Project

Atapuerca

Goal: Early Pleistocene to Holocene cave studies from the Sierra de Atapuerca. Small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes (microfauna) and the Homo species geological and archaeological context. Biostratigraphy, paleoclimatology, paleobiogeography, evolution, taphonomy, techniques, morphometrics, biodiversity. Homo species: first discovery of Homo in the Early Pleistocene of Europe, Homo sp. and Homo antecessor; the middle Pleistocene Homo aff. heidelbergensis; the Holocene Homo sapiens.

Date: 1 July 1991

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María Angeles Galindo-Pellicena
added a research item
El Portalón de Cueva Mayor es uno de los yacimientos arqueo-paleontológicos holocenos más importantes de la Meseta Norte y forma parte del complejo kárstico de la Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos). La Edad del Bronce constituye un importante legado arqueo-paleontológico en la región central de la Península Ibérica. En este período se registran la mayor parte de los procesos de domesticación de fauna silvestre. Una de las especies propuestas para haber sido domesticada en este contexto es el lobo (Canis lupus). La falta de evidencias de un haplotipo específico en perros que permita distinguirlos a nivel molecular como ocurre con ganado bovino y caprino, hace imprescindible que el problema se aborde desde una perspectiva morfométrica. Por tanto, el objetivo de este trabajo es analizar características morfométricas en mandíbulas del género Canis del Bronce inicial–medio, y compararlas con perros y lobos modernos, con el objetivo de aportar conocimiento sobre el proceso de evolución de la forma silvestre a doméstica de la especie Canis lupus. Los resultados sugieren que las mandíbulas de El Portalón son más pequeñas en tamaño que la de los lobos modernos, sin embargo, conservan ciertas morfologías primitivas presentes en lobos en la rama mandibular y el M1.
María Angeles Galindo-Pellicena
added a research item
Evidence of dog consumption at the El Portalón de Cueva Mayor site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) from the Holocene is revealed for the first time. The taxonomical and taphonomical studies of the animal bones from the El Portalón site have been carried out. The morphological and metrical analyses indicate that 130 dog bone remains have been identified from the El Portalón site, including from the Neolithic (NISP = 23), Chalcolithic (Pre-Bell Beaker Chalcolithic and Bell Beaker Chalcolithic) (26), Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age (81). The anthropic evidence encompasses cut marks, fresh bone fractures, human tooth marks and fire modifications, thus constituting clear evidence of cynophagy, at least in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age levels in different contexts (habitat and funerary) from the El Portalón site (Atapuerca, Burgos). Furthermore, the fire alterations on two bone remains from the Neolithic suggest likely dog consumption due to the domestic character of the stratigraphical units where these bone remains were found. The taphonomic evidence suggests that domestic dogs were, at least occasionally, part of the diet of the humans who inhabited the El Portalón site, a fact that might be caused either by food shortages and hunger or as dog meat was considered as a delicacy.
Carmen Núñez-Lahuerta
added a research item
Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of early Pleistocene sites has a particular interest as it sheds light on how the arriving of the first Europeans occurred, as well as on the nature of the relation between these humans and the ecosystems. Bird remains are useful tools for this purpose, because they are commonly represented in the assemblages and most taxa still exist, allowing a direct comparison between past and extant birds associations. Here we analyse the bird remains from the early Pleistocene levels of the Sima del Elefante site (1.1 to 1.5 million years old). Almost 10.000 remains belonging to at least 26 different taxa have been included. The assemblage is dominated by corvids and has a mixed origin, with cave-dwelling taxa dying in the cave and other taxa being accumulated by predators. The Sima del Elefante avian assemblage provides the oldest record of several taxa in the Iberian Peninsula (Haliaeetus albicilla, Corvus pliocaenus). Besides, here we report the oldest evidence of Imperial Eagle in the Iberian Peninsula, prior to the separation of the oriental and Iberian populations. The assemblage composition suggests that open environmental conditions were dominant, with minor presence of woodlands and water bodies, which is congruent with some previous approaches by other proxies. The first humans occupying the Iberian Peninsula inhabited under Mediterranean climate conditions, which gradually deteriorated, as reflected by the avian turnover recorded at the middle Pleistocene Atapuerca assemblages.
María Angeles Galindo-Pellicena
added a research item
El Portalón de Cueva Mayor located in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Atapuerca, is a unique reference Late Prehistory archaeological site in the Iberian Peninsula, covering some 7 kyr of Holocene occupations. Herein we present the study of lipid residue analyses from 108 pottery sherds coupled with faunal kill-off patterns from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods to gain new insights into natural product exploitation and animal management. The molecular and isotopic analyses of lipid extracts provide evidence for the use of carcass and dairy products at the site. The construction of kill-off profiles for the ovicaprids (sheep/goat) and bovines (cattle) provide complementary insights into animal management at the site, suggesting that both bovines and ovicaprids were exploited for their milk. The diachronic evolution of identified products show no major variations in livestock husbandry or diet due to cultural or environmental change. Changing uses and different activities at the cave over time (domestic, funerary, etc.) are likely responsible for the subtle differences identified in the results. This study provides the first insights into human subsistence strategies through time at El Portalón de Cueva Mayor.
Ana Isabel Ortega
added a research item
The Galería Complex is a cave sediment succession at the Atapuerca paleoanthropological site (Burgos, Spain) that offers detailed environmental information about the late Middle Pleistocene, especially the period between marine oxygen isotope stages MIS10 and MIS7. Previous studies have reconstructed the chronology and detailed the environmental development of this key succession. We introduce rock magnetic climate proxies from the sedimentary units of the Galería succession that we correlate with the global climate record as represented by the marine oxygen isotope record. The cave sediment sequence consists of five infilling phases, four of which were sampled at high resolution across a 5 m thick composite profile. We propose a novel goethite climate proxy along with a frequently used ultrafine ferrimagnetic mineral proxy for paleoclimate reconstruction and detailed chronostratigraphic correlation with isotope stages and substages MIS10/MIS10-9, MIS9e-a and MIS8. The proxies reveal new paleoenvironmental information about paleoprecipitation and indicate that MIS9e was a humid (~650 mm/ year maximum annual precipitation) and intense interglacial in northern Spain that declined in steps into the globally weak glacial stage MIS8. MIS8 consisted of drier periods with 430e510 mm/year annual precipitation and at least one humid substage (600 mm/year).
