Archived project

Face to face: Study of Neanderthal behaviour in high resolution contexts

Goal: The project "Face to face: Study of Neanderthal behaviour in high resolution contexts", coordinated between three research centres, has the main objective to characterize the variability of the behaviour of Neanderthals groups in the Middle Palaeolithic. We also propose to analyze the relationship between this variability and significant changes in the environment, and to assess the similarities and differences of these patterns with those of anatomically modern humans. For this purpose we propose to study various micro-scale features of Neanderthals lifestyle (such as hunting strategies, competition with carnivores, seasonality of occupations, procurement of vegetal resources, raw materials acquisition, diversification of lithic assemblages, organization of space) analyzing the relationship between behavioural flexibility and their ecological contexts.
We hypothesized that (1) we can identify high-resolution events in all types of archaeological sites and (2) the variability of the Neanderthals behaviour can only be assessed properly if the archaeological record is analyzed at a high resolution level. This project attempts to address these questions from a multidisciplinary and novel methodological approach, combining analysis of raw materials, zooarchaeology, tooth wear analyses, palaeobotany, lithic technology and spatial distribution. This approach is possible because we have a significant amount of data from recent excavations in caves, rock-shelters and open-air sites. The localities included in this project – Abric Romaní, Arbreda Cave, Ermitons Cave, Mollet Cave, Mollet III Cave, Cau del Roure, Covalejos Cave, Teixoneres Cave, Esquilleu Cave, El Cañaveral and Ahijones – have been subject to systematic excavations in recent years and meet the requirements to apply correctly the multidisciplinary methodology proposed in this project. It is suggested here that there will be little definitive progress on this issue without an analysis of the archaeological record at a high temporal scale that provides direct evidence of the variability of Neanderthal behaviour and its relationship to the environment.

Date: 1 January 2014 - 31 December 2016

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Guillermo Bustos-Pérez
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Predicting original flake mass is a major goal of lithic analysis. Predicting original flake mass allows for researchers to make estimations of remaining mass, lost mass, and other features. All these measures relate to the organization of lithic technology by past societies. The present work tests three different models to predict log of flake mass: multiple linear regression, random forest regression, and artificial neural networks (ANN). Estimations of flake mass were performed using the remaining features of flakes from an experimental assemblage. This assemblage was obtained by the expansion of a previous dataset through the inclusion of bigger flakes, allowing the analysis to account for the effects of sample size and value distribution. Correlation results show a large/strong relation between predictions and real outcome (r2 = 0.78 in the best case). Comparison of the models affords insights into variable importance for predicting flake mass. Results show that (for the present dataset) multiple linear regression still stands as the best method for predicting log of flake weight. Additionally, transformation of predicted values from the multiple linear regression and true values to the linear scale reinforces the linear correlation above the 0.8 threshold.
Guillermo Bustos-Pérez
added a research item
The variations in the technological and typological composition of lithic assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic remains a subject of debate. The knapping methods, site occupation patterns or the organization of lithic technology are some of the underlying factors commonly cited as causes of this variability. Adding up to this is the need to increase the possible methodological tools for the analysis and comparison of lithic assemblages. The following PhD addresses this problematic through the development of controlled experimentations that allow to test and propose new analytical methods, and through the analysis of four lithic assemblages belonging to two different Middle Paleolithic site of the Iberian Peninsula (the levels VII and XIf of Esquilleu cave and the levels IIIa and IIIb of Teixoneres Cave). The work has been divided in four blocks. The first block presents the introduction and the conceptual frameworks under which the approach has been undertaken. The second block is subdivided in the methodology employed and the experimentations linked to de development of the work. The third block presents the archaeological sites and levels and the results from the analysis of the lithic assemblages. The fourth and last block presents the discussion of the results (focusing on the importance of thee results, linking them to other published results, pointing limitations and making suggestions for further research) and the conclusions. The first experimentation employs a set of experimental flaks with different proportions of retouched along with a protocol for extracting measures from digital photographs. Six different observers are asked to take digital photographs and use the protocol to obtain measures of length of the edge and length of the retouched edge, allowing to compare the deviation in the obtained values. The second experimentation employs a sample of 24 flakes that are successively retouched and following three different patterns of retouch. For each episode the height of retouch, the length of retouched edge and lost weight are recorded, allowing to determine the degree of correlation between the combination of two measures (height of retouch and length of retouched edge) with the weight lost by retouch. The third experimentation uses 451 flaking products of 33 different cores from five different knapping methods (one of them is subdivided in two phases making a total of six categories). A series of measures and attributes common to lithic analysis are taken and employed to build a decision tree (type of machine learning process). Results from the first experimentation show that the use of digital photographs to obtain measures from the edge (length of the edge, length of the retouched edge and percentage of retouched edge) have a high degree of reproducibility. The second experimentation allows to propose a new index (the AvtL) that allows to estimate the weight/volume lost by retouch. Correlation is high and it can be applied to different patterns of retouch. The third experimentation allows to generate a Machine Learning decision tree model to identify knapping methods in flaking products. This last experimentation also yields results about the reproducibility in the identification of knapping methods, the directionality of confusions, and which variables characterize the products from different knapping methods. Results from the archaeological assemblages are structured in five sections for each assemblage. The first section analyzes flakes, presenting the results from the raw material analysis, raw material quality, attributed knapping methods, identified technological products, dimensional analysis, percussion platform analysis, scar directions, transversal sections and edge angles. The second section repeats this analysis on retouched artifacts adding the typological composition. The third section compares the results from the analysis of flakes and tools (comparing raw material composition, dimensions, etc.). Fourth section analyses the intensity and extension of retouch according to raw materials, attributed knapping methods and technological products. The fifth and last sections use a K-means clustering method and values from intensity and extension of retouch along with raw material quality values to stablish groups of tools. This allows to identify groups according to the retouch intensity, and identify patterns of selection and possible curated toolkits among the retouched artifacts. The comparison between levels is made following two approaches. First, a factorial analysis using the frequency of technological products and attribution of knapping methods is employed to determine what is characterizing each complete assemblage and their subsets of tools and flakes. The values of the factorial analysis are employed to reduce the dimensionality of the data and as values of a dendogram which allows to stablish relations of similarity between assemblages. The second approach uses average values of intensity an extension of retouch, quality of raw materials, their modal distribution and size differences between retouched and unretouched products to stablish differences between assemblages. Results from level VII of Esquilleu Cave show an increase in the use of silified lutites although quartzite’s are still the most employed raw material. Levallois, hierarchical Discoid and Discoid are the most important knapping methods. retuch is more intense and extended in quartzite’s, and cluster analysis show a preference for backed flakes, cortical products and some Levallois flakes. Results from level XIf show a dominance of the Quina knapping method and the quartzite’s as raw material (however there is a higher variability of quartzite’s). Intensity and extension of retouch is much higher than previous levels, but not all materials are intensively retouched. There is an important relation between tool type and retouch intensity. Results from level IIIa are conditioned by the low number of materials which show a marked duality between the catchment of local low quality raw materials (quartz and limestone) and on local high/medium quality raw materials (mainly flint). Levallois and Tranche de Saucisson are the main methods. Only one element can be considered as a curated toolkit while the rest of retouched products can be considered as complementary provisioning strategies. Results from level IIIb show a decrease of the duality between local/low quality and nonlocal/ high quality materials in favor of the last ones. This is a result of the catchment of a higher diversity of raw materials (sandstones, quartzites, hornfels, etc.) which results in a higher average raw material quality. Maine knapping methods continue to be Levallois and Tranche de Saucisson. Analysis of intensity of retouch show important differences respect to the previous levels. Distribution of retouch intensity is more gradual and several products can be considered as curated toolkits. The comparison between levels shows that XIf is characterized by the exclusivity of the attribution of the Quina knapping method along with its own technological products (such as the platform wrapping flakes or the Quina resharpening flakes). This makes the Quina assemblages the most differentiated of all assemblages. Levels IIIa and IIIb are differentiated from level VII because of the important presence of cortical core edge flakes, the attribution of the Tranche de Saucisson method, and the low attribution of the Discoide method and low presence of products such as pseudo-Levallois points. The comparison following retouch intensity and extension, raw material quality and size differences between tools and flakes show important differences between levels. Despite this levels XIf and IIIb are more similar than levels VII and IIIa which can be linked to the intensity of occupations.
Alejandro Prieto
added a research item
Raw material characterization in Paleolithic archaeology has widened our knowledge of Middle Paleolithic societies. Procurement of raw material, specifically flint, has allowed the tracing of the mobility of both stones and people, as well as selective processes to obtain specific types or even extraction activities. The analysis of quartzite has also developed in recent years, providing an opportunity to better understand prehistoric societies. This study characterizes the procurement strategies implemented by Middle Paleolithic people in the mountainous region of the Picos de Europa. To this end, we present a comprehensive characterization of potential catchment areas: massive outcrops, conglomerates, and river deposits. The exploitation of quartzite at the sites of El Habario and El Arteu allows us to understand the territorial management of this mountainous area through the combination of selective processes and mobility mechanisms in lower and middle altitudes. These perspectives enable us to view the mountainous region not as a barrier but as an environmental mosaic managed by Middle Paleolithic groups. This study shows strategies that bring together direct and embedded procurement based on both intensive and extensive searches. These discourses are more closely related to the daily life of people than those only considering the mobility of people and objects.
