggest at least one of the following must be true: (i) European fossils and the [N-MH]LCA selectively retained primitive dental traits; (ii) molecular estimates of the divergence between Neanderthals and modern humans are underestimated; or (iii) phenotypic divergence and speciation between both species were decoupled such that phenotypic differentiation, at least in dental morphology, predated speciation.
The Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain, is known from many prehistoric and palaeontological sites documenting human prehistory in Europe. Three major sites, Gran Dolina, Galería and Sima del Elefante, range in age from the oldest hominin of Western Europe dated to 1.1 to 1.3 Ma (millions of years ago) at Sima del Elefante to c.a. 0.2 Ma on the top of the Galería archaeological sequence. Recently, a chronology based on luminescence methods (Thermoluminescence [TL] and Infrared Stimulated Luminescence [IRSL]) applied to cave sediments was published for the Gran Dolina and Galería sites. The authors proposed for Galería an age of 450 ka (thousands of years ago) for the units lower GIII and GII, suggesting that the human occupation there is younger than the hominid remains of Sima de los Huesos (>530 ka) around 1 km away. In this paper, we present new results obtained by combined Electron Spin Resonance/Uranium-series (ESR/U-series) dating on 20 herbivorous teeth from different levels at the Galería site. They are in agreement with the TL results for the upper part of the stratigraphic sequence (GIV and GIIIb), in the range of between 200 and 250 ka. But for the GIIIa to GIIb levels, the TL ages become abruptly older by 200 ka while ESR ages remain relatively constant. Finally, the TL and ESR data agree in the lowest part of the section (GIIa); both fall in the range of around 350-450 ka. Our results suggest a different interpretation for the GII, GIII and GIV units of Galería and the upper part of Gran Dolina (TD10 and TD11) than obtained by TL. The ESR/U-series results are supported by a Bayesian analysis, which allows a better integration between stratigraphic information and radiometric data.
The nature, timing, pattern, favourable circumstances and impediments of the human occupation of the European continent during the Early Pleistocene are hot topics in Quaternary studies. In particular, the problem of the (dis) continuity of the settlement of Europe in this period is an important matter of discussion, which has been approached in the last decade from different points of view. The Gran Dolina (TD) and Sima del Elefante (TE) cave sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca, (Spain) include large and quasi-continuous stratigraphic sequences that stretch back from at least 1.2 million years ago (Ma) to the Matuyama/Brunhes boundary. The archaeological and paleontological record from these sites can help to test different hypotheses about the character of the human settlement in this region and period. Furthermore, the TD6 level has yielded a large collection of human fossil remains attributed to Homo antecessor. According to different geochronological methods, as well as to paleomagnetic and biostratigraphical analyses, these hominins belong to an age range of 0.96-0.80 Ma. Unfortunately, the finding in 2007 of some human fossil remains in the TE9 level, dated to about 1.22 Ma, was not enough to conclude whether H. antecessor had deep roots in the European Early Pleistocene. A set of derived features of H. antecessor shared with both the Neanderthal lineage and modern humans suggests that this species is related, and not far, from the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. If we assume that there was a lineal biological relationship between the TE9 and TD6 hominins, we should reconsider many of the conclusions achieved in previous paleontological and genetic studies. In addition, we would be obliged to build a highly complicated paleogeographical scenario for the origin of the MRCA. Although continuity in the settlement of Europe during the entire late Early Pleistocene is not discarded (e.g. in refuge areas), it seems that this Western extreme of Eurasia, and the Iberian Peninsula in particular, was occupied by at least two different hominin populations.
The modern human face differs from that of our early ancestors in that the facial profile is relatively retracted (orthognathic). This change in facial profile is associated with a characteristic spatial distribution of bone deposition and resorption: growth remodeling. For humans, surface resorption commonly dominates on anteriorly-facing areas of the subnasal region of the maxilla and mandible during development. We mapped the distribution of facial growth remodeling activities on the 900-800 ky maxilla ATD6-69 assigned to H. antecessor, and on the 1.5 My cranium KNM-WT 15000, part of an associated skeleton assigned to African H. erectus. We show that, as in H. sapiens, H. antecessor shows bone resorption over most of the subnasal region. This pattern contrasts with that seen in KNM-WT 15000 where evidence of bone deposition, not resorption, was identified. KNM-WT 15000 is similar to Australopithecus and the extant African apes in this localized area of bone deposition. These new data point to diversity of patterns of facial growth in fossil Homo. The similarities in facial growth in H. antecessor and H. sapiens suggest that one key developmental change responsible for the characteristic facial morphology of modern humans can be traced back at least to H. antecessor.