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added 2 research items
Bat remains occur in low numbers in Pleistocene cave assemblages compared to other small vertebrates, and therefore are rarely used as palaeoenvironmental or palaeoclimatic indicators. In this study we address the correlation between bat palaeocommunity dynamics and climate and environmental factors by analysing the fossil bat record throughout the Lower to Middle Pleistocene Gran Dolina sequence of Atapuerca, Spain. We show that the palaeodiversity and palaeoclimatic markers employed in our bats-based approach provide coherent results with other palaeoclimatic indicators. We report a general impoverishment of bat palaeocommunities towards the upper section of the sequence that correlates with evidence of climate deterioration based on palynological analysis and data from other small vertebrates groups. We also find that the occupational pattern of the dominant bat species Myotis myotis changes at the top of the sequence, from a probable all-year occupation to a seasonal, winter use of the cave, which could be related to the onset of human occupation of the cave-site. Finally, we note that while the Habitat Weighting analysis of bat assemblages is correlated to independent palaeoenvironmental proxies, such bats-based approaches show an overrepresentation of woodland habitats in comparison to other small vertebrates indicators.
Mimomys savini is a very important arvicoline as it represents a useful biochronological tool in the study of the first human arrivals in Europe and its expansion across the continent. To date, evolution studies on this species have focused on its size changes and the loss of ancestral characteristics. This work sheds further light on the evolution of this taxon, through a study of the morphological changes in its first lower molar, using, for the first time, 2-D geometric morphometrics techniques based on landmark configurations. To do this, we have analyzed M. savini remains spanning 1.4 to 0.78Ma from the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), Barranco Le�on site (Orce, Spain), and Barranc de la Boella site (Tarragona, Spain). Our results show a set of occlusal surface shape differences between the more recent and older populations. The oldest populations are characterized by a more developed lingual re-entrant angle 4 (LRA4); a less developed buccal re-entrant angle 3 (BRA3); a narrower lingual re-entrant angle 1 (LRA1); and a wider neck of the head of the anteroconid complex (ACC) than in more recent populations. Moreover, despite the increase in m1 length and width during the evolution of M. savini, it seems that the size of the occlusal surface decreased (maybe as a consequence of shape changes, such as neck width or the size of re-entrant angles). Finally, the shape and size comparisons of the populations studied reinforces previously proposed chronologies for Barranc de la Boella, and suggests a site age similar to that of Gran Dolina (section TD6 -TD5).
María Angeles Galindo-Pellicena
added 7 research items
In this paper we analyze the set of Bronze Age bone tools recovered at the archaeological site of El Portalón of CuevaMayor in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos). The Bronze Age cultural period is the best represented in the cavity and its study has forced us to unify the different excavation and stratigraphical criteria undertaken from the earliest archaeological excavations developed by J.M. Apellániz during the 70s until the excavations of the current research team (EIA) since 2000. We propose here for the first time a relationship between the initial system of “beds” used by Apellániz and our recent sedimentary sequence that recognizes eleven stratigraphic levels radiometrically dated from the late Upper Pleistocene to the Middle Age. Within the bone industry assemblage we recognize a large variety of utensils and ornamental elements, with native and allochthonous features, that make evident a regional as well as long distance relationships of these populations of the interior of the Iberian Peninsula during the recent Prehistory.
This work presents the results from the excavation of a multiple burial in a pseudo-tumular structure constructed in the Cueva Mayor cave in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos), specifically focusing on the entrance of this cave in an area known as El Portalón archaeological site. We recovered the skeletal remains of a minimum of eight individuals from several altered primary burials with bones showing different levels of associated grave goods and faunal remains. A series of radiocarbon dates obtained from seeds, human and animal bones, place these burials at the end of the fifth millennium BP. The domestic animals and ceramics suggest a complex and symbolic human–animal relationship. The information obtained from the site of El Portalón significantly broadens our understanding of funerary rituals during the Chalcolithic period.
The management of cattle livestock in a prehistoric society is relevant to approach to the subsistence strategies and the economy of their inhabitants. In this study, 667 bone remains of Bos taurus of Chalcolithic from El Portalón site have been identified. The kill-off pattern indicates a mixed exploitation, with calves slaughtered to obtain the meat (33%), adult cows for dairying and breeding and elderly bulls for traction (67%). The sex bias to adult females (11 remains of cows versus 7 of bulls) suggests that the society relied on dairy activities. Pathologies and lesions associated with draught or load have been identified on 8 bone remains indicating their use in work activities. These indicate the importance not only the husbandry but also the farming.
Ana Isabel Ortega
added 13 research items
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 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.
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.
Paula García-Medrano
added a research item
This paper presents a unified methodology to describe critical features in lithic assemblages, in order to better interpret the Middle Pleistocene hominin occupation of western Europe, in the context of the Western European Acheulean Project (WEAP). This project aims to characterise the Acheulean technology of the western side of Europe by the analysis of 10 key assemblages in this area, to generate an in depth regional comparison in particular of the large cutting tools (LCTs). Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyse and to categorise the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions (British, French and Spanish). Nevertheless, after decades of intense work on technological analysis and although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in methods between the different countries. It was necessary to develop a unified, yet flexible, protocol to characterise the LCTs that could be adapted to the technological characteristics of each area or site. It also had to be a system that could describe tool technology and morphology, combined with a proper statistical treatment, to summarise all of the data and to compare the results. In addition, due to the recent development of innovative technologies, it is timely to move research forward to make more detailed comparisons between sites. In this paper, we test the WEAP method with three very different European sites, Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (both in Atapuerca, Spain) and Boxgrove (Sussex, UK).
Juan Rofes
added a research item
En esta revisión de los sorícidos de los niveles del Pleistoceno Inferior y Medio del yacimiento de Gran Dolina (Burgos, España) se han identificado diez taxones, concentrándose la mayor diversidad de especies en los niveles del Pleistoceno Inferior. Además, en este trabajo se identifican por primera vez algunas de ellas: Sorex gr. runtonensis-subaraneus, Sorex (Drepanosorex) gr. margaritodon-savini, Asoriculus gibberodon, Neomys cf. newtoni, y Crocidura kornfeldi en el tramo del Pleistoceno Inferior posterior al subcron Jaramillo en la península ibérica. Estos taxones anteriormente no se habían documentado en ese intervalo en la península ibérica.
Ana Isabel Ortega
added a research item
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.