Alejandro Prieto
added a research item
The new excavations carried out at the site of Troisdorf-Ravensberg in 2015 have brought to light an essential part of Neanderthal daily life: the procurement mechanism of lithic raw material. The first hypothesis to understand this site propounds that it was used as a quartzite workshop or a quarry site where extractive and first knapping activities were performed in the Middle Palaeolithic. Against this background this study focuses on the petrological characterisation of the quartzites from Troisdorf-Ravensberg using a solid geoarchaeological protocol based on petrographic-stereomicroscopic petrology and geochemical composition. These procedures allowed us to characterise the “Tertiary quartzites” at this site and to establish two types and two varieties of this raw material based on the features which led us to understand the stone formative processes. The latter is related with sedimentary processes and the formation of silcretes. Preliminary data puts forward a selective extraction and exploitation of a specific facies, the secondary exploitation of a by-product type, and the discard of the last variety. This complex raw material exploitation is suggested by the technological markers observed, which connect the physical properties of the stone, based on silica cementation of the former quartz arenite, and the procurement strategies carried out by the Middle Palaeolithic people. The qualitative differences in the raw material are an important aspect of the anthropogenic selection that can be identified in the Troisdorf assemblage. Other selection criteria, especially the morphology of the raw pieces or technological requirements, certainly play also a major role, but are not part of this contribution.
Anna Rufà
added 2 research items
Equifinality constitutes a challenge when interpreting agency in archaeological sites. The fact that a specific type of damage frequently cannot be linked to a single actor, behavior, or ecological context, handicaps correct interpretations of site formation processes. Actualistic studies have been used to address this type of problem by creating models and analogies to infer the processes that occurred in the past and explain the formation processes of fossil faunas found at archaeological sites. Here, we apply this approach using observational data from Arilla et al. (2014) describing the consumption of ungulate carcasses by wild brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos). We focus on a specific type of damage, peeling, which was observed to be one of the most significant modifications of axial skeletal elements of carcasses eaten by bears. This fact was especially relevant because the peeling damage was initially attributed to the feeding activities of primates (humans and chimpanzeesdPan troglodytes) and only anecdotally to other taphonomic agents. The observational data are then applied to Level 4 of Toll Cave (Moi a, Barcelona, Spain), dated to >49,000 14 C BP, which has been interpreted to be a hibernation lair with significant activity by carnivores and sporadic human presence. Rib and vertebral peeling have also been identified at Level 4 bone assemblage, casting doubt on the agent responsible for this damage (effector) in the cave. The aim of our study is to address the equifinality problems that involve peeling as a taphonomical signature in archaeological sites, taking the Pleistocene site of Toll Cave as a case study.
Florent Rivals
added 8 research items
Carnivore damage on Neanderthal fossils is a much more common taphonomic modification than previously thought. Its presence could have different explanations, including predatory attacks or scavenging scenarios, which are both situations with important implications concerning Neanderthal behavior. In the present paper, we analyze several Neanderthal hominin fossils from a taphonomic and forensic perspective in order to infer the nature of the modifications observed on the bone surfaces. Fossils displaying carnivore modifications from Spain, Germany, Belgium, and Greece are evaluated from a taphonomic perspective for the first time in a significant sample of hominin specimens. Our results show that the materials analyzed have been modified by small to large carnivores and that both attacks and strictly carnivore scavenging events can be inferred. This study also points out the importance of developing taphonomic approaches to the analysis of hominin bone surfaces, which can contribute significantly to knowledge of several aspects of Neanderthal behavior.
The debate over hominidecarnivore interactions during the Pleistocene has been mainly approached from a human perspective, with the aim of contributing to the knowledge of the evolution of human cultural capabilities in the different periods. Regarding the European Middle Palaeolithic, it is most commonly concluded that Neanderthals were clearly superior to carnivores in the context of competitive relationships, with respect to both prey and the occupied space. Therefore, the presence of some human groups in the environments usually inhabited by carnivores could be perceived, from an ecological point of view, as a disturbance in the balance of the ecosystems. In order to assess the ecological impact of these human groups, the present study analyses the Unit III of Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3;Moià, Barcelona, Spain) through a comparison of palaeoecological and archaeological data. The site is located in the highlands between the two main rivers connecting the central region of Catalonia with the Mediterranean coast: the Llobregat and the Ter. Palynological and paleontological data indicate a cold landscape dominated by woodlands and some wet meadows. The high vertebrate diversity recorded in this stratigraphic unit suggests an environment marked by a balanced predatoreprey dynamic, which may have been interrupted by the occasional presence of small human groups. According to the archaeological data, these human groups tended to predate the same prey as did carnivores, which may have generated a certain perturbation in the system. However, the small size of the groups and the brevity of their visits to Teixoneres Cave seem to have minimised the perturbation, allowing the environment to recover its original balance.
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
One of most recent Mousterian sites discovered in Madrid (Spain) is El Cañaveral-Area 3 archaeological site, an open-air raw material quarrying site occupied during the MIS 3. In this site, we have excavated a total surface area of around 164 m² of coluvionar sediments affected by edaphic processes that have had an impact on the distribution of the original knapping zones. However, several refits were discovered as a result of rapid sedimentation. From a technological point of view, the lithic production was mainly focused in the production of levallois points after a centripetal decortication of flakes and blocks. In this paper, we present and analyze some examples that indicate, with no doubt, the existence of a wide variety of technological levels in the knapping authors, as a possible result of social changes that occurred in the MIS 3 Neanderthals communities.
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
The study of the lithic assemblage from Charco Hondo 2 (Madrid, Spain) indicates the existence of intense activities related to the quarrying of Miocene flint outcrops, within a drainage context inside the interfluvial plateau of the Manzanares and Jarama rivers (Madrid region). This lithic production was oriented to produce the first stages of large flake bifacial shaping, with an important collection of refitted materials of the Lower/Middle Paleolithic. The sedimentological circumstances and the presence of refitted items initially suggest the existence of good preservation conditions for an open-air site. In this contribution, we present a brief analysis of the geoarchaeological sequence with special attention to depositional and post-depositional processes, in order to determine the extent to which tool distribution and the lithic refitting connections were the consequence of human activity or, on the contrary, the combination of different human and natural agents. This site provides us with a good example to discuss the relevance and significance of particular refitted distributions in open-air quarrying contexts.
Florent Rivals
added 3 research items
Diet is closely connected to the habitat exploited by ungulates and is one of the main links between them and the surrounding environment. When climatic fluctuations modified the vegetal coverture and habitat, ungulates' dietary behaviours and ecological niches could have been impacted severely. During the Middle Palaeolithic, the Mediterranean peninsulas were known to be climatic refuges because they seemed less susceptible to these changes. However, the altitude or latitude of a given site may have resulted in local particularities that could have influenced the vegetal composition and therefore the feeding behaviour of ungulates from the same region. In the present research we investigate whether these variables necessitated adaptive changes in the feeding behaviours of ungulates hunted by Neanderthals through the study of two archaeological sites, Arbreda Cave (Serinyà, Girona, Spain) and Teixoneres Cave (Moià, Barcelona, Spain). We use a combined analysis of dental wear (meso- and microwear) and dental cementum analysis of Cervus elaphus, Equus ferus, and Equus hydruntinus teeth. Dental wear reflects the immediate and average annual dietary traits of ungulates as well as the environmental conditions in the surroundings. Dental cementum analysis allows accurately identifying the season of ungulate death and linking an individual's dietary preferences with the seasonal conditions in its last moments of life. As results, red deer at both sites were mixed-feeders in the annual cycle. A slight increase in grass consumption was identified during winter for populations from sub-unit IIIa of Teixoneres Cave. Horse and wild ass based their diet on grasses, but the latter showed seasonal adaptation toward a mixed consumption of grasses and concentrate resources (i.e. leaves, shrubs, forbs, and other woody plants). The seasonal feeding adaptations observed for some of the studied species did not strongly influence their general dietary trends because they kept feeding on the same resources annually.
Hunter-gatherers have a nomadic lifestyle and move frequently on the landscape based on the seasonal distribution of resources. During these displacements, carrying capacities are limited, and the composition of the transported gear is generally planned ahead of the activity to perform. During the Pleistocene, prehistoric hunter-gatherers faced similar difficulties in exploiting the territory and employed different strategies for coping with their subsistence needs and the possible shortage of stone tools. The understanding of how these behaviors developed diachronically is pivotal for the reconstruction of the human trajectories of land use in different environments, orographic settings, and climates. Thus far, the identification of the mobile toolkit has been related to blanks produced with allochthonous rocks, whereas the recognition of the transported artefacts knapped in local and semi-local raw materials encounters more difficulties because of the possible association with the lithic production conducted at the site. In this paper, we present the mobile toolkit of sub-unit IIIb and IIIa of Teixoneres Cave, a Middle Paleolithic site where a clear differentiation between in-situ knapping activities in local quartz and the import of stone tools in other raw materials is documented. The analysis of these latter assemblages reveals that the bulk of the toolkit is composed of knapping by-products and that the number of curated artefacts, Levallois flakes, and cores is significantly lower. Results show that the main strategy of transport at Teixoneres Cave was a combination of hunting and cutting tools aiming toward a generalized set of gears instead of narrowing the equipment to few specialized items. These new data highlight the plasticity of Neanderthals' technological organization in the western Mediterranean.