The suggestion that the Neanderthal linage hominids had predominantly rich diet in meat derived from large game is progressing towards views which propose a higher nutritional diversity, at least in some regions. These postulates situate hominids as the knower of their natural surroundings and make them capable of selecting within the range of resources available in their landscapes. Using a zooarchaeological approach, the taxonomical representation in an anthropogenic site could indicate both the environment diversity that human groups can exploit and the decisions that they make when selecting prey. The Optimal Foraging theory is a basic decision model that is ideally applied within a larger framework of constraining conditions such as differential prey distributions, food-consumer imbalances and/or competition, among others. Nevertheless, if this theory is applied to human behaviour, uncontrolled variables could exist and substantially alter some predictions. These variables may not always be related to the need to optimise the resources; additionally, they can respond to the questions related to nutritional ecology, cultural standards or social relationships conditioned by ecological or technological factors. Environmental and socio-cultural aspects invite us to reflect on the characteristics that delimit the pre-Upper Palaeolithic diet and its correct assessment in relation to the availability of prey in the environment and the human behavioural parameters. In this study, we present data from several levels of Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain, MIS 9-5e) and a sample from the TD10-1 sublevel of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain, MIS 9). Both sites have been interpreted as habitat places and allow us to infer the high plasticity of human groups with respect to methods and techniques of acquisition and use of a diverse spectrum of prey. Environmental availability, duration and type of settlement seem to significantly influence the taxonomical representation and must be taken into account when assessing diet breadth in these chronologies. We must add to these factors, human behavioural variables related to social and cultural aspects. Using this approach, we highlight the high variability in the subsistence strategies developed by hominids in the European Middle Pleistocene and propose several factors to consider when examining the early use of small prey.
Subsistence strategies are a set of actions and measures chosen by hominins in a specific place and at a specific time to obtain the means necessary to survive and reproduce as individuals and as a group. Choosing successful actions and measures increases the group's means of survival, which in turn gives rise to an increase in population, thereby ensuring the continuity of the group. Some authors believe that Early Pleistocene hominin settlements were marginal and discontinuous due to their lack of social networks and cultural acquirements. However, the faunal remains recovered in the caves of Gran Dolina (levels 3–4 and 6) and Sima del Elefante (levels 9–14) in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain) show that the subsistence strategies of Early Pleistocene hominins in Europe were successful enough to allow hominin groups to survive and reproduce in sufficient numbers. Therefore, these first humans would have the ability to maintain a continuous occupation of Europe.
The Sierra de Atapuerca sites offer a chronological sequence that allows the evolution of technology at a local scale during the Early and Middle Pleistocene to be reconstructed. This paper presents updated information on the main lithic assemblages recovered from the various levels of the Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería, and Sima de los Huesos sites. The ultimate goal is to look for technological features on the pieces that make up these assemblages that carry evolutionary significance. Other archaeological data will be cross- referenced with the technical features documented in these artefacts in order to better understand the peopling that took place at Atapuerca during the Pleistocene.