Julia Galán
added a research item
Fossil bats are common components of Pleistocene palaeontological cave-sites, sometimes appearing in levels with evidence of a human presence. As with other small vertebrates, variations observed in fossil bat palaeocommunities through a stratigraphic sequence may be correlated to palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental fluctuations. As many bat species are typically cave-dwelling animals, however, the bat palaeocommunity may also be affected by hominin presence. The correlation between bat palae-ocommunity dynamics and both climatic and anthropic factors is addressed in the present study by analysing their record along the Early and Middle Pleistocene sequence in the Sierra de Atapuerca. A marked deterioration in the Sierra de Atapuerca chiropter faunas occurred from 500 ka on simultaneously with a change in the occupational pattern of the predominant bat species Myotis myotis, which apparently stopped using the shelters as nursery roosts. These changes coincides with a time of extreme cold events succession during glacial periods, but also with evidence of intensive human occupation at some of the sites analysed. Some features of bat assemblages at these levels, such as differences in species composition between synchronous levels, the inability of bat palaeocommunities to recover during intermediate warmer periods, or detected seasonal alternation between hominis and humans, suggest that anthropic disturbance could have play a significant part in the decline of Middle Pleistocene bat palaeocommunities of Atapuerca.
Rebeca García-González
added a research item
This study presents two new methodological approaches for estimating skeletal age from maturational changes in the femoral distal epiphysis. In the first approach, five maturity stages were coded based on morphological changes in the epiphysis that encompass the overall developmental process. Data were presented as age ranges for the different maturity stages in the reference sample. As this approach has a number of shortcomings for age assessment, a probabilistic approach was also used. Cross-validation was then used to compare the accuracy of the age estimation from the maturity stages with that from Pyle and Hoerr's atlas. This study's findings showed that Pyle and Hoerr's atlas is more precise than our qualitative method in the oldest age categories. Nonetheless, results from the test of agreement between methods showed that skeletal age estimates from both methods are interchangeable. In the second approach, the overall shape of the femoral distal epiphyses was first analyzed based on elliptical Fourier descriptors (EFDs). Since the number of EFDs is excessively large, a principal component analysis (PCA) of these EFDs was carried out. PC1 scores were used to model the relationship between age and overall shape in a sample of 110 cases of the femoral distal epiphysis. Inverse and classical regression methods of calibration were used to explore the relationship. Based on our results, we recommend the use of a classical calibration model for those cases in which we suspect that the growth and development of the target individual is advanced or delayed relative to those of the Portuguese sample. Otherwise, the inverse calibration model is preferable. Both, quantitative and qualitative methods presented herein notably improve our abilities to estimate skeletal age using incomplete femora from skeletal samples.
Jan van der Made
added 33 research items
The Ungulate fauna from the Gran Dolina sequence (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) is discussed. Special attention is paid to the fauna from level TD8. The lower levels of Gran Dolina (TD4, 5, 6, 7, 8a) contain a fauna that is typical of the latest Early or earliest Middle Pleistocene: Equus sp. stenonid type, Stephanorhinus etruscus, Sus scrofa, Hippopotamus amphibius, Dama nestii ? vallonetensis, Cervus elaphus, Eucladoceros giulii, cf. 'Bison voigtstedtensis' and Ovibos/Praevibos sp. The upper levels (TD 10, 11) contain a fauna with a younger aspect: Equus sp. caballoid type, Stephanorhinus cf. hemitoechus, Dama dama clactoniana, Megaloceros giganteus ?, Bos/Bison and Caprini indet. In none of the levels there is a 'glacial' fauna (the first ovibovines lacked typical 'glacial' adaptations). Mammals that are typical of glacial periods in central Europe, such as Rangifer, Alces, Saiga, Ovibos moschatus etc., have not been found in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene of Spain, or only in the north of the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains. Glaciations did not have a great impact on the ungulate fauna. Climate is not likely to have been an impediment to continuous human occupation of Spain from the Early pleistocene onwards.
Andreu Ollé
added a research item
Studies of archaeological assemblages recovered from palimpsests encounter difficulties related not only to their nature (the preservation of the remains), but also to the formation of the accumulation itself: the evidence of the different human occupations that the accumulation contains and its temporal resolution. Layer TD10.1 of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) is a 1-m-thick palimpsest from which 48,000 faunal remains and more than 21,000 lithic artefacts have been recovered. Several interdisciplinary studies have shown that TD10.1 is not the result of an intense and long-term occupation of the cavity, but rather the consequence of several repeated occupation events. Additionally, micro-morphological analyses demonstrate that there were only minimal postdepositional disturbances of the sedimentary context containing the artefacts. This paper presents results obtained from the study of lithic refits in a sample from the TD10.1 assemblage, posing the hypothesis that the position and relative distance separating the refitted elements show that they were in fact found in primary position. While in other cases, “raw material units” have been used as a tool to distinguish activity areas and occupational episodes, in this study we use refits to learn about the possible movement—or lack thereof—of the artefacts within the area of the site due to postdepositional factors. The use of refits is proposed as a support or supplement to other kinds of analyses of the postdepositional processes that affect the formation of archaeological layers.
Ana Isabel Ortega
added 2 research items
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.
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added a research item
Animation of the reconstruction of Dolinasorex glyphodon. Animation in GIF format of the reconstruction of D. glyphodon without the part inferred from Blarina. (GIF)
Ana Isabel Ortega
added 2 research items
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 subhorizontal passages or water table caves recording paleodrainage 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 m, +70 m, 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.
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added 2 research items
We have developed a protocol for reconstructing 3D models of the skulls of extinct species of small mammals. For the first time, the reconstruction uses fragments of fossils from a mixture of different specimens and from related extant species. We use free software and commercial computers to make the process reproducible and usable for the scientific community. We present a semi-quantitative protocol to face the problem of making 3D reconstructions of fossil species that are incomplete in the fossil record and/or represented by a mixture of different individuals, as usually occurs with small vertebrates. Therefore this approach is useful when no complete skull is available. The protocol combines the use of microCT scan technology with a subsequent computer treatment using different software tools for 3D reconstruction from microCT and 3D design and printing (e.g. Fiji, SPIERS, Meshlab, Meshmixer) in a defined order. This kind of free and relatively simple software, plus the detailed description, makes this protocol practicable for researchers who do not necessarily have great deal of experience in working with 3D. As an example, we have performed virtual reconstructions of the skulls of two species of insectivore small mammals (Eulipotyphla): Beremendia fissidens and Dolinasorex glyphodon. The resulting skulls, plus models of the extant shrews Blarina brevicauda, Neomys fodiens, Crocidura russula and Sorex coronatus, make it possible to compare characteristics that can only be observed by means of microCT 3D reconstructions, and given the characteristics of the material, using this protocol. Among the characters we can compare are the position of the mandibles, the spatial relations among all the teeth, the shape of the snout and, in general, all parameters related with the anatomy of the rostrum. Moreover, these reconstructions can be used in different types of context: for anatomical purposes, especially to see internal features or characteristics at whole-skull scale, for bioengineering, animation, or other techniques that need a digital model.