Short-term human occupations could occur in very distinct places and be related to very different behaviours. The low number of items left by the human groups in these sites, usually, generates discrete assemblages, which often are difficult to disentangle. In the European Middle Palaeolithic, short-term human occupations in caves and rock-shelters, frequented by carnivores as hibernation places, dens or refuges, are common. From an archaeological perspective, the resulting assemblages are a mixture of anthropogenic and carnivore items (palimpsests) in which the intensity of human occupation(s) is usually measured by the quantity of recovered lithic artefacts, hearths or modified bones. The detailed study of these sites is pivotal to understand the development of the human communities in a landscape, their movements across the territory, the diversity of activities performed and the relationships stablished within the other biological entities (mainly carnivores). This paper aims to present data on four Middle Palaeolithic sites in the Northeast of the Iberian Peninsula characterized by short-term occupations in carnivore contexts. The results indicate a complex scenario in terms of settlement patterns and movements of Neanderthals in mountainous environments ranging from occasional visits to carnivore dens for hunting or active scavenging to full-scale, planned occupations during the course of seasonal foraging activities.
Juan Ignacio Martin-Viveros
added a research item
Optical (OM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) are among the most common techniques to characterize use-wear and residue patterns on stone tool surfaces. While the short depth of field of optical microscopes can be solved with SEM, the observation of use-wear and residue patterns at specific points can sometimes make it difficult to draw an overall picture of the functional context on the active edge. Recently, the introduction of focus variation systems equipped with stitching technology has made progress on this front, allowing for the creation of high resolution tiled images. In this study, we show some examples of composite images in which the stitching technology of digital 3D microscopy (3D DM) has been combined with OM and SEM to characterize use-wear and residue distribution patterns in experimental chert tools. We show how the integration of this type of graphic representation in use-wear and residue studies has multiple advantages not only for scientific but also for didactic purposes.
Juan Ignacio Martin-Viveros
added a research item
A use-wear analysis was carried out on a specific mobile toolkit belonging to level M of the Middle Paleolithic site of Abric Romaní (Barcelona, Spain), which is dated to MIS 3, between 51 and 55 Ka BP. In an environment rich in local and regional chert sources and in a technological context marked by expedient behavior, a set of flakes, which also included debordant elements with asymmetric transversal sections, were introduced into the site having already been knapped. A combination of technological, refitting, and raw material unit analyses (RMU) have distinguished them from the rest of the chert artifacts knapped in situ. Given that the aim of the reduction sequences in level M, as in most of the stratigraphic sequence, is the production of small flakes of poor quality chert, the introduction of these finished tools indicates the existence of planned behavior in relation to raw material constraints and, to a major extent, with specific needs. The question is whether there is any functional difference between these flakes knapped outside and those produced on-site. A first step to solving this issue is the evaluation of the potential of these tools for use-wear analysis. Thirty-seven flakes were selected for this study prioritizing the state of surface preservation. To provide reliable data with which to compare the archeological traces, we have performed a specific experimental program using the main chert varieties identified in the archeological sample. Digital 3D, optical, and scanning electron microscopies were combined to characterize wear patterns in a mobile toolkit. Our preliminary results show that, despite the significant patination on some of the pieces, a limited array of tools have a good state of surface preservation and show use-wear evidence related to a variety of butchery activities.
Alejandro Prieto
added 3 research items
Several isolated studies have tried to understand quartzite from an archaeological perspective by applying two different methodological approaches. The first one is based on non-destructive characterisation, aiming to understand human procurement and management of quartzite, without solid geoarchaeological criteria. The second characterised the material from archaeological sites using only petrographic or geochemical perspectives of a limited sample. Currently, both perspectives are unconnected, creating a methodological gap that needs to be solved to study the procurement and management of quartzite in greater depth. The present study, mainly methodological, will explore the gap between petrographic analysis and non-destructive characterisation. Doing so, we could fill this vacuum of information and generate a solid geoarchaeological basis to characterise not only a sample but complete assemblages. To this end, we analyse the lithic assemblages at El Arteu and El Habario, two Middle-Palaeolithic sites in the Cantabrian Region, northern Spain. We summarise the main results derived from petrographic analysis, but especially we will focus on non-destructive criteria to characterise the lithic surfaces of archaeological quartzite using stereoscope microscopy. This process allows us to understand the complete assemblage but also, through technological characterisation, understand the management of different quartzite petrogenetic types in both sites.
The consideration of quartzite by prehistorian as a secondary raw material has avoided in-depth research of this raw material as other rocks, such as flint or obsidian. The two latter ones are the better studied raw materials because of the information derived from its study: long-transport of rocks and mobility of people. In contrast, the information derived from researches that took into account quartzite generally proposed near to the site catchment areas mainly related to secondary river deposits. This idea, together with the variability of rocks named as quartzite by archaeologist, influences the absence of research on the second most-often used raw material during the Palaeolithic. To overcome these narrow perspectives, it is necessary to put in the centre of the debate the quartzite as raw material using an inducive proposal based on geoarchaeological methodologies. This presentation tries to tackle this question by the application of a geoarchaeological methodology that combines thin section analysis, stereomicroscope observation, and XRay, Fluorescence compositional analysis of the quartzites from the layer-XXII-R from El Esquilleu. In this work, we also present the characterisation of potential areas where quartzite could be caught, especially river beaches. The results show complex mechanisms of quartzite catchment on river deposits based on intensive and selective searching, not only in near river deposits, but also in more distance fluvial deposits and conglomerate formations. Finally, and through the combination with techno-typological criteria, we proposed complex mechanisms of exploitation depending on each quartzite type. All these data open new perspectives to the characterisation of the second better represented raw material in Europe, but also to deep into catchment mechanism on fluvial deposits and quartzitic conglomerate formations.
The development of raw material characterisation in Palaeolithic Archaeology in the last fifty years has widened our knowledge about the societies who inhabited Europe in the past. The characterisation of raw material, specially flint, has allowed defining the mobility of stones and people, selective processes to obtain specific varieties and proto-mining or mining activities. It also enables the researchers to a better understand knapping or use properties of specific raw materials. Quartzite was the second most-often used lithic raw material in Europe in the Palaeolithic. However, this rock has not been characterized fully from the geo-archaeological point of view. The main aim of this presentation is present partial results of my recently defended PhD, focussed in the understanding of acquisition, distribution and management mechanisms implemented by Middle-Palaeolithic societies in the Cantabrian Region (Asturias and Cantabria communities, NW Spain) to exploit quartzite. To do so, we are going to present the data of two middle-Palaeolithic archaeological sites: El Habario and El Arteu. We also present through a comprehensive way, the quartzite distribution in the area: The Deva, Cares and Güeña valleys. Finally, and due to the scarcity of previous research on the properties of this raw material, we also present the characteristics of these quartzites from a geo-archaeological point of view. The methodology used for this research combines three different approaches: microscopic, macroscopic and regional scales. The first one is based on petrographic, geochemical and binocular characterisation. The second, is the macroscopic approach and it is founded on the analysis of lithic assemblages based on technological, typological, petrological and metric criteria. The same macroscopic approach is used to characterise the potential raw material acquisition areas through the geological survey of the geological strata and deposits where quartzites are present. Finally, the regional scale is based on the geographic, geologic and archaeological analysis of landscape, mainly using Geographic Information Systems. The application of this comprehensive methodology to a narrow area, the Deva, Cares and Güeña valleys, allow us to understand quartzite from geological and archaeological perspectives. On one hand, we surveyed the source area of the sediment which formed the “archaeological quartzites”, their transformations due to sedimentary and metamorphic forces, and the mineralogy of these rocks according to the different geological environments where quartzites were formed. The understanding of all these phenomena allows us to classify quartzite into seven petrogenetic types and varieties, according to grain size and mineralogy. We also describe the geological strata where quartzite is present, characterising both their arrangement and its dispersion based on the types and varieties defined. On the other hand, we inferred the acquisition, management, and mobility patterns of Prehistoric societies in the Deva, Cares and Güeña valleys during the Middle Palaeolithic based on the analysis of the lithic assemblages from the archaeological sites of El Habario and El Arteu. This allowed us to understand the different strategies of landscape management of such a heterogeneous and mountainous area as the central Cantabrian Region is. The exploitation of quartzites in the sites of El Habario and El Arteu allow us to understand the dialectical territorial management of this mountainous area through the combination of selective processes and mobility mechanisms in lower and middle altitudes. These perspectives let us to understand this mountainous region not as a barrier but as an environmental-mosaic managed and optimised by Middle Palaeolithic societies. In addition, the recognition of the quartzite types using non-destructive methods in both complete assemblages through comprehensive analysis, lets us to understand preferential catchment and management of specific quartzites and different behaviours. Among others, a) adaptable mobility patterns and selection of specific types of quartzites; b) Complex management of lithic mass based on stock creation; or c) tool-kit maintenance on certain quartzite types and the dismissal of others.