- Apr 2013
The Sierra de Atapuerca sites offer a chronological sequence that allows the evolution of technology at a local scale during the Early and Middle Pleistocene to be reconstructed. This paper presents updated information on the main lithic assemblages recovered from the various levels of the Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería, and Sima de los Huesos sites. The ultimate goal is to look for technological features on the pieces that make up these assemblages that carry evolutionary significance. Other archaeological data will be crossreferenced with the technical features documented in these artefacts in order to better understand the peopling that took place at Atapuerca during the Pleistocene. The first peopling of Atapuerca occurred at 1.2 Ma, and is represented in level TE9 and probably at the top of level TD3-TD4 by Homo sp. and a Mode 1 technology, which is very poor in terms of diversity and energy invested in tool production. This technology is related to opportunistic subsistence strategies that focused on taking advantage of carcasses that had fallen into the cavities. A second cultural phase has been revealed in level TD6, dating to before 800 ka: a phase characterised by new subsistence and technological strategies, although still belonging to Mode 1 and carried out by Homo antecessor. In TD6, the lithic assemblage is rich and diversified. Intensive occupations with well organised subsistence strategies have been documented, including hunting activities and the earliest trace of cannibalism in prehistory. After a hiatus of approximately 300 ky without evidence of hominin presence, the occupations of Galería and TD10 correspond to a third cultural phase, ranging from between 500 ka and 300 ka. They are represented by a Mode 2 technology associated with systematic and directional carcass processing, including hunting events in TD10. H. heidelbergensis appears instead of Homo antecessor, and is extraordinarily represented at the Sima de los Huesos site in the form of an intentional accumulation of numerous individuals. Finally, TD10.1 may represent the local evolution from Mode 2 to Mode 3 assemblages. After comparing these assemblages, it is clear that several technological features have either been retained or changed over the span of the Atapuerca sequence. The following are considered to have evolutionary significance due to the technological trends described: a) raw material selection (use of local varieties of rock, with the progressive increasing selection of the most workable materials through the Middle Pleistocene); b) production sequences (coexistence of several knapping methods, with a clear increase in centripetal strategies and techniques for flake predetermination, which ultimately lead to Levallois-like methods); c) scarce and insignificant presence of choppers and chopping-tools; d) tools on flakes (recorded only from the end of the Early Pleistocene, increasing in number, complexity and standardisation throughout the Middle Pleistocene); and e) large cutting tools (which appear ca 500 ka, and progressively decrease in number, standardisation and intensity of shaping throughout Gran Dolina TD10).
Social learning, as an information acquisition process, enables intergenerational transmission and the stabilisation of cultural forms, generating and sustaining behavioural traditions within human groups. Archaeologically, such social processes might become observable by identifying repetitions in the record that result from the execution of standardised actions. From a zooarchaeological perspective, the processing and consumption of carcasses may be used to identify these types of phenomena at the sites. To investigate this idea, several faunal assemblages from Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain, MIS 9-5e) and Gran Dolina TD10-1 (Burgos, Spain, MIS 9) were analysed. The data show that some butchery activities exhibit variability as a result of multiple conditioning factors and, therefore, the identification of cultural patterns through the resulting cut-marks presents additional difficulties. However, other activities, such as marrow removal by means of intentional breakage, seem to reflect standardised actions unrelated to the physical characteristics of the bones. The statistical tests we applied show no correlation between the less dense areas of the bones and the location of impacts. Comparison of our experimental series with the archaeological samples indicates a counter-intuitive selection of the preferred locus of impact, especially marked in the case of Bolomor IV. This fact supports the view that bone breakage was executed counter-intuitively and repetitively on specific sections because it may have been part of an acquired behavioural repertoire. These reiterations differ between levels and sites, suggesting the possible existence of cultural identities or behavioural predispositions dependant on groups. On this basis, the study of patterns could significantly contribute to the identification of occupational strategies and organisation of the hominids in a territory. In this study, we use faunal data in identifying the mechanics of intergenerational information transmission within Middle Pleistocene human communities and provide new ideas for the investigation of occupational dynamics from a zooarchaeological approach.
In this paper we present an experimental study of bone modifications caused by human chewing during consumption. Traditionally, tooth marks have been attributed to non-human actors. However, ethnoarchaeological as well as previous experimental work has shown that humans can make many modifications during chewing. Our results suggest that the range of damage is as extensive as that most likely to be produced by carnivores. This damage includes furrowing, scooping-out, crenulated and saw-toothed edges, longitudinal cracking, crushing, peeling and tooth marks. In this paper we present a description of the types of damage observed in the experimental sample. Some of this damage shows parallels between the experimental modifications and archaeological assemblages from Pleistocene and Holocene deposits at the Sierra de Atapuerca sites (Burgos, Spain). The repetition of morphologies allowed us to attribute some of the damage to tooth marks made by human chewing.