The inclusion of iron compounds in teeth, which impart a red to orange colour to them, is a phenomenon shown by several groups of vertebrates in different periods of their evolution. Incisors from fossil and extant shrews and from extant rodents were sectioned and studied with the techniques of scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) to compare their structure and the distribution of Fe. The enamel in white- and red-toothed soricids has three layers; two of them are divided into two zones in the red-toothed species. However, the most external layer varies among taxa; it is well defined in Sorex but difficult to identify in the Early Pleistocene genera Beremendia or Dolinasorex. In the arvicoline rodent Terricola, only two layers can be defined, the outer of which is divided into two zones depending on the presence or absence of Fe. The Fe proportions in the larger soricids reach up to 45%, but in rodents only up to 10% (weight % with respect to Fe + Ca + P). The STEM study shows that in a fossil soricid the Fe phases form clusters of nanometric particles of very poor crystalline oxides or hydroxides surrounding the apatite crystals that form the enamel.
Paula García-Medrano
added a research item
The term “Mental Template” has been used frequently, especially in discussions about Acheulean handaxes. Nevertheless, the standardization of shape not only affects handaxes but also cleavers. The aim is to analyze the whole sense of the cleaver tool-type through the study of the quartzite cleavers of the Middle Pleistocene sites of Gran Dolina -TD10.1 and Galería (Atapuerca, Spain). These tools are made on both cobbles and flake, using different techniques to produce the same tool-type. The main idea to explore is that shape standardization not only affects the morphology of tools but also their function. The type of actions performed with these tools produce small edge fracturing on their tips, removing any previous well developed polishes and other use-wear features. So, we propose a new approach, based on the 3D scanning of edges, combined with the use-wear analysis by SEM microscopy. The archaeological sample will be compared with experimental tools used in different activities, the wear of which has been monitored by means of 3D scanning before and after use and by sequential microscopic recording of the microwear. The preliminary results highlight the good preservation of the archaeological artefacts, and effectively allow us to identify generic actions carried out by the analysed tools. So, experimental data combined with a multi-technique approach including 3D models proved to be useful to improve our knowledge on the functional role of the Acheulean cleavers.
Paula García-Medrano
added 3 research items
The Acheulean technology marked a revolution and its presence can be clearly tracked along the European seaboard from the lberian Peninsula to Great Britain, mainly between 700 to 300ka. Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyze and to categorize the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions. Although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in method between the different countries. The British research has been based on the typological system of Wymer or the morphometric system of Roe for the analysis and classification of handaxes, as well as on the simple description of shaping sequences developed by Newcomer and Wenban- Smith. In turn, the French traditions are mainly based on the typological view proposed Bordes, on the complex approach of the chaîne opératoire, and on the techno-functional approach proposed by Boëda. Meanwhile, the Spanish tradition has been highly influenced by the French school, with significant methodological developments coming from the Logical Analytic System. This work proposes a common method of analysis for the study of Large Cutting Tools from several sites in UK and France (La Noira, Brandon Fields, Cagny Le Garenne, Elveden, Swanscombe, La Celle, Saint Pierre les Elbeuf, Menez Dregan), based on a selection of technological attributes from the main traditions of lithic analysis (typological, technological, morphometrical and sequential) that are considered to be specially significant. The attributes will be those which give more information about the Large Cutting Tools and how they have been produced. Each tool will be analyzed as a unit and also divided in its three main morpho-potential sections: distal, medium and proximal parts. In addition, taking advantage of new technologies and combining the basic technological analysis with 3D models, will allow us to standardize the process of measurement and documentation of the pieces more objectively. The measurements obtained will be managed through an open-access data base in order the accumulative information of Western European sites.
The Acheulean technology marked a revolution and its presence can be clearly tracked along the European seaboard from the lberian Peninsula to Great Britain, mainly between 700 to 300ka. Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyze and to categorize the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions. Although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in method between the different countries. The British research has been based on the typological system of Wymer or the morphometric system of Roe for the analysis and classification of handaxes, as well as on the simple description of shaping sequences developed by Newcomer and Wenban- Smith. In turn, the French traditions are mainly based on the typological view proposed Bordes, on the complex approach of the chaîne opératoire, and on the techno-functional approach proposed by Boëda. Meanwhile, the Spanish tradition has been highly influenced by the French school, with significant methodological developments coming from the Logical Analytic System. This work proposes a common method of analysis for the study of Large Cutting Tools from several sites in UK and France (La Noira, Brandon Fields, Cagny Le Garenne, Elveden, Swanscombe, La Celle, Saint Pierre les Elbeuf, Menez Dregan), based on a selection of technological attributes from the main traditions of lithic analysis (typological, technological, morphometrical and sequential) that are considered to be specially significant. The attributes will be those which give more information about the Large Cutting Tools and how they have been produced. Each tool will be analyzed as a unit and also divided in its three main morpho-potential sections: distal, medium and proximal parts. In addition, taking advantage of new technologies and combining the basic technological analysis with 3D models, will allow us to standardize the process of measurement and documentation of the pieces more objectively. The measurements obtained will be managed through an open-access data base in order the accumulative information of Western European sites.