Florent Rivals
added a research item
We propose for the first time the use of the combination of two high-resolution techniques, dental wear (meso- and microwear) and dental cementum analyses, to gain a better understanding of Neanderthal subsistence strategies and occupational patterns. Dental wear analysis provides information not only on ungulate palaeodiet and palaeoenvironments but also on hunting time and seasons. Dental cementum analysis allows the accurate determination of the age and season at death of a prey. Our study has focused on the Cantabrian region and has applied both methods to investigate the Mousterian faunal assemblages in Covalejos Cave. Identification of the ungulate palaeodiet reveals information on the environmental conditions of the studied region. Moreover, it may facilitate observation on the evolution of both palaeodiet and palaeoenvironment throughout the site sequence. Results show a general stability in the palaeoenvironmental conditions and in the ungulate palaeodiet throughout the Mousterian sequence; this finding may be attributed to the role of the area as a climate refuge, and slight differences in levels 8, 7 and 4 suggest long- or short-term but repeated Neanderthal occupations at different seasons in the annual cycle.
Francesca Romagnoli
added a research item
https://link.springer.com/journal/12520/11/9 Archaeological & Anthropological Sciences, Volume 11, Issue 9, September 2019
Florent Rivals
added a research item
Prehistoric human groups organize their subsistence strategies according to environmental parameters and socio-cultural variables. Functional analysis of artefacts allows researchers to recognize different activities and the characteristics of their utilization and to formulate hypotheses about the duration and the way that sites were occupied. Bones used as tools for the manufacture and maintenance of lithic artefacts have been recognized in multiple archaeological contexts. The Middle Palaeolithic site of the Teixoneres Cave (Moià, Barcelona, Spain) has yielded a small collection of bone fragments which were used as retouchers. The stratigraphic sequence is characterised by an alternation in the hominid and carnivore occupations. The sublevel IIIb (MIS 3) is the unit showing the highest anthropic intensity with lithic tools, human-induced damage on faunal specimens and, specifically, bone retouchers. In this study these bone artefacts have been studied according to the main standardized taphonomical and technological methods. Additionally, experimental protocols with bones used for retouching or re-sharpening quartz and flint flakes were conducted, which showed the different use traces produced on the bone surface. The analysis of the data indicates that these archaeological bone retouchers were obtained and discarded in situ, without any configuration of the blank. Before their abandonment, bone re-touchers were used to occasionally retouch and re-sharpen the lithic implements, especially the local quartz artefacts. This paper aims to explore new types of lithic raw material in experiments with bone retouchers and add data to the multidisciplinary study of the site.
Julià Maroto
added a research item
La cova de Mollet és un jaciment clàssic dins la prehistòria paleolítica de Catalunya. Conegut a partir de les intervencions de Josep M. Corominas i pels diferents estudis dels materials procedents d’aquestes –com el primer que va tenir ressò internacional, el d'Eduard Ripoll i Henry de Lumley–, fins fa poc presentava l’inconvenient que tota la informació procedia d’excavacions antigues, amb la dificultat de contextualització que això representava, més quan la major part del rebliment havia estat excavat i els testimonis existents no representen la totalitat del dipòsit. Les excavacions recents, que han afectat la unitat inferior –l’estrat 5–, l’únic que es conservava en extensió, encara que de caràcter modest han permès una interpretació aprofundida d’aquest estrat i una nova visió global del jaciment. Així, en aquest article se sintetitzarà la informació de l’estrat 5 i la seqüència cronocultural del jaciment.
Francesca Romagnoli
added a research item
The task is certainly not complete if we wish to create a single volume covering all of the most recent refitting studies, and we regret the lack of eminent colleagues who have contributed to the improvement of refitting analysis in Palaeolithic study. However, the case studies that are presented here and the discussions that these data have generated are of great relevance to the planning of the next 30 years of refitting studies. Due to the high-quality data that these studies have provided, refitting should be made a mandatory practice in current archaeological research. Nevertheless, we recognize that there are other considerations that play against refitters. In spite of the latest methodological advances, refitting continues to be a time-consuming activity. The image of the refitter as one who spends hours and hours looking at lithics or bones, sometimes to find only a few refits, may seem discouraging, particularly to the most fervent adherents to human behavioural ecology and an emphasis on net return rate. This issue may be especially important when recruiting new refitters among young students, who feel compelled to publish more and more papers in order to stay alive in the scientific world—you know, publish or perish. Even if we are condemned to be a community of outsiders, we are confident that refitting brings a type of data that no other approach can provide. In fact, refitting represents a certain way of doing science in which the quality and resolution of the data is privileged over the publication rate. It is also as an example of a slow science in that refitting can open new avenues of research into the future.
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
In this work, we present a regional study with which we intend to analyze the possible exploitation models that on different ecosystems, were used the human groups throughout the Upper Pleistocene in the Madrid region. This area is not only characterized by abundant resources of different nature and especially abiotic, but also by its varied ecological contrasts existing between the pre-mountainous areas of the foot of the Central System, the basin areas of the main rivers, the deposits of terraces connected to ramps next to these, and as well by the interfluvial platforms with a clear dominance of the Miocene materials. Each of these places provided differentiated environments, landscapes and resources which, as an adaptive response, generated different exploitation models in each one during the Pleistocene. In addition to ecological reconstruction of the Pleistocene deposits of the region through the study of fauna and flora, it is essential to analyze the relationship between tools and the exploitation models in each area. Based on a detailed analysis of the archaeological records, we intend to interpret the main functionality of each of them within each environmental context, in order to propose a reconstruction of the landscape occupation and exploitation that in this region took place throughout the Middle and Upper Pleistocene.
Conchi Torres
added a research item
Characteristic pedunculated points have traditionally been assigned to the Upper Solutrean period. Evidence from the populations that inhabited thein El Higueral-Guardia Cave region indicate that this region was also occupied during this chronocultural period. In the first excavation season in August 2012 at El Higueral-Guardia Cave (Málaga, Spain), a group of pedunculated points was recovered in the upper levels of the Survey 2 area. Those Solutrean levels, moved during previous illegal excavations, left a greatly reduced sample of undoubtedly significant types. We finally obtained 20 flint preforms and blades that had been very carefully worked. Through analysis of diacritical schemas and technical reading we found different levels of technological or technical expertise in their manufacture. This circumstance led us to initiate an experimental approach to the technical and technological factors that were involved in the pedunculated arrow heads chaine operatoire, and particularly in relation to the knappers´skillsknappers´skills. In this paper, we present a descriptive analysis of the morphological results of experiments produced by several knappers through a strict experimental program, and also the correlation with different technological skills in the final products. The technical and morphological variations of the points do not contradict the strategies employed by expert knappers in which recycling and re-using processes constitute an important part of the lithic strategies as a whole. Resumen Las características puntas de pedúnculo y aleta solutrenses forman parte del material lítico característico que permite encuadrar en el Solutrense superior evolucionado a las poblaciones que las fabricaron y habitaron el sur de la Península Ibérica en este periodo cronocultural. De la primera campaña de excavación realizada mediante sondeo arqueológico en Agosto de 2012 en la Cueva del Higueral-Guardia (Málaga, España), resultó un conjunto de puntas de pedúnculo y aletas en los primeros niveles del área sondeada número 2. Niveles solutrenses que a priori se presentaron removidos A07
Florent Rivals
added a research item
The Middle Palaeolithic site of Cueva Antón (Murcia, Spain) is a cave/rock shelter with short-term human occupations dated to marine isotopic stages 5a and 3 (MIS 5a and MIS 3). The site provides a high-resolution sequence because the cave’s living floors, organized around hearth features, present rich assemblages of artefacts and faunal remains rapidly buried by low-energy flooding. The accumulation and modification of the faunal remains are mainly due to human agency. Zooarchaeological, taphonomic and tooth-wear analyses provide new insights into the subsistence of the human groups that used the site. Deer is the most abundant prey. The cave was used mainly in late winter and late spring to early summer. During the latter, female herds of deer and ibex were the primary targets of the hunts.
Alejandro Prieto
added 2 research items
Quartzite was the second most-often used lithic raw material in Europe in the Palaeolithic. However, this rock has not been characterized fully from the geo-archaeological point of view. This study characterizes, defines and determines types of quartzite in northern Spain through a methodology that integrates petrography, digital image processing and X-ray fluorescence. As a methodological foundation for the characterization of the material, it aims to open the possibility of discovering mechanisms of mobility, selection and management of quartzite by prehistoric societies. The types determined, based on the petrogenesis of the material, enable a better understanding of the archaeological sites of El Arteu and El Habario in the context of northern Spain in the Middle Palaeolithic. Note: If you are interested in the full article and it is not possible to obtain a copy from the web site of the journal, do not hesitate in contact with me.