Actualism has been a fundamental tool in taphonomy. The knowledge of accumulation patterning of modern faunal allows us to interpret the activity of different actors in the archaeological record and to reconstruct the behaviour of preterit animals and humans in which we are interested. However, until now, there are few works that include bone modifications made by bears amongst those made by carnivores. Most data about bone modifications made by bears have been obtained from the archaeo-palaeontological record. In most of these assemblages, the presence of bears is related to their period of hibernation. Therefore, in these contexts, the changes documented on recovered bear bones are associated only with cannibalism. In this paper, we present an actualistic study about modifications on bones made by modern brown bears. These animals can cause damage similar to those produced by other large carnivores. Generally, bear activity leaves slight damage, mainly on large-sized animal bones. However, on bones of small-sized animals and those of greater fragility, the bears can produce abundant damage. Though not usual, bears can break long bones and consume the complete epiphysis. This study suggests that bears have the potential to be agents of bone modification in fossil assemblages. Consequently, they should be considered as a possible agent of modification of faunal remains in the fossil record. Copyright
Las excavaciones llevadas a cabo en el yacimiento de la Cova de Dalt del Tossal de la Font en la década de 1980 pusieron al descubierto un importante relleno kárstico del Pleistoceno Superior. Entre el registro recuperado destacan, además de diversas especies de herbívoros y carnívoros, así como de un reducido conjunto litotécnico, tres fósiles humanos adscritos en términos generales al grupo de los neandertales. Entre 2004 y 2012, en el marco de un convenio entre la Universitat Jaume I de Castelló (UJI), el Servei d’Investigacions Arqueològiques i Prehistòriques (SIAP) de la Diputació de Castelló y el Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), se ha desarrollado una segunda época de intervenciones en el yacimiento. En este artículo ofrecemos un estado de la cuestión de la información disponible hasta la fecha sobre el yacimiento, especialmente en lo que se refiere a los aspectos tafonómicos y a la formación del depósito.
The polymorphic inversion on 17q21, that includes the MAPT gene, represents a unique locus in the human genome characterized by a large region with strong linkage disequilibrium. Two distinct haplotypes, H1 and H2, exist in modern humans, and H1 has been unequivocally related to several neurodegenerative disorders. Recent data indicate that recurrent inversions of this genomic region have occurred through primate evolution, with the H2 haplotype being the ancestral state. Neandertals harbored the H1 haplotype; however, until now, no data were available for the Denisova hominin. Neandertals and Denisovans are sister groups that share a common ancestor with modern humans. We analyzed the MAPT sequence and assessed the differences between modern humans, Neandertals, Denisovans, and great apes. Our analysis indicated that the Denisova hominin carried the H1 haplotype, and the Neandertal and Denisova common ancestor probably shared the same subhaplotype (H1j). We also found 68 intronic variants within the MAPT gene, 23 exclusive to Denisova hominin, 6 limited to Neandertals, and 24 exclusive to present-day humans. Our results reinforce previous data; this suggests that the 17q21 inversion arose within the modern human lineage. The data also indicate that archaic hominins that coexisted in Eurasia probably shared the same MAPT subhaplotype, and this can be found in almost 2% of chromosomes from European ancestry.
In this paper, we compare cannibalism in chimpanzees, modern humans, and in archaeological cases with cannibalism inferred from evidence from the Early Pleistocene assemblage of level TD6 of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). The cannibalism documented in level TD6 mainly involves the consumption of infants and other immature individuals. The human induced modifications on Homo antecessor and deer remains suggest that butchering processes were similar for both taxa, and the remains were discarded on the living floor in the same way. This finding implies that a group of hominins that used the Gran Dolina cave periodically hunted and consumed individuals from another group. However, the age distribution of the cannibalized hominins in the TD6 assemblage is not consistent with that from other cases of exo-cannibalism by human/hominin groups. Instead, it is similar to the age profiles seen in cannibalism associated with intergroup aggression in chimpanzees. For this reason, we use an analogy with chimpanzees to propose that the TD6 hominins mounted low-risk attacks on members of other groups to defend access to resources within their own territories and to try and expand their territories at the expense of neighboring groups.