Adrián Pablos
added 2 research items
Recently, Galería de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site inside the karstic system of Cueva Mayor-Cueva del Silo in the archaeopalentological complex of sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) has been presented [1]. In this site, two test pits (GE-I and GE-II) have revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units, interpreted as a human occupation site with sporadic carnivore activity. A stalagmitic crust, sealing the detrital sequence, was dated in 13.7 ka cal BP by the U/Th isotopic method [2]. All the five lithostratigraphic units have yielded lithic tools of clear Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) affinity and an ungulate and carnivore faunal assemblage dominated by equids and cervids [1]. Several 14C radiocarbon dates provide minimum ages older than 45 ka cal BP for the Mousterian layers [1]. More recently, the Mousterian levels of this sequence have provided older datings (80-112 ka BP) by single-grain optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ,which locates the sequence at the end of the MIS5 and beginningof MIS4 [3]. Here, we present a metric and morphological study of a human foot phalanx(GE-1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between the lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 in the GE-I test pit. It corresponds to a distal foot phalanx, probably from the fifth toe, and from the right side due to the lateral deviation of the distal trochlea or tuberosity. It is complete and belonged to an adult individual. The foot of Neandertals is similar to that of recent humans in overall size and proportions, and comparable in the implied locomotor capabilities [4]. However, Neandertals display foot phalanges broader and more robust than those of recent humans [4,5]. This robustness in Neandertals traditionally has been associated with a high degree of biomechanical stress and with greater general robustness of the postcranial skeleton [4]. The phalanx GE-1573 is broad, long and robust relative to recent modern humans and Upper Paleolithic humans when compared to the scarcity of well-identified comparative samples for this element in the Homo fossil record. These traits align the foot phalanx GE-1573 with the Neandertal morphology, are consistent with the stratigraphic context and it probably corresponds to one of the oldest Neandertals inland of Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it provides the first evidence of a Neandertal remain in stratigraphic context in the Sierra de Atapuerca, being the fifth site in this archaeopaleontological complex to provide Pleistocene human remains. We are deeply grateful to the Atapuerca research and excavation team, especially those people involved in the Galería de las Estatuas site excavation. Without their work, help, effort and advice studies like this would not be possible. The availability of the huge comparative collection, both modern and fossil, would have not be possible without the help and collaboration of multiple institutions and people that allowed access to important collections under their care and kindly provided assistance. Fieldwork at Atapuerca was funded by the Junta de Castilla y León and Fundación Atapuerca. This research was supported by the Spanish MINECO/ FEDER project CGL2015-65387-C3-2-P. We would like to thank also the BBP /R3 and “Grupo de Bioacústica Evolutiva y Paleoantropología (BEP)” research groups. References: [1] Arsuaga, J.L., Gómez-Olivencia, A., Sala,N., Martínez-Pillado,V., Pablos,A., Bonmatí,A., Pantoja,A., Lira,J., AlcázardeVelasco,A., Ortega,A.I., Cuenca-Bescós,G., García,N., Aranburu,A., Ruiz-Zapata,B., Gil-García,M.J., Rodríguez-Álvarez,X.P., Olle,A., Mosquera,M., 2017. Evidence of paleoecological changes and Mousterian occupations at the Galería de las Estatuas site (Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Iberian Plateau, Spain). Quaternary Research 88,345-367. [2] Martínez-Pillado,V., Aranburu,A., Arsuaga,J.L., Ruiz-Zapata,B., Gil-García,M.J., Stoll,H., Yusta,I., Iriarte,E., Carretero,J.M., Edwards,R.L., Cheng,H., 2014. Upper Pleistocene and Holocene palaeoenvironmental records in Cueva Mayor karst (Atapuerca, Spain) from different proxies: speleothem crystal fabrics, palynology, and archaeology. International Journal of Speleology 43,1-14. [3] Demuro,M., Arnold,L.J., Aranburu,A., Gómez-Olivencia,A., Arsuaga,J.L., Inpress. Single-grain OSL dating of the Middle Palaeolithic site of Galería de las Estatuas, Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). Quaternary Geochronology. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quageo.2018.02.006. [4] Trinkaus,E., 1975. A functional analysis of the Neandertal foot. University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. PhD Dissertation. [5]Pablos,A., Pantoja-Pérez,A., Martínez,I., Lorenzo,C., Arsuaga,J.L., 2017. Metric and morphological analysis of the foot in the Middle Pleistocene population of Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). Quaternary International 433,103–113.
Objectives The Galería de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site at the Sierra de Atapuerca site complex (Spain), has revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units. These units have yielded evidence of Mousterian occupations with sporadic carnivore activity, and have provided datings of 80–112 ka BP using single‐grain optically stimulated luminescence. This places the sequence at the end of MIS5 and beginning of the MIS4. We described here a complete adult human distal foot phalanx (GE‐1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 (107–112 ka BP) in the GE‐I test pit. Materials and method This phalanx (GE‐1573) probably corresponds to the fifth toe from the right side due to the medial deviation of the distal tuberosity. We compared the metric variables of this phalanx to several fossil and recent Homo samples. Results Neandertals display foot phalanges that are broader and more robust than those of recent humans. Despite the scarcity of well‐identified distal phalanges in the Homo fossil record, the GE‐1573 phalanx is broad, long and robust when compared with recent and Upper Paleolithic modern humans. Discussion These traits, which align the GE‐1573 foot phalanx with the Neandertal morphology, are consistent with the stratigraphic context, likely corresponding to one of the oldest Late Neandertals found inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it provides the first evidence of a Neandertal human fossil in a stratigraphic context in the Sierra de Atapuerca.
Rebeca García-González
added a research item
Body mass estimation in fossil human species is a crucial topic in paleoanthropology as it yields information about ecologically relevant characteristics. Nevertheless, variables crucial to body mass estimation such as bone volume and skeletal weight have never before been calculated in a fossil human species. The exceptional state of preservation of several fossil human long bones from the Sima de los Huesos (SH) Middle Pleistocene site, in the Sierra de Atapuerca, makes it possible to calculate for the first time the absolute bone volume in five complete long bones (two femora and three humeri) of a fossil human species, an approach not possible in fragmentary or poorly preserved fossils. We have relied on computed tomography scans and 3D reconstructions to calculate bone volume. A sample of 62 complete bones of robust recent humans was also used for comparative purposes. The male SH femora (weight-bearing bones) and humeri (non-weight-bearing bones) have, relative to their size, greater bone volume (volume of bone tissue over total bone volume) than the equivalent bones in our recent human sample. As mass is volume 9 density, and bone tissue density (as a material) is similar across mammals, we calculate bone mass, and our results show that the SH hominins had on average heavier long bones than extant humans of the same size. From the femoral weight at hand, we have estimated the total skeletal weight in two SH individuals, which is about 36% heavier than in the recent humans of the equivalent body size. Using different methods and skeletal variables, including skeletal weight, to estimate body mass in these two SH humans, we highlight the considerable differences in body mass estimates we obtained, and that the largest body mass estimate is the one based on the skeletal weight. Our results suggest that we cannot assume the same relative proportion of bone volume and bone and skeletal weight characterized the entire genus Homo. Given that skeletal weight has a significant influence on body mass, current body mass estimates of fossil Homo specimens could be systematically underestimated. Thus, the significantly larger bone volume and heavier bones, probably throughout the entire skeleton, of SH humans could have had consequences for many biological parameters in this Pleistocene population and considerable importance for studies focusing on adaptive and ecologically relevant characteristics. Although more recent human samples should be analyzed, in our view, the high skeletal robusticity of the SH sample, including larger bone volume and skeletal weight, is part of their adaptive body type selected for throughout the Pleistocene to support different mechanical and activity regimes and formed under tight genetic control, including control over bone formative and regulatory processes.