Quartzite was the second most frequently used lithic raw material in Europe in the Palaeolithic. However, this rock has not been fully characterised from the geoarchaeological point of view. Nevertheless, the characterisation of quartzite from petrological perspectives has been attempted by diverse geologists in the last decades. These researches offer a solid base for the characterisation of this material that could be potentially used in archaeological contexts. Isolated studies have tried to understand quartzite from an archaeological perspective applying two different methodological approaches. The first one is based on non-destructive characterisation, aiming to understand human procurement and management of quartzite. The second one characterised the material from a petrographic perspective, in order to understand quartzites from archaeological sites or from potential catchment areas. Currently, both perspectives are unconnected, creating a methodological gap that needs to be solved to deepen into the catchment and management strategies of quartzites practised by prehistoric societies. The aim of this communication, which will be mainly methodological, is to expose the characterisation and the quartzite type determination of seventeen quartzite samples from the lithic assemblages of El Arteu and El Habario (Cantabrian Region, Spain), using petrography and geochemical analyses. In addition, we also characterised the complete quartzite assemblage using non-destructive characterisation techniques based on textural analysis, grain size characterisation, and non-siliceous mineral detection. The high variability of quartzites in both lithic collections allows us to understand the formative conditions of quartzites and to determine seven coherent petrogenetic types (from sedimentary to pure metamorphic rocks). In addition, their recognition in the complete lithic collection using non-destructive techniques lets us to understand preferential catchment and management of specific quartzites. Abstract book ISBN 978-80-907270-3-8 (European Association of Archaeologists) 978-84-9168-140-3 (Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, vol. 1) 978-84-9168-143-4 (Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, vol. 2)
Javier Baena Preysler
added an update
 
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
The development of raw material characterisation in Palaeolithic Archaeology in the last fifty years has widened our knowledge about the societies that inhabited Europe in the past. The characterisation of raw material, specially flint, has allowed defining the mobility of stones and people, selective processes to obtain specific varieties and proto-mining or mining activities. It also enables the researcher to better understand knapping or use properties of specific raw materials. The analysis of quartzite, the second most frequently used lithic raw material in the Palaeolithic, has developed in the recent years, offering us new information about past societies and environment. This contribution intends to follow with the characterisation of quartzite in the mountainous region of Picos de Europa, with the aim of understanding better the procurement strategies of this material during the Middle Palaeolithic. To this end, we present the comprehensive characterisation of massive outcrops, conglomerates, and river deposits, the three main types of environments where quartzite could be caught. The exploitation of quartzites in the sites of El Habario and El Arteu allow us to understand the dialectical territorial management of this mountainous area through the combination of selective processes and mobility mechanisms in lower and middle altitudes. These perspectives let us to understand this mountainous region not as a barrier but as an environmental-mosaic managed and optimised by Middle Palaeolithic societies. The methodology used for this research combines Geographic Information Systems, geo-archaeological fieldwork, macroscopic description of material, binocular characterisation, petrography, and X-Ray Fluorescence. Abstract book ISBN 978-80-907270-3-8 (European Association of Archaeologists) 978-84-9168-140-3 (Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, vol. 1) 978-84-9168-143-4 (Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, vol. 2)
Francesca Romagnoli
added a research item
https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/quaternary-international/vol/474/part/PB This collection of papers shows how innovative analytical techniques and original scientific questions shed new light on archaeological traditional issues and significantly contribute to understand past human behaviours in a more all-inclusive way. The ever-continuing methodological developments and pioneering and inventive approaches will further contribute to opening new perspectives regarding the knowledge of past cultural changes. An effective exploitation of this outcome would also depend on the search for samples of new kinds by archaeologists to provide new dimensions for the measuring of time.
Francesca Romagnoli
added 2 research items
Human adaptation to coastal environment has long been considered a specificity of Anatomical Modern Humans, and has been used as proxy for migration routes and complex behaviour. In the last years, the consumption of marine resources has been in the forefront of Neanderthal studies as proxy for coastal adaptation. As well as being part of pre-Sapiens subsistence strategies, marine shells have been also exploited as raw material: rarely for symbolic artefacts and more frequently to obtain functional tools. The use of marine resources to obtain tools has been recently identified in several archaeological contexts around the world since Lower Palaeolithic. From a technological point of view, a shell has different chemical and physical properties than a stone. That implies that different knowledge and specific technical gestures are needed to modify it into a functional tool and that is why shell technology offers a privileged way to approach the understanding of mechanisms of technological innovation. Being the shell a resource that commonly reflects symbolic behaviours, it is interesting to ask if shell tools could have been part of a personal ‘aesthetic’ gear describing the identity and/or the membership of the user to his/her specific social group. In this paper, the author will present an excursus about current knowledge of archaeological exploitation of marine resources for non-alimentary purposes in pre-Sapiens communities. The chronological and spatial distributions of these evidences and the analysis of the economic value of such technological behaviour will be investigated to reflect on the possible socio-cultural value of marine shell exploitation in ancient Prehistory.
For some three million years humans have been collecting various materials - mainly stones and occasionally bones - for the production of tools and for other reasons. Many studies emphasize considerations of material's quality, ease of extraction from the enclosing matrix as well as proximity of the occupation sites to the source, as leading reasons for the selection and use of specific materials. Notwithstanding these technological and economic considerations, there might be other factors that influence specific choices of materials. These may embody interesting aspects regarding the perceptions and cultural, ontological and cosmological patterns of behavior of early humans. Archaeological evidences show that as early as the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, humans had specifically selected certain exceptional materials from a range of suitable sources in order to produce tools. However, in not few cases, exceptional materials were selected and collected but not used in a particular way that can be distinguished by us. Colorful, bright stones with noticeable aesthetics values (such as obsidian and colorful chert, quartzite, and lava) and specific animal bones (such as elephant bones) were selected used for the making of handaxes, blades, scrapers, points etc, while others were brought home and "used" in non-technological manner. The collection and transportation of specific materials is far from being trivial and raises questions concerning the complex relations of early humans with their surrounding – minerals and animals. Among recent indigenous societies (including hunter-gatherer societies), materials used for tool making such as stones are not perceived as passive objects destined to be exploited for economic benefit. Rather, they are considered as part of the cosmos, not very different than human themselves, and are perceived as playing an active role in the social, cosmological and epistemological realms of life. What can we say, in this light, about the universal phenomenon of the selection of exceptional materials in the Paleolithic? This session is aimed at exploring human selection of exceptional materials for different reasons and purposes among past and recent hunter-gatherer societies. The session will be open to papers describing the selection of these materials in Paleolithic sites as well as ethnographic documentations, hopefully contributing to our understanding of the powerful inter-reliance of early humans, tools, minerals and animals.
Javier Baena Preysler
added 12 research items
In this work, we present a regional study with which we intend to analyze the possible exploitation models that on different ecosystems, were used the human groups throughout the Upper Pleistocene in the Madrid region. This area is not only characterized by abundant resources of different nature and especially abiotic, but also by its varied ecological contrasts existing between the pre-mountainous areas of the foot of the Central System, the basin areas of the main rivers, the deposits of terraces connected to ramps next to these, and as well by the interfluvial platforms with a clear dominance of the Miocene materials. Each of these places provided differentiated environments, landscapes and resources which, as an adaptive response, generated different exploitation models in each one during the Pleistocene. In addition to ecological reconstruction of the Pleistocene deposits of the region through the study of fauna and flora, it is essential to analyze the relationship between tools and the exploitation models in each area. Based on a detailed analysis of the archaeological records, we intend to interpret the main functionality of each of them within each environmental context, in order to propose a reconstruction of the landscape occupation and exploitation that in this region took place throughout the Middle and Upper Pleistocene. © 2018 Los Autores. Editado por la AEET. [Ecosistemas no se hace responsable del uso indebido de material sujeto a derecho de autor]
RESUMEN Las intervenciones arqueológicas llevadas a cabo durante los años 1996 en Tafesa, 2005 en el yaci-miento Hospital 12 de Octubre y 2006 en la desembocadura del arroyo Butarque (Villaverde-Barrio de Butarque) situados al sur de la ciudad de Madrid (España), han aportado nuevos conjuntos líticos con-textualizados estratigráficamente en los depósitos fluviales pleistocenos correspondientes al tramo infe-rior del valle del río Manzanares. Los yacimientos arqueológicos analizados se sitúan geomorfológica-mente en la denominada "Terraza Compleja del Manzanares" (TCMZ), la cual constituye un nivel fluvial engrosado (20-15 m de potencia) situado entre +22-16 m sobre el cauce actual del río, a lo largo de su margen derecha. Este nivel fluvial ha sido tradicionalmente considerado de edad Pleistoceno medio en base a la industria achelense y complejos faunísticos encontrados en sus niveles inferiores. Ciertamen-te, Tafesa es un yacimiento situado en la parte inferior-media de la terraza de +22 m con industria ache-lense y fauna de Pleistoceno medio. Por el contrario, los niveles superiores de esta misma terraza en los sectores del 12 de Octubre y Villaverde-Butarque se encuentran asociados a industrias del Paleo-lítico inferior y medio ya pertenecientes al Pleistoceno superior, como sugieren el conjunto de datacio-nes OSL y TL existentes para la zona. Los datos analizados en este trabajo indican que el desarrollo de este nivel de terraza engrosado comienza durante la parte final de Pleistoceno medio y abarca todo el Estadio Isotópico OIS 5, ya dentro del Pleistoceno superior. Palabras clave: Pleistoceno medio y superior, Paleolítico, geomorfología, terrazas fluviales, río Manzanares, Cuenca de Madrid, España. ABSTRACT The archaeological works developed during the years 1996 in the site of Tafesa, 2005 in the 12 de Octubre Metro Station site and 2006 in the confluence of the Butarque Stream (Villaverde-Barrio de Butarque site) located south of the Madrid City (Spain), have provided new lithic assemblages. These assemblages have been stratigraphically contextualized in the Pleistocene deposits of the Lower Man-zanares river valley within the so-called "Manzanares Complex Terrace" (TCMZ). This fluvial terrace constitutes an anomalous thickened (20-15m) deposit at +22-16m above the present river thalweg
Florent Rivals
added 2 research items
Monospecific exploitation of reindeer by Neanderthals is a common behaviour in the Upper Pleistocene of Western Europe. However, reindeer-dominated assemblages have largely been reported from regions of northern Germany and south-western France, with few examples noted in south-eastern France, where faunal assemblages yield most of the time a variety of other large ungulates such as red deer, horse and diverse bovids. Here, we present multi-strand (bio- and eco-) archaeological datasets from the site of Abri du Maras (level 4.1), situated at the mouth of the Ardèche and Rhône rivers, a new example of a reindeer-dominated Neanderthal site in south-eastern France. Dated to the beginning of the MIS 3, the zooarchaeological assemblage is dominated by reindeer (88% of the NISP, representing 16 individuals) but also includes horse, bison, giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), red deer, ibex and lagomorphs. The combination of zooarchaeological, cementochronological and tooth microwear analyses evidence a single species-dominated spectrum, with catastrophic mortality and repeated autumnal deaths. This integrated approach provides an extensive picture of human subsistence behaviour, pointing to short-term hunting episodes of reindeer herds in an exceptional context of a quasi-exclusive Neanderthal accumulation. The high number of individuals and selective butchery may correspond with a cooperative and planned mass hunting strategy. The multidisciplinary approach undertaken here also incorporating paleontological, charcoal, ecological and isotopic analyses places the archaeological and zooarchaeological data within a broader regional palaeoenvironmental framework, providing valuable landscape-contextual information. The zooarchaeological data suggest a subsistence behaviour different from other Neanderthal reindeer-dominated assemblages often connected with specialised butchery or hunting sites.