Here we report the discovery of a new late Lower Pleistocene site named Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain) that produced a rich archeological and paleontological sequence dated from the upper boundary of the Jaramillo subchron to the early Middle Pleistocene. This deposit contained a main archeological layer with numerous arti-facts and a rich macromammalian assemblage, some of which bore cut marks, that could indicate that hominins had access to carcasses. Paleomagnetic analysis, electron spin resonance-uranium series (ESR-US), and the biostratigraphic chronological position of the macro-and micromammal and lithic assemblages of this layer reinforce the proposal that hominins inhabited Europe during the Lower Pleistocene. The archeological sequence provides key information on the successful adaptation of European hominins that preceded the well-known fossil population from Atapuerca and succeeded the finds from Orce basin. Hence, this discovery enables us to close a major chronological gap in the early prehistory of Iberia. According to the information in this paper and the available data from these other sites, we propose that Mediterranean Western Europe was repeatedly and perhaps continuously occupied during the late Matuyama chron.
a b s t r a c t According to pollen analysis and the 18 O-isotope curve, the first part of the Late Pleistocene (ca 128e30 ka) is mainly characterized by a dynamic that alternates cold phases (Heinrich Events) and temperate phases (interstadials). These rapid fluctuations provide the context for the Neanderthal occupations in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula. In this paper we present the chronological, environmental and climatic data obtained by analyzing the pollen, the charcoal, the small vertebrates (amphibians, squamates and small mammals) and the large-mammal dental wear at the Neanderthal site of Teix-oneres cave, Northeastern Iberia. Levels II and III from this cavity have provided Mousterian industries and other evidence of Neanderthal occupations, such as cut-marks in large-mammal bones. A multiproxy study such as this constitutes a new approach to the chronological, environmental and climatic context in which Neanderthal populations lived in southwestern Europe (Iberian Peninsula). The results allow us to establish a relative chronology for these two levels of between ca 30e90 ka and show that they are associated with different environmental and climatic conditions: temperate and humid for Level III and cold and dry for Level II. This demonstrates that the Neanderthals were well adapted to the territory that they occupied, irrespective of the climatic conditions.
a b s t r a c t The Sierra de Atapuerca (Northern Spain) is characterized by a well-developed karst system where several major archaeological sites have been discovered, attesting an almost continuous hominin occupation of the area during the whole Pleistocene period. Previous geomorphological studies showed a connection between genesis of the karst system and the evolution of the nearby Arlanzón river Valley. However, numerical dating results were missing to refine the chronostratigraphical framework of the Arlanzón valley's fluvial incision. To address this, we applied the Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating method to sedimentary optically bleached quartz grains from several fluvial terraces. Nine samples were collected from five of the 14 identified terraces. The ESR age results are stratigraphically coherent and in general agreement with both previous geomorphological observations and available palaeomagnetic data. Consequently, an ESR chronology of the geological evolution of the Arlanzón valley is proposed, which can be then correlated to the sedimentary sequence of the palaeoanthropological site of Atapuerca Gran Dolina. Our results provide important information about the chronology of hominid occupation in this area during Early and Middle Pleistocene. Ó 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
In this report, we present a morphometric comparative study of two Early Pleistocene humeri recovered from the TD6 level of the Gran Dolina cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain. ATD6-121 belongs to a child between 4 and 6 years old, whereas ATD6-148 corresponds to an adult. ATD6-148 exhibits the typical pattern of the genus Homo, but it also shows a large olecranon fossa and very thin medial and lateral pillars (also present in ATD6-121), sharing these features with European Middle Pleistocene hominins, Neandertals, and the Bodo Middle Pleistocene humerus. The morphology of the distal epiphysis, together with a few dental traits, suggests a phylogenetic relationship between the TD6 hominins and the Neandertal lineage. Given the older geochronological age of these hominins (ca. 900 ka), which is far from the age estimated by palaeogenetic studies for the population divergence of modern humans and Neandertals (ca. 400 ka), we suggest that this suite of derived "Neandertal" features appeared early in the evolution of the genus Homo. Thus, these features are not "Neandertal" apomorphies but traits which appeared in an ancestral and polymorphic population during the Early Pleistocene.