Rebeca García-González
added a research item
Dietary habits are inferred through dental microwear analysis in humans from two Chalcolithic sites located on the Iberian Northern Plateau: El Portalón de Cueva Mayor and El Alto de la Huesera. The pattern of dental microwear was established on the buccal surfaces of permanent and deciduous molars, on the bottom of facet 9 on the occlusal surface of lower molars and on the incisal surfaces of deciduous incisors. Our findings suggest that during the Chalcolithic, the diet of populations from the Northern Plateau is less abrasive than that at the Mediterranean coast, due mainly to high meat consumption. The differences in diet are related to environmental factors, which are more appropriate for animal husbandry on the Northern Plateau. The consumption of meat is not equivalent in sub-adult and adult individuals from our samples located on the Northern Plateau. Younger individuals show a harder diet with less meat intake than older ones.
Paula García-Medrano
added a research item
The different criteria used to analyze and to categorize the results through the different research traditions make difficult to compare data. Although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in method between the different countries in the study of the Middle Pleistocene industries in the Western side of Europe. The British research has been based on the typological system of Wymer or the morphometric system of Roe for the analysis and classification of handaxes, as well as on the simple description of shaping sequences developed by Newcomer and Wenban-Smith. In turn, the French traditions are mainly based on the typological view proposed by Bordes, on the complex approach of the chaine operatoire, and on the techno-functional approach proposed by Boëda. Meanwhile, the Spanish tradition has been highly influenced by the French school, with significant methodological developments coming from the Logical Analytic System. This work proposes a common method of analysis of the Acheulean technology to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view in the Western side of Europe. This requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The new methodology, applied in several sites of UK and France, is based on the selection of those technological attributes which give more information about the LCT and how they have been produced. Each tool will be analyzed as a unit and also divided in its three main morpho-potential sections: distal, medium and proximal parts. And, taking advantage of new technologies and combining the basic technological analysis with 3D models, we willto standardize the process of measurement and documentation of the pieces. This methodological approach is the base of a Post-doctoral Marie Skłodowska Curie project, entitle The Western European Acheulean Project, (ID. 748316).
Rebeca García-González
added 4 research items
Estimating enamel formation times and enamel extension rates requires the preservation of an unworn crown. Only in unworn teeth can the total perikymata number be counted along the whole crown height and the total thickness of cuspal enamel be measured. However, the methods described in the literature for accurately reconstructing the cuspal outline of slightly worn teeth have not so far been validated. Our aim here is to generate a validated methodology in order to reconstruct the cuspal outline of slightly worn teeth by employing regression equations with defined margins of error. Our sample comprises European and African origin. Standardized microCT slices were obtained for every unworn tooth type. Tooth-specific polynomial regressions were then generated by defining landmarks and semilandmarks superimposed on the unworn outer cuspal enamel outline. A number of tooth cusps were then virtually worn away and subsequently reconstructed by employing the data collected for each specific tooth type using predictions from the regression equations. Estimated crown heights were less than 10% different with regard to their real values in all tooth types. This information allows us to estimate the number of perikymata that might have been lost in the cuspal area more precisely using existing data for density, or perikymata packing, patterns. This methodology allows the reconstruction of cuspal enamel in modern human teeth that are slightly worn enabling the accurate assessment of the original cuspal enamel thickness, crown height and the number of perikymata lost through wear. Future studies aim to increase the robusticity of this method with the inclusion of larger sample sizes. This method can be also potentially applied to other extant or extinct human populations.
Skeletal maturity refers to the process that implies the achievement of specialized and highly organized adult status. One of the methods to assess the skeletal maturity is based on changes in the shape of the metaphysis and epiphysis. Nonetheless, changes on the proximal metaphyseal surface of the humerus during growth have not been widely studied. Just some studies based on X-ray material as [1] mention something about this topic. The existence of studies based on dry bone humeral metaphysis are even more limited. Taking all this into account, our work proposes an approach to the changes produced in the proximal metaphyseal surface of the humerus during growth. For this aim, we used three different methods in order not only see the biological differences, also to compare different kind of digital processes. Two of them were executed through 2D and 3D geometric morphometrics method using the software TPS and 3D Landmark for digitizing the 2D and 3D landmarks respectively and the Morpho J software for the process of statistical analysis. The remaining one was realized through Shape v.1.3. which is a package of programs for evaluating biological contour shapes based on elliptic Fourier descriptors (EFDs). The sample is composed by 30 humeral metaphyses from the San Pablo collection housed in the Laboratory of Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain. The range age of the individuals goes between 1 to 16 years old. Our results show that there is a pattern in the sequence of shape changes in the proximal humeral metaphysis trough the different age stages in immature individuals. A better understanding of shape changes regarding this biological area can give us some initial clues about how the proximal part of the humerus and the shoulder joint could work during growth.
This study reports on the skeletal remains of an infant clavicle - specimen ATD6-37 - belonging to the Homo antecessor species, unearthed at Lower Pleistocene level TD6 of the Gran Dolina site (Sierra Lie Atapuerca). Studied alongside a further adult specimen - ATD6-50 -, they provide LIS with significant information on two key paleobiological aspects of these early humans: body shape and development. Based on the analytical results, the paper proposes a more accurate proportional method for determining age at death is applied to the fossilized infant clavicle under study. It goes on to hypothesize on postcranial growth and body shape and discusses morphological patterns and age at death of these early humans through comparisons with a wide range of: infant dental samples and clavicular specimens in early and modern humans.