Valdavara 3 is a new early late Pleistocene paleontological and archeological cave site in northwestern Iberia. Over 1400 fossils have been collected, representing about 40 species. The fauna is of interglacial aspect and is in accordance with the OSL dates from the fossiliferous layer, which indicate an age of 103–113 ka. The great taxonomical diversity indicates a varied landscape. A small collection of lithic artifacts was found associated with the fossils, demostrating presence of humans and suggesting short non-residential visits to the cave. The fossiliferous site was predominantly formed by natural processes. Many fossil localities have short or biased faunal lists, but the fossil fauna recovered from Valdavara 3 is remarkably diverse and may reflect the fauna which once lived there.
Francesca Romagnoli
added 2 research items
The intra-site spatial patterns of lithic artefacts and their density are traditionally used in Prehistory as proxies for activity areas and social organisation of past human groups. This approach allows identifying domestic units, inferring number of co-resident, understanding site function and duration of occupation. These topics are especially interesting when looking at communities of archaic humans and investigating their behavioural variability, traditions, and complexity. The problem is that too often in Prehistory we are comparing data that are not at the same scale or are not the result of similar behaviour. In this presentation, we will focus on two main features that strongly affect the social interpretation of spatial data: the 3D spatial scale of analysis, and the temporal scale of analysis. These features upset the visibility of events and the identification of changes at short-scale of analysis, with important implications in the understanding of adaptive behaviour and long-term cultural dynamics. Looking at the spatial data with a high-resolution approach at Abric Romaní Middle Palaeolithic site, we could investigate how the spatial and temporal scale of analysis affect the archaeological interpretation. At the same time, a long-lasting interdisciplinary research allowed us to enlarge knowledge of behavioural diversity in Neanderthals in terms of use of living space, technological costs, economic strategies, and shared knowledge. We will present results of our researches through case studies along the stratigraphic sequence showing how our approach has changed our vision of Neanderthal variability.
Shell technology was a Mediterranean technical behaviour that showed a peculiar Neanderthal adaptation to littoral areas and reflects the capacity of this human species to exploit a wide range of coastal resources that have traditionally been considered to be specific to Homo sapiens. The diffusion of this technology in Southern peninsular Europe makes it interesting for the investigation of Neanderthal behaviour as it relates to several factors, including the available resources, environment, economy, mobility, technical traditions, and capacity to generate adaptive information. These tools have been disregarded since their first identification in the late 1950s. In last few years, the author has worked on this topic and created a specific terminology to describe these items and a new, multidisciplinary, analytical methodology for analysis. The aim was to study shell technology with regard to the whole techno-complex and to allow comparisons both between sites and between shell and lithic assemblages. A summary of these studies is presented in the current paper, which focuses on four main topics: (i) the importance of experimental protocols in archaeological research, (ii) the relationship between economy and technology, (iii) the flexibility of the whole technical system, and (iv) the mechanisms of technological innovation. The results of these systematic investigations have contributed to the comprehension of the shell as a raw material and have shown the great potential of this new line of research to discuss central questions in Middle Palaeolithic research. New perspectives are provided on the study of Neanderthal behavioural variability, economic and social dynamics, and mechanisms of technical innovation.
Javier Baena Preysler
added 4 research items
El final del Musteriense es uno de los momentos que más interés ha suscitado en la investigación prehistórica de los últimos años. Sin embargo, el análisis del problema está sujeto a condicionantes tanto arqueológicos como epistemológicos. Entre los primeros destaca la significación del registro arqueológico de que disponemos, o la incertidumbre cronológica que afecta a la transición entre el Paleolítico Medio y el Paleolítico Superior. Entre los segundos, nuestra propia comprensión del valor cultural del registro en contextos paleolíticos, o la existencia de una implícita asociación entre especie y cultura. Todo parece indicar, que durante el final del Musteriense se produce una gran variedad de situaciones y procesos de los que sólo conocemos con certidumbre su desenlace.
Francesca Romagnoli
added 2 research items
Ramification is the term used to classify branched productive sequences in which a functional item (the flake) was exploited as a productive item (the core). This technological behaviour was present in Europe and the Levant beginning in the Lower and Early Middle Palaeolithic, but ramified productions were intensely developed in the Late Middle Palaeolithic. Traditionally, ramification has been interpreted as a well-structured behaviour, implying its integration into the provisioning strategies of past humans. This viewpoint has significant implications for the understanding of technological evolution in Neanderthals, suggesting specific cognitive and socio-economic capacities. Ramified procedures were characterised by high flexibility due to the versatile patterns of the core-on-flake and are described in the literature as corresponding to several different knapping concepts and technical procedures. This research aimed to describe the role of ramification in the Late Middle Palaeolithic. We analysed two assemblages from the Abric Romaní site (located in the north-east part of the Iberian Peninsula) characterised by informal, expedient technologies. The focus was on the spatial and temporal fragmentation of the ramified sequences based on the identification of single technical events. The reduction of the scale of analysis and the resulting implementation of temporal resolution of the stone tool assemblages in such expedient contexts allowed us to understand ramification from an innovative perspective, setting aside our bias toward well-defined productive methods associated with preconceived economic and mobility patterns. The results showed that ramification reflected a range of behaviours, implying a variety of planning proficiency, economic strategies and social interactions. This means that ‘ramified production’ is not meaningful unless is linked with a detailed description of human choices and an understanding of temporal and spatial relationships between knapping events. Furthermore, the results showed that, to approach behavioural issues, we as researchers must change our unitary vision of assemblages and enlarge the scope of categories to which we apply that vision. Keywords. Middle Palaeolithic; core-on-flake; lithic technology; spatial analysis; refits; Abric Romaní.
Javier Baena Preysler
added 6 research items
During the last decades, the Cantabrian region has become one of the zones of greater interest in the study of the final Mousterian on the European scale. The particular ecological and physiographic conditions of this region provide an especially attractive picture for analyzing the advanced moments of this period. Almost all the Mousterian levels of Cantabrian sites are dated to the later part of “Würm II”, as occurs in some other European regions. Close to 35 ka BP, the Esquilleu sequence expresses a process of change in archaeological record, and probably in the subsistence strategies. This late occupation extends through the H4 cold event and the interglacial to “Würm III”, between level VIf (34.3 ka BP approx. AMS) and level IV (22.8 ka BP approx. AMS).
On present the research project titled "Proyecto KURETES". The overal objective of this research project focuses on the analysis of early human occupation in the context of paleoecological evolution and quaternary climate changes of the Wester Bectic (souther Spain) and particularly in the karst systems of the Serrania de Ronda. Te main goal of the project is the diachronical and synchronical reconstruction of the lifestyles of the first settlers of this region, obtaining general patterns of resources exploitations, as well as the environmental impact that all this activities generates. Using a multidisciplinary approach we intend to interrelate hte archaeological evidence recovered, within a general context of climate, geo-ecological and socio-cultural changes, analyzed from the records kept in different sequences of Serrania de Ronda caves.