- Feb 2012
The anthropogenic accumulations at the sites are often the product of overlapped activities and/or occupations that also involve disruptive processes such as cleaning, transport or even trampling. The results are palimpsest with a disordered appearance that can confuse the interpretations of the spatial organization of human groups. In this regard, the Abric Romaní site (Capellades, Spain) can provide significant data to interpret these questions. This site, dated in MIS 3, is composed by a sequence of travertine platforms, which are more than 20 m high. The human occupations are located between these platforms, which are isolated from each other. This fact, in addition to a high rate of identified sedimentation, allows analyzing the archaeological accumulations more accurately. The current excavations (approx. 300 m2) have documented several different kinds of anthropogenic assemblages, which go from very simple to complex human occupations. In this study, we present faunal data from Level H and Level Ja. Both levels show the same processing patterns on animal resources, but a different spatial distribution of the faunal remains. Level H presents short distance refits that suggest the presence of isolated activity areas without temporal relationships between them. In contrast, Level Ja shows several long distance refits that connect two or more activity areas. The observed differences between both levels could be explained from dissimilar human occupational patterns: presence of small groups with reduced use of the space at Level H and occupations composed by large groups with important spatial requirements at Level Ja. From this perspective, the aim of this paper is to provide criteria from faunal refits to understand the diversity of human occupations at Abric Romaní. This fact shows the importance of these studies to understand the diversity of occupational patterns and ways of life of the human communities of the European Middle Palaeolithic.
The complexity of social behaviour by Neanderthal communities is consolidated by illustrating the sophistication of fire-linked activities in their home-based contexts. This was achieved by relating the microfacies analysis of cultural deposits to combustion structures at the Abric Romani (Capellades, Spain). The geometry and nature of cultural microfacies from a selection of hearths and their surrounding empty areas were characterized in thin sections. The related bulk fraction from the distinctive individual microstrata was extracted, water-sieved and examined under the binocular microscope. The selective micro-sampling was performed from the collection of undisturbed blocks in combustion structures of layer J (1995 excavation). The procedure was applied to combustion structures from the lower layer O (2009 excavation). The integrated micromorphological observation and binocular sorting allowed identification of a similar assemblage of components that are closely linked to distinctive anthropic microfacies. Individual grains were characterized by ESEM-EDAX, X-ray diffraction, and Raman spectrometry. X-ray fluorescence analysis was performed on the host matrix. The specific association of remarkable components/cultural microfacies is identical for the combustion structures of layers O and J. The four groups components identified comprise carbonaceous polymorphs, allochthonous mineral clasts, organo-phosphatic compounds, and native metals. The phase association of organic and mineral phases allowed recognition of a common natural precursor rich in hydrocarbon species and metallic compounds that were probably extracted from a Miocene source. Microscale analysis in thin sections linked the combustion microfacies to the transformation contexts of the metal-rich carbonaceous precursors. Heat-resistant polymers and graphitic components associated with wood ash are suggested to trace pyrolitic residues from flaming combustion. The intimate mixing of the metal-rich carbonaceous polymorphs to finely crushed heated bones allowed identification of pyrogenic transformations of the fossil fuel with fresh biomass. Analysis at microscale in thin sections linked the processed by-products to finely prepared and meticulously consolidated surfaces showing distinctive colours: yellow, brown, blue, green, red, white, and black. The repeated surface preparation and their exceptional preservation at microscales illustrate the great concern of Neanderthal occupants for maintaining the long term memory of their carefully designed home space.The recognition of advanced pyrotechnology by using fossil fuels for lighting, firing, spatial design, colouring in the combustion structures of Abric Romani incites speculation on the exceptional social status of this home-based camp site. Further development of the microfacies/multi-analytical analysis should more deeply penetrate the social sophistication of Neanderthal communities.