Paula García-Medrano
added a research item
The Acheulean technology marked a revolution and its presence can be clearly tracked along the European seaboard from the Iberian Peninsula to Great Britain, mainly between 700 to 300ka. Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyze and to categorize the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions. Although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in method between the different countries. The British research has been based on the typological system of Wymer or the morphometric system of Roe for the analysis and classification of handaxes, as well ason the simple description of shaping sequences developed by Newcomer and Wenban-Smith. In turn, the French traditions are mainly based on the ty-pological view proposed by Bordes, on the complex approach of the chaine operatoire,and on the techno-functional approach proposed by Boëda. Meanwhile, the Spanish tradition has been highly influenced by the French school, with significant methodological developments coming from the Logical Analytic System. This work proposes a common method of analysis for the study of Large Cutting Tools from several sites in UK and France (La Noira, Brandon Fields, Cagny Le Garenne, Elveden, Swanscombe, La Celle, Saint Pierre les Elbeuf, Menez Dregan), based on a selection of technological attributes from the main traditions of lithic analysis (typological, technological, morphometrical and sequential) that are considered to be specially significant. The attributes will be those which give more information about the Large Cutting Tools and how they have been produced. Each tool will be analyzed as a unit and also divided in its three main morpho-potential sections: distal, medium and proximal parts. In addition, taking advantage of new technologies and combining the basic technological analysis with 3D models, will allow us to standardize the process of measurement and documentation of the pieces more objectively. The measurements obtained will be man-aged through an open-access data base in order to promote the accumulative information of Western European sites.
Raquel Moya-Costa
added a research item
One of the main characteristics of the soricines (Eulipotyphla, Mammalia) is the red pigmentation of the outer part of the enamel in the cusps of the teeth. This gives the group its popular name: the red-toothed shrews. Several studies of extant species show that they have a complex enamel structure with three different parts and that the pigmentation is related to the presence of Fe oxides or hydroxides in the outer enamel. We have prepared transverse sections of the incisors of fossil shrews. These belong to the Early Pleistocene shrew Dolinasorex glyphodon and to an indeterminate species of Sorex. FESEM and EDS analyses of the sections show that Fe percentages reach their highest values in the outer part of the intermediate layer of the enamel and in the internal part of the outermost layer. The variations in Fe content are related to the change in direction of the enamel prisms in the intermediate parts of the enamel, instead of being at the surface as previous studies suggested. The location of the Fe seems to be related to the strength of the tooth. The link permit a free access during the next 50 days: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1XAJ03ic-F8LKO
Rebeca García-González
added 2 research items
Here we present a detailed study of the aetiologic factors causing hypercementosis in the mandibular teeth of the Magdalenian human skeleton recovered from the site of El Mirón cave in northern Spain. This skeleton belongs to an adult female and is referred as the “Red Lady” because the bones were stained with red ochre. The analysis of the cementum formation in the teeth of this individual is compatible with a generalized hypercementosis. We evaluate the aetiological factors traditionally considered in archaeological studies (attritional wear, periodontal disease, idiopathic and systemic disorders) and, for the first time, the abrasiveness of the diet and the cultural wear. Our findings show that systemic disorders and idiopathic factors are not possible causative agents of the generalized hypercementosis shown by the Red Lady. In contrast, we propose several factors acting together, such as attritional wear, periodontal disease, diet and cultural wear, as the most plausible explanation for this pathology in this Magdalenian individual.
Laura Rodríguez
added 2 research items
The gene pool of modern Europeans was shaped through prehistoric migrations that reached the Western Mediterranean last. Obtaining biomolecular data has been challenging due to poor preservation related to adverse climatic conditions in this region. Here, we study the impact of prehistoric (Neolithic–Bronze Age) migrations in Iberia by analyzing genomic and dietary data, demonstrating that farming practices were introduced by a population genetically distinct from the first farmers in central and northern Europe. After recovering from a founder bottleneck, these first farmers mixed with local hunter-gatherers. Finally, post-Neolithic migrations had a much smaller impact on the Iberian gene pool than they had in other parts of Europe. Stable isotope analysis reveals a homogenous terrestrial diet throughout this period.
Population genomic studies of ancient human remains have shown how modern-day European population structure has been shaped by a number of prehistoric migrations. The Neolithization of Europe has been associated with large-scale migrations from Anatolia, which was followed by migrations of herders from the Pontic steppe at the onset of the Bronze Age. Southwestern Europe was one of the last parts of the continent reached by these migrations, and modern-day populations from this region show intriguing similarities to the initial Neolithic migrants. Partly due to climatic conditions that are unfavorable for DNA preservation, regional studies on the Mediterranean remain challenging. Here, we present genome-wide sequence data from 13 individuals combined with stable isotope analysis from the north and south of Iberia covering a four-millennial temporal transect (7,500–3,500 BP). Early Iberian farmers and Early Central European farmers exhibit significant genetic differences, suggesting two independent fronts of the Neolithic expansion. The first Neolithic migrants that arrived in Iberia had low levels of genetic diversity, potentially reflecting a small number of individuals; this diversity gradually increased over time from mixing with local hunter-gatherers and potential population expansion. The impact of post-Neolithic migrations on Iberia was much smaller than for the rest of the continent, showing little external influence from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Paleodietary reconstruction shows that these populations have a remarkable degree of dietary homogeneity across space and time, suggesting a strong reliance on terrestrial food resources despite changing culture and genetic make-up.
Laura Rodríguez
added a research item
The recovery to date of three complete and five partial femora, seven complete tibiae, and four complete fibulae from the Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos site provides an opportunity to analyze the biomechanical cross-sectional properties in this Middle Pleistocene population and to compare them with those of other fossil hominins and recent modern humans. We have performed direct comparisons of the cross-sectional geometric parameters and reduced major axis (RMA) regression lines among different samples. We have determined that Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH) fossils have significantly thicker cortices than those of recent modern humans for the three leg bones at all diaphyseal levels, except that of the femur at 35% of biomechanical length. The SH bones are similar to those of Neandertals and Middle Pleistocene humans and different from Homo sapiens in their diaphyseal cross-sectional shape and strength parameters. When standardized by estimated body size, both the SH and Neandertal leg bones have in general greater strength than those of H. sapiens from the early modern (EMH), Upper Paleolithic (UP), and recent populations (RH). The Sima de los Huesos human leg bones have, in general terms, an ancestral pattern similar to that of Pleistocene humans and differing from H. sapiens.
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added a research item
The cave - site of Gran Dolina in Atapuerca preserves one of the most abundant records of Early to Middle Pleistocene sediments known so far. Therefore, establishing the chronology for the stratigraphic levels within the cavity is crucial. Since the early 1990s, subsequent excavations have allowed better access to the older stratigraphic levels TD4, TD5 and TD6 allowing for re-sampling with the aim of providing detailed chronology and testing whether the lithic industries-bearing layer TD4 has a post or pre-Jaramillo age, and hence establishing a better geochronological context for the lithic tools. In this study, we obtained negative magnetic polarity directions for these stratigraphic levels, a result consistent with previous studies that already identified the Matuyama—Brunhes boundary between TD7 and TD8 levels. In addition, several new ESR analysis, recently published, were carried out throughout the sequence, provide an age between 0.77 and 0.85 Ma for the upper limit of TD6 and an age of 0.91 ± 0.25 Ma for the lower limit of TD4. The age provided by ESR for TD6 is consistent with recent luminescence analysis, which provides a mean age of 846 ± 57 ka. The combination of ESR, luminescence, biostratigraphy, with our new paleomagnetic results, supports a post-Jaramillo age for layer TD4 in Gran Dolina.