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
Introduction and objectives: Although the Iberian Peninsula is a key area for understanding the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition and the demise of the Neandertals, valuable evidence for these debates remains scarce and problematic in its interior regions. Sparse data supporting a late Neandertal persistence in the Iberian interior have been recently refuted and hence new evidence is needed to build new models on the timing and causes of Neandertal disappearance in inland Iberia and the whole peninsula. In this study we provide new evidence from Los Casares, a cave located in the highlands of the Spanish Meseta, where a Neandertal-associated Middle Paleolithic site was discovered and first excavated in the 1960's. Our main objective is twofold: (1) provide an updated geoarcheological, paleoenvironmental and chronological framework for this site, and (2) discuss obtained results in the context of the time and nature of the last Neandertal presence in Iberia. Methods: We conducted new fieldwork in an interior chamber of Los Casares cave named 'Seno A'. Our methods included micromorphology, sedimentology, radiocarbon dating, Uranium/Thorium dating, palinology, microfaunal analysis, anthracology, phytolith analysis, archeozoology and lithic technology. Here we present results on site formation processes, paleoenvironment and the chronological setting of the Neandertal occupation at Los Casares cave-Seno A. Results and discussion: The sediment sequence reveals a mostly in situ archeological deposit containing evidence of both Neandertal activity and carnivore action in level c, dated to 44,899-42,175 calendar years ago. This occupation occurred during a warm and humid interval of Marine Isotopic Stage 3, probably correlating with Greenland Interstadial 11, representing one of the latest occurrences of Neandertals in the Iberian interior. However, overlying layer b records a deterioration of local environments, thus providing a plausible explanation for the abandonment of the site, and perhaps for the total disappearance of Neandertals of the highlands of inland Iberia during subsequent Greenland Stadials 11 or 10, or even Heinrich Stadial 4. Since layer b provided very few signs of human activity and no reliable chronometric results, and given the scarce chronostratigrapic evidence recorded so far for this period in interior Iberia, this can only be taken as a working hypothesis to be tested with future research. Meanwhile, 42,000 calendar years ago remains the most plausible date for the abandonment of interior Iberia by Neandertals, possibly due to climate deterioration. Currently, a later survival of this human species in Iberia is limited to the southern coasts.
Francesca Romagnoli
added a research item
A quick glance at the evolution of lithic assemblages throughout prehistory highlights a great variability in the time and effort invested in technological activities. This variability has been related to differences in the technological organization of human groups, giving rise to the distinction proposed by Binford between curated and expedient technologies. Curation has been the subject of much discussion with regard to its definition and archaeological implications, but expediency has received comparatively less interest from researchers. Nevertheless, expedient technologies are ubiquitous in the archaeological record and represent a large proportion of prehistoric lithic assemblages, even becoming clearly dominant in certain chronological and/or regional contexts. The aim of this paper is to characterize expedient technologies as low-cost strategies that can be identified in all the stages of the lithic production sequence, from raw material provisioning to tool manufacture. However, we will focus our attention on core reduction technologies, emphasizing the consequences of distinguishing between expedient and formal reduction strategies. Finally, some implications of expediency in archaeological interpretation will be discussed, focusing on the significance of expedient technologies in the cultural ascription of lithic assemblages.
Julià Maroto
added a research item
In the municipality of Serinyà (Pla de l'Estany, Girona), a number of archaeological and palaeontological sites are concentrated, with records ranging from the end of the Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene. Within the Pleisto-cene record, felids (Felidae) are not frequent, but almost all possible species are present: the cave lion (Panthera spelaea), the leopard (Panthera pardus), the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) and the wildcat (Felis silvestris). Only the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) has not yet been identified. The findings are the result both of modern-day and ancient excavations, as well as chance occurrences. The Iberian lynx is the felid that has interacted most with humans and is the only one whose remains are, in certain cases, of a definitely anthropic origin, corresponding to the whole of the Upper Palaeolithic. An anthropic origin in the Upper Palaeolithic might also occasionally apply to the wildcat. By contrast, the large-sized felids such as cave lions and leopards are represented by very few remains, which are non-anthropic in origin.
Francesca Romagnoli
added 2 research items
Neanderthal retouched tools made of marine shells have been reported in several sites in southern peninsular Europe. They are an adaptation to the coastal marine environment. Most important are the non-lithic tools that mark Mediterranean technical behaviour. Tool production is related to human needs, available resources, technical and social knowledge and innovation. The wide diffusion of shell tools make them interesting items for investigating the variability of technology and contact among Neanderthals groups. Although these tools were first identified in the last 1950s, they still have not been considered in sufficient detail. In particular, this technology is handicapped by the lack of detailed description and references for technological analysis. This research proposes an original method aimed at reconstructing the process of production and use of these tools. It was conceived for future comparisons, both between shell tools assemblages and between lithic and shell tools, creating a common vocabulary and a set of analytical principles borrowed from lithic analysis, with which to think systematically beyond single cases. The analytical method is organised in five parts: Taxonomy, Morphotechnical analysis, Technical analysis of the retouched cutting edge, Taphonomy and Experimental archaeology. Thereafter, we present data on the shell tools of Grotta del Cavallo, coming from a recent excavation in Layer L. It is the first detailed case study of Neanderthal non-lithic artefacts, applied to an assemblage with a significant number of well-preserved elements and with a certain stratigraphic context and represents a constructive framework for the knowledge of the local adaptation to this raw material and of variability of Neanderthal technical behaviour.
During Prehistory, shells have been used for subsistence, ornamentation, symbolic behaviour and tools. The investigation of shell tools has been mainly carried out from the viewpoint of functional analysis by investigating use-wear traces to reconstruct the functional value of these artefacts. Little attention has been devoted to investigating the mode of operation of shell tools. The aim of this study was to interpret the "potential of use" of shell tools from a socio-economic perspective. We used an innovative experimental approach to analyse Neanderthal tools made of Callista chione, to this end. Shell technology is well documented along the Mediterranean basin between MIS 5 and MIS 3. We designed and performed functional experiments to analyse the technical performance of the cutting edge of Callista chione tools during use, reproducing the artefacts with comparable procedures and technical gestures identified by previous studies. The experiments have allowed us to create a reference collection for the implementation of use-wear analysis on shell tool assemblages. Our results showed that the mode of operation of shell tools was related to (i) the strength and the microstructure of the shell; (ii) the geometry of the cutting edge; (iii) the ergonomics and the kinetics of the tools; and (iv) the social organisation of tasks. The implications of results for the socio-economic and functional interpretation of Quina scrapers are discussed. This study contributed to the comprehension of the variability of behaviours expressed within Neanderthal techno-complexes. This approach is promising to improve the interpretation of raw material selection and tool design.
Florent Rivals
added a research item
During the Middle Paleolithic period, carnivores and hominids periodically occupied the same areas at different times and each predator generated significant palimpsests, rendering difficult their archaeological interpretation. Teixoneres Cave, a carnivore den site, located in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, demonstrates that it is possible to overcome these problems by using a careful strategy in selecting samples for radiocarbon dating, in order to produce an accurate chronology of the site in question and certainly attest the human occupation.
Florent Rivals
added a research item
The evidence of modern and complex behavior is a key debate in human evolution. Neanderthals have been excluded from this debate from many years, until new insight have provided a new conception of the Neanderthal behavior. Nevertheless, although archaeological data of complex and modern behavior has been inferred, this is not a generalized scenario in Middle Paleolithic sites. In the present paper, we point taphonomical issues as the responsible for this misconservation of cognitive markers. Furthermore, we highlight the action of ursids as one of the agents that has most modified the archaeological record. Nevertheless, bears not just erase behavioral evidences, their action may also generate material realities that can be misinterpreted by archaeologist as Neanderthal behavioral markers. In the present paper we analyze issues related to organized use of space and symbolic behavior such as inhumation practices and graphical expression. We approach this issue from a multidisciplinary research based mainly in actualistic, experimental, paleontological and ethological observations.
Francesca Romagnoli
added a research item
Ethnographic and archaeological evidences showed that hunter-gatherers adaptive capacity was expressed, among other things, by strategy of raw material selection and diversification. The variability of lithic raw materials used included resources such as limestone, quartz, schist, and other highly inhomogeneous and less isotropic stone resources. Furthermore, hunter-gatherers used organic raw materials such as shells, ivory, and bones among others. The study of raw material selection was in many occasions biased by " high-quality " lithic materials such as, for example, obsidian and fine-grained chert. Nevertheless, the concept of what should be considered as " high-quality " could be questioned and investigated taking into account functional, economic, and social parameters of technical behaviour. In this session we intend to highlight the techno-economic behaviour related to those apparently less valuable raw materials, including both biotic and abiotic. Particular attention will be devoted to the meaning of these evidences to understand human-environment interaction, cost-benefits strategies, mobility, and technological concepts. Ethnographic, archaeological, and experimental data are all welcome. Call for abstract is now open and will run until May 15 th , 2017! Abstracts should not exceed 200 words in length each, should be 1.5 spaced with 2.5 cm margins on all sides, and use Verdana font, 12 point. The title should be centred and in bold letters. The full name(s), institutional affiliation(s) and email address(es) of the author(s) should be included as footnotes, left aligned. When you send your abstract, please specify the title of the session and indicate if the presentation will be given online (a distance presentation) or in person (attending the symposium). Abstracts must
Javier Baena Preysler
added 2 research items
The existence of a more or less complex handling technology with the lithic tools during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic is an interesting topic for understanding aspects of the human behavior during these periods. In this work we present a preliminary experimental evaluation of the possible functionality of prehensile area in some of the most representative lithic types of the Mousterian assemblages (dorsal elements and levallois chapeau de gendarme proximal area), in which the morphological comparative analysis of imprints and prehensile tool areas, is compared by 3D analysis procedures. Preliminary results indicate that there is a close relationship between the digital grasp morphologie and the prehensile area of some Mousterian techno-types. We also discussed the relevance and significance of these provisional conclusions in the context of hunter gather communities.