Address (personal billing address): Puig d'en Sitges, 3, 3-2, 43003 TARRAGONA, SPAIN 5. Abstract The human use of fire generates a cultural sedimentary record that can be used to characterize prehistoric activity areas. The aim of this paper is to develop a field guide for recognizing and describing combustion structures. The use of fire as suggested by the results of ethnoarchaeological and prehistoric archaeological studies has served as the foundation for the analytical design of the field observations of the combustion structures at the Abric Romaní rockshelter. Flat and concave combustion structure types have been uncovered in archaeological level O. The systematic recording of the sedimentary and dimensional attributes of the combustion structures can be used as empirical evidence with which to characterize the use of fire. Differences in the use of fire represent a significant finding in the cultural repertoires of Neanderthals. Recognizing and recording the specific organizational patterns of these activity areas, such as fire-use in sleeping and resting activity areas, indicate the definitive emergence of home bases in the archaeological record.
The small-mammal assemblages associated with the fossil human remains of the Sima del Elefante site provide the best tool for estimating the age for the first appearance of Homo during the Early Pleistocene of Western Eurasia. Sima del Elefante (TE) is part of the archaeo-palaeontological complex known as the Atapuerca cave-sites, in Burgos, Spain. In 2007, the lower levels of Sima del Elefante yielded the earliest European fossil of a Homo species from the level Trinchera Elefante 9c (TE9c). The site is an opening to the Galería Bajainfill, with 25 m of cave sediments ordered in 22 stratigraphic levels. The Lower Red Unit, TELRU, comprises the stratigraphic levels Trinchera Elefante 7 (TE7) to Trinchera Elefante 16 (TE16). The faunal association of the TELRU is composed of nearly one hundred species of vertebrates, including 17 species of amphibians and squamate reptiles, nearly 60 mammals (Homo sp. included), around 15 birds, and an indeterminate number of fishes. Only levels TE7 to TE14 yielded vertebrate fossil remains.
- Dec 2011
Many caves in Sierra de Atapuerca contain archaeological and anthropological remains from the Early Pleistocene until the Holocene. The fi rst half of the Late Pleistocene (MIS 4 and 3) has only been detected in open air deposits discovered on the basis of total cover surface surveys. Excavation at one of them, Hundidero, began in 2004. The Middle Paleolithic tool record spans the period between 70 ka and 56 ka. The technological and typological features of Hundidero, along with records from 30 other contemporary open air sites at Atapuerca, suggest repeated visits by Neanderthals who shared the same cultural tradition, characterized by expedient tool production, a diversity of exploitation techniques, a microlithic tendency, a search for dorsal faces, and the reuse of previous tools. These characteristics do not seem to depend on the conditions of the raw materials, the climate or the group's activities.
Research at the Vallparadís site (Barcelona) has demonstrated that Europe was continually populated by humans from 1.4-1.3 Ma to 0.78 Ma and has shown that there was a stable occupation of the site during this period. This is evidenced by the presence of lithic and faunal remains in most levels of a 20 metre stretch of alluvial/colluvial stratigraphy. The dating of horse molars and quartz grains has established a weighted mean age of 0.83+0.13 Ma (ESR/U-series) for the richest level (level 10). This agrees with the palaeomagnetic analyses, which situate the Jaramillo sub-chron (0.99-1.07 Ma) just below this level. The biostratigraphic studies coincide in that the association of macromammals is Epivillafranchian. Certain large mammals stand out: Elephas antiquus, Hippopotamus antiquus and Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis, some of which have cut-marks. The microfaunal analysis shows that lower molars belonging to Iberomys huescarensis are similar to those found at Sima del Elefante (Atapuerca, Burgos) and lend further weight to the dating of the site. Level 10 has provided a large quantity of Mode 1 tools, particularly in quartz, but also in flint, lydite and quartzite. Small tools were predominantly made by bipolar knapping on an anvil with very little centripetal exploitation and abundant retouched artefacts. They include denticulates that are fairly non-standard and irregularly retouched, and morphotypes such as becs and abrupt retouched tools. The hominid’s primary access to carcasses, the efficacy of their tools and their important social cohesion guaranteed their survival during the end of the Lower Pleistocene. This support the hypothesis that hominid communities were able to overcome changing environmental conditions and the presence of large carnivores such as Panthera gombaszoegensis, Pachycrocuta brevirostris and a large indeterminate Felidae in Vallparadís, and Homotherium