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added a research item
This paper reports the first paleontological record of Beremendia fissidens (Mammalia, Soricidae) in the Iberian Peninsula during the second third of the Early Pleistocene. The species is exclusively present at the lowermost levels (Lower Red Unit: TE8–14) of the Sima del Elefante site, one of the largest stratigraphic sections of the Atapuerca cave complex (Burgos, Spain). The age of Sima del Elefante shows that this large-sized type of red-toothed venomous shrew inhabited the Sierra de Atapuerca more than 1.1 Myr ago, coexisting with an extremely rich and diverse faunal association of nearly 40 small and large mammalian species, including hominines. The presence of this species in the Atapuerca locality has important palaeoecological, palaeobiogeographical and biostratigraphic implications, which are extensively discussed here, throwing light on aspects largely left aside for this important group of red-toothed shrews, previously relegated to nothing but mere faunal lists, at least in the Iberian Peninsular context
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added a research item
Andreu Ollé
added a research item
This paper aims to update the information available on the lithic assemblage from the entire sequence of TD6 now that the most recent excavations have been completed, and to explore possible changes in both occupational patterns and technological strategies evidenced in the unit. This is the first study to analyse the entire TD6 sequence, including subunits TD6.3 and TD6.1, which have never been studied, along with the better-known TD6.2 Homo antecessor-bearing subunit. We also present an analysis of several lithic refits found in TD6, as well as certain technical features that may help characterise the hominin occupations. The archaeo-palaeontological record from TD6 consists of 9,452 faunal remains, 443 coprolites, 1,046 lithic pieces, 170 hominin remains and 91 Celtis seeds. The characteristics of this record seem to indicate two main stages of occupation. In the oldest subunit, TD6.3, the lithic assemblage points to the light and limited hominin occupation of the cave, which does, however, grow over the course of the level. In contrast, the lithic assemblages from TD6.2 and TD6.1 are rich and varied, which may reflect Gran Dolina cave’s establishment as a landmark in the region. Despite the occupational differences between the lowermost subunit and the rest of the deposit, technologically the TD6 lithic assemblage is extremely homogeneous throughout. In addition, the composition and spatial distribution of the 12 groups of lithic refits found in unit TD6, as well as the in situ nature of the assemblage demonstrate the high degree of preservation at the site. This may help clarify the nature of the Early Pleistocene hominin occupations of TD6, and raise reasonable doubt about the latest interpretations that support the ex situ character of the assemblage as a whole.
Gloria Cuenca-Bescós
added 2 research items
In recent years several studies have been carried out to test the validity of Bergmann's rule for amphibians, and have generated varying results. Due to the lack of agreement on this topic, here we examine the relationship between climate and body size for one anuran species (Bufo calamita, commonly known as the natterjack toad) with a new methodological approach that uses the fossil record as the data source. We analysed bones from two archaeo-paleontological sites located close to each other in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) that together encompass more than one million years from Early to Late Pleistocene. We used ordinary least squares (OLS) simple regression models to integrate body size and palaeoclimatic data (temperature and precipitation) and describe the relationship between the amphibian's body size and climate along the entire temporal gradient. We found the body size of B. calamita to be negatively related to the mean annual temperature and the mean temperature of the coldest month, and positively related to December-to-February precipitation. The climatic influence was stronger in females, which were smaller than males in most cases, and therefore an inverse sexual size dimorphism pattern was found. Juvenile individuals or the limited sexual size dimorphism of this species may be causes of this unusual pattern. B. calamita populations showed a clear Bergmann cline during the Pleistocene period, and winter stands out as the most influential season. Although this new methodology can only be used to describe patterns, we discuss several mechanisms that could explain our results. We propose that starvation resistance and delayed maturation are the main causes for this increase in size in periods with cooler winters, and a fecundity-related hypothesis to explain why climate has a greater influence on female body size.
Paula García-Medrano
added 21 research items
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.
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.
Palmira Saladié
added a research item
El yacimiento de Galería es uno de los múltiples depósitos localizados en la Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, España). Su registro arqueopaleontológico se enmarca cronológicamente entre los c. 500 ka y los 180 ka. Diferentes estudios multidisciplinares han puesto de manifiesto que Galería funcionó como una trampa natural para los animales que merodeaban por la Sierra. La presencia de estos herbívoros, en el interior de la cavidad, propició la afluencia de carnívoros (cánidos e hiénidos) y de los propios homínidos para aprovechar los recursos cárnicos allí acumulados. Como resultado, la asociación fósil de Galería difiere sustancialmente de las observadas en otras trampas naturales. Los estudios tafonómicos y zooarqueológicos han permitido, además, establecer diferencias en las estrategias de acceso y consumo desarrolladas por los distintos predadores a lo largo de la secuencia estratigráfica. Galeria site is one of the multiple deposits located in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). Its archaeopaleontological record is chronologically framed between 500 ky and 180 ky. Several multidisciplinary studies revealed that Galería site worked as a natural trap for the herbivores which inhabited around the mountain range. The presence of these animals propitiated reiterative visits of carnivores (canids and hienids) as well as hominids to take advantage of the meat resources accumulated there. As a result, the fossil association of Galería differs substantially from those observed in other natural traps. Taphonomic and zooarchaeological studies have allowed establishing, in addition, differences regarding the access and the consumption strategies developed by the different predators along the stratigraphic sequence.
Private Profile
added 4 research items
This article reviews the evidence for planning behaviour in Middle Pleistocene hominids. It documents the way in which raw material procurement and tool production were structured during the Middle Pleistocene occupations of the Spanish sites of Sierra de Atapuerca, Torralba, Ambrona and Aridos. Differences in the use of raw materials for different kinds of tool or end-product allow inferences to be drawn about pre-Neanderthal intentionality and cognitive ability. The overall pattern of technological behaviour demonstrated by this study is far removed from the purely ‘opportunistic’ and can reasonably be described as involving both forethought and planning. The work is presented from a techno-economic perspective based on the differential use of raw material types present in the lithic assemblages of these sites, and the proximity of sources of these raw materials in the surrounding landscape.