Open Access at https://revistas.uam.es/index.php/arqexp/article/view/7180/7548 -- The existence of a more or less complex handling technology with the lithic tools during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic is an interesting topic for understanding aspects of the human behavior during these periods. In this work we present a preliminary experimental evaluation of the possible functionality of prehensile area in some of the most representative lithic types of the Mousterian assemblages (dorsal elements and levallois chapeau de gendarme proximal area), in which the morphological comparative analysis of imprints and prehensile tool areas, is compared by 3D analysis procedures. Preliminary results indicate that there is a close relationship between the digital grasp morphologie and the prehensile area of some Mousterian techno-types. We also discussed the relevance and significance of these provisional conclusions in the context of hunter gather communities. Key words: Mousterian; experimental archaeology; lithic tools; griping; hafting; 3D. La existencia de una tecnología más o menos compleja en el manejo de los útiles líticos durante el Paleolítico Inferior y Medio es una clave interesante para conocer, en todas sus facetas, a los grupos humanos de estos periodos. En este trabajos presentamos una evaluación experimental de carácter preliminar sobre el posible funcionamiento de las áreas prensiles de algunos de los tipos líticos más representativos de los conjuntos musterienses (elementos de dorso y talones Levallois de chapeau de gendarme) en la que el análisis morfológico de improntas en masillas y en útiles líticos se compara mediante procedimientos de análisis 3D. Los resultados preliminares indican que existe una estrecha relación entre las morfologías de prensión digital y las áreas prensiles de algunos tecno-tipos musterienses. Igualmente discutimos qué significado pueden tener estas conclusiones provisionales. Palabras clave: musteriense; arqueología experimental; útiles líticos; agarre; enmangue; 3D.
Javier Baena Preysler
added a research item
The basins of the Manzanares and Jarama rivers have been connected to human activity since the early Palaeolithic. At the boundary between these rivers the abundance of flint has given place to exploitation and mining activities even in historical times. In recent years, projects related to urban expansion in the southeast of Madrid have brought to light various Palaeolithic deposits associated with workshops and tool production. These sites do not have evidence of river pebbles of quartzite, quartz or sandstone in the immediate environment that could have been used as hammerstones, meaning that hammerstones in these raw materials had to be transported and introduced into the sites from large distances. Given this situation, attention was paid to flint elements that show clear signs of being used as hammerstones. The aim of this study is to test the effectiveness of flint as hammerstone, testing whether the use of this raw material is indifferent to other rock types or if you have limitations or advantages in this regard. An experimental protocol was developed, allowing to observe specific knapping behaviours and justifying them in the archaeological and technological context in which they are located.
Carlos Sánchez-Hernández
added 2 research items
A new approach combining two proxies is presented with the aim to provide valuable data to better understand the patterns of human occupations in Palaeolithic sites. We employed the analysis of tooth microwear patterns combined with an estimation of the seasonality through tooth eruption and wear patterns of the ungulates. Each proxy brings different types of information. The variability in tooth microwear patterns allows for the estimation of the duration of occupational events at a site while the estimation of seasonality permits to situate temporally these events through the year. The research involved four Middle Palaeolithic archaeological levels from Teixoneres Cave (Moià, Spain). The combined analysis allowed for the identification of different patterns of occupation at the site: (1) short seasonal occupations at a single season such as in level IIa at the beginning of the summer and in level IIb in autumn and early winter, (2) repeated seasonal occupations of the site at all seasons such as in the underlying level IIIa, and (3) repeated seasonal settlements at two specific seasons (summer and winter) as in level IIIb. Our results show congruence between the two methods which imply that combined approaches would allow a better knowledge about the occupations that occurred in the cave, in particular about the duration of Neanderthal occupations.
The environmental conditions during the Upper Pleistocene in Europe is characterized by high climatic fluctuations. This is known to influence the behavioural and ecological patterns of faunal communities. Neanderthal behavioural patterns are influenced too by numerous factors, including the stability of the resources to which they have access. Therefore the habits of their prey mainly (ungulates) influence directly Neanderthals behavioural and occupational patterns. The reconstruction of prey’s paleodiet is crucial to identify if the specific features of each area affected Neanderthal behaviour. Paleodiet of ungulates is reconstructed using tooth wear methods (nondestructive proxies). They are referring to two techniques that provide information about dietary traits in ungulates due to the fact they correspond to different temporal scales (Fortelius and Solounias, 2000, Solounias and Semprebon, 2002, Sánchez-Hernández, et al., in press). Microwear which is based in a short period of accumulative wear (hours/days), reflects the last feeding traits in the animal life. On the other hand mesowear that is based in a longer period (months), reflects the accumulative wear through the last seasons of the animal life. The combined use of these methods allows to observe the specific occupational patterns at each site (Rivals, et al., 2015). The objectives are (1) to detect seasonal events of Neanderthals occupation at each site and (2) to estimate the duration of these occupations at two Middle Palaeolithic sites. We selected and compared two different areas in the Iberian Peninsula: Cueva Morín (Cantabrian area) and Cova de les Teixoneres (Mediterranean area) where tooth wear patterns allowed the identification of seasonal and long-term patterns.
Florent Rivals
added an update
Opening of the exhibition "Neanderlife: momentos de la vida Neandertal":
- Madrid: Sala de Exposiciones de la UAM, Edificio Plaza Mayor del Campus de Cantoblanco from January 16 to February 5.
- Moià (Barcelona): Museu de Moià, Casa Rafael Casanova from January 28 to June 5.
 
Florent Rivals
added 3 research items
The reconstruction of Palaeolithic subsistence and settlement systems at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Payre (France) is undertaken through the application of dental wear analyses combined to zooarchaeological, technological, and ecological indicators. Three archaeological levels were investigated. Level D, dated to MIS 5, could correspond to an occupation during the cold season. In levels G and F, dated to MIS 8-7, animals were probably hunted during a warmer season. According to dental wear analyses, it is likely that level F has actually recorded a succession of short occupations, contrary to what is observed in the levels G and D. Those differences in the duration of site occupation are discussed in the light of previous sedimentological, zooarchaeological, and technological studies.
Mesowear and microwear on enamel from 763 teeth of middle and late Pleistocene ungulates were analysed to infer the potential of dental wear analysis of faunal remains as a paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic proxy in relation to climatic changes and diversity of vegetation available in the environment. Fossil localities including levels belonging to two glacial and two interglacial stages were selected in Germany, France, and Spain. At a temporal scale, results indicate that the dietary diversity in ungulates is higher during interglacial phases (MIS 5 and 3) than during pleniglacial phases (MIS 8 and 4). Dietary diversity is concluded to be related to climate-driven vegetation changes which during interglacials lead to increased variety of potential food items available to ungulates. At the geographical scale, during interglacials, changes in diet composition are evident along geographical gradients. The corresponding dietary gradients are proposed to be related to climate and vegetation gradients reflecting more arid climates in the Mediterranean area compared to North-Western Europe. Species consistently represented at all localities investigated are Cervus elaphus (Cervidae, Artiodactyla) and Equus ferus (Equidae, Perissodactyla). C. elaphus populations are found to consistently have less abrasive diets than E. ferus populations but dietary traits of both species varied largely, revealing a significant plasticity in the feeding adaptation of both species. Those traits are concluded to be related to differences in vegetation structure at each locality and complement the evidence that ungulates have broader dietary habits than what is usually assumed.
Characterization of settlement patterns is one of the core concepts in archeological research. The duration of an occupation is usually estimated through zooarchaeology (e.g., density of remains, cementochronology) and is limited by taphonomic processes and sample size. We propose a new application of dental wear methods for estimating the relative duration of hominid settlements in Paleolithic sites. Dental microwear is known to be sensitive to seasonal changes in diet. In this new application we use microwear scratch counts to estimate the variation in the dietary signal of various ungulate species. We propose that this variation is correlated to the duration of site occupation. Each season presents a limited and different set of food resources available in the environment. If animals are sampled only during a specific season (i.e., during a short term occupation) then they would be expected to have a dental wear signal with little variation. On the other hand, a greater diversity of food is available across different seasons. Therefore, if game animals are hunted through various seasons during long occupation periods, then they would be expected to have more variable dental wear. The application of this technique to the Middle Paleolithic site of Arago Cave (France), where various types of occupations occurred, supports this hypothesis. When combined with multidisciplinary studies of archaeological localities (seasonality in particular), this new application of dental wear analysis presents valuable information about hominid settlements and behavior. We contextualize our data with results from lithic and zooarchaeological analyses from Arago. These results reveal the presence of both high and low mobility groups of Homo heidelbergensis throughout the sequence of the Arago Cave.
Florent Rivals