latidens in the neighbouring site of Cal Guardiola. The Bòbila Ordis site (Girona) is known for the extraction of clay from an old quarry and has revealed an important deposit made up of three palaeolakes separated by normal faults with 52 metres of stratigraphic potential, of which the first 17 metres (lake 3) correspond to the end of the Lower Pleistocene. Palaeomagnetic analysis at the contiguous palaeolake (lake 1) dates the site’s chronology from the Matuyama-Brunhes reversal (0.78 Ma) and the Cobb-Mountain subchron (1.19 Ma) to the early Matuyama chron, until 2.6 Ma. The site’s abundant fossil record has been known since the 1960s and is located in the sections exposed by the quarry (lake 3). Particular important finds are Hippopotamus amphibius, Cervus philisi and Equus stenonis. The microfauna in lake 3 includes Allophaiomys burgondiae and in lake 1 Allophaiomys pliocaenicus, which suggests that the site is Late Biharian and between 0.7 and 2 Ma. The pollen record in lake 3 suggests a warm temperature deciduous forest dominated by Carpinus, Quercus and Ulmus-Zelkova. The upper part of the sequence would have been dominated by a mixture of forest and steppe vegetation rich in Asteraceae Cichorioideae. Carrying out the first systematic excavations at the site within the frame of our project will enrich current knowledge regarding the continental palaeoecology during the Lower Pleistocene and hopefully add to the still scant archaeological information regarding the first human migrations to Europe.
Pleistocene foragers used several prey acquisition and processing strategies. These strategies and their associated decisions are elucidated by taphonomic studies that cover animal transport, modifications by different agents and archaeological remains. Interpretative models of archaeological sites are by necessity based on natural and experimental observations. Ethno-archaeological data shows that several factors influenced decisions about carcass transport from the kill site to the home site. These factors often have little archaeological visibility. Díez et al. (1999) has previously interpreted the general characteristics of the macro-mammal remains from Gran Dolina Level TD6-2 (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) as the result of anthropic accumulation, in which the anatomical profiles appeared to be the result of selective transport based on the animals' weight. Recent taphonomic analysis has shown that carcasses with different weights may be subject to similar transport strategies, suggesting that other factors influenced these choices. The hominins that occupied TD6-2 (the TD6-2 hominin group), at least sometimes, transported large carcasses to the cave in their entirety, implying participation by groups of individuals in hunting parties. These individuals delayed their consumption of large amounts of food, instead moving it to Gran Dolina, where it was shared with other group members. These decisions are evidence of social cooperation and food sharing amongst early European hominins.
We present a detailed morphological comparative study of the hominin mandible ATE9-1 recovered in 2007 from the Sima del Elefante cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, northern Spain. Paleomagnetic analyses, biostratigraphical studies, and quantitative data obtained through nuclide cosmogenic methods, place this specimen in the Early Pleistocene (1.2-1.3 Ma). This finding, together with archaeological evidence from different European sites, suggests that Western Europe was colonised shortly after the first hominin expansion out of Africa around the Olduvai subchron. Our analysis of the ATE9-1 mandible includes a geometric morphometric analysis of the lower second premolar (LP(4)), a combined and detailed external and internal assessment of ATE9-1 roots through CT and microCT techniques, as well as a comparative study of mandibular and other dental features. This analysis reveals some primitive Homo traits on the external aspect of the symphysis and the dentition shared with early African Homo and the Dmanisi hominins. In contrast, other mandibular traits on the internal aspect of the symphysis are derived with regard to African early Homo, indicating unexpectedly large departures from patterns observed in Africa. Reaching the most occidental part of the Eurasian continent implies that the first African emigrants had to cross narrow corridors and to overcome geographic barriers favouring genetic drift, long isolation periods, and adaptation to new climatic and seasonal conditions. Given these conditions and that we are dealing with a long time period, it is possible that one or more speciation events could have occurred in this extreme part of Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene, originating in the lineages represented by the Sima del Elefante-TE9 hominins and possibly by the Gran Dolina-TD6 hominins. In the absence of any additional evidence, we prefer not include the specimen ATE9-1 in any named taxon and refer to it as Homo sp.
All co-authors (50)