The earliest Acheulean technology at Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain):
Oldest levels of the Galería site (GII Unit)
, Andreu Ollé
, Marina Mosquera
, Isabel Cáceres
, Eudald Carbonell
Laboratorio de Prehistoria, IþDþI, Universidad de Burgos, Pl. Misael Bañuelos s/n, 09001 Burgos, Spain
Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), C/Marcel$lí Domingo s/n (EdiﬁciW3), Campus Sescelades, 43007 Tarragona, Spain
Àrea de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), av. Catalunya, 35, 43002 Tarragona, Spain
Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing (IVPP), China
Available online 5 May 2014
This work presents a study of the oldest Acheulean lithic assemblages from the Galería site, speciﬁcally
the GIIa subunit, which has been dated to c. 503 95 ka, and compares them with the subsequent
subunit in the sequence, GIIb, dated to around 237e269 ka. The main goals of this study are to offer a
detailed technological characterization of the earliest Acheulean presence in Atapuerca and to assess the
elements determining the technological variability in a given site by studying the sequence, evaluating
the concept of variability and deﬁning the aspects which determine it. The Galería site does not display
the features of a living space. It is a cave which was accessed by both humans and carnivores in order to
obtain the animal biomass of the herbivores that had fallen down into the cave through a natural shaft.
The archaeological record is therefore incomplete and fragmented, since it is the product of highly
changeable occupational dynamics. In the lower Galería levels, we identiﬁed the development from an
almost exclusive use of cobbles as blanks for knapping activities in the earliest periods to an increasing
use of ﬂakes. In terms of raw materials, the initially predominant use of Neogene chert and quartzite
evolved towards a more balanced use of six raw materials. Furthermore, there was an increase in the size
of the large tools. After comparing these two Acheulean assemblages, it is important to put them into
context by taking into account a) the signiﬁcance of cobbles and ﬂakes as blanks; b) the signiﬁcance of
cleavers; and c) the use of raw materials such as quartzite, sandstone or chert. These aspects have
traditionally been used to facilitate comparisons of the technologies used within the Iberian Peninsula,
and comparisons between the Acheulean technology of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa and the
European (i.e. trans-Pyrenean) Acheulean technology.
Ó2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Atapuerca represents a continuous sequence of human occu-
pation from 1.2 Ma to 250 ka, with the exception of a gap between
c.900 ka and c.500 ka (represented by levels TD8 and TD8-9 of the
Gran Dolina site) (Mosquera et al., 2013). Prior to 900 ka, the in-
dustry had the technological characteristics of a Late Mode 1 in-
dustry (TD6 remains) and is associated with Homo antecessor. After
500 ka, however, the industry corresponds to Acheulean technol-
ogy (the Galería and Sima de los Huesos sites) and is associated
with Homo heidelbergensis. The gap means that there is no conti-
nuity between the TD6 industries of Gran Dolina and the basall
levels of the Galería site, from Mode 1 to Mode 2 technology at
Atapuerca. The basal levels of the Galería site (the GIIa subunit)
represent the ﬁrst vestiges of H. heidelbergensis’activity in
In this article we ﬁrst present a general view of Galeria’s
geological and stratigraphical sequence, correlating the various
excavated areas and providing contextual information on the fossil
content and the patterns of human occupation identiﬁed to date. In
the second section, we introduce the composition of the site’s
general lithic assemblage. In later sections, we focus our interest on
the technological matters of exploitation methods and conﬁgura-
tion processes, with special attention to the metrical and
morphological characterization of large tools. Having presented the
*Corresponding author. Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució So-
cial (IPHES), C/Marcel$lí Domingo s/n (EdiﬁciW3), Campus Sescelades, 43007 Tar-
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (P. García-Medrano).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/quaint
1040-6182/Ó2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194
data, we ﬁnally assess the Galería record and put it into context,
with reference to other sites on the Iberian Peninsula.
2. Archaeological context
The Sierra de Atapuerca is located on the northern part of the
Iberian Meseta, 15 km east of Burgos (Fig. 1). It is a small Cenozoic
limestone elevation that contains several caves (Pérez-González
et al., 2001). Excavations at the numerous sites in Atapuerca have
yielded a rich archaeological record spanning the last million years
and including several items that have provided key information
regarding our knowledge of Lower and Middle Pleistocene pop-
ulations (Carbonell et al., 1995, 2008; Arsuaga et al., 1997b;
Bermúdez de Castro et al., 1999; Rodríguez et al., 2011; Ollé et al.,
The Galería complex is located in the western side of the Sierra.
The cavity is roughly 14 m high and 18 mwide, developing inwards
for over 12 m. The name Galería is used to refer to the complete
cave system, which is composed of three different areas: a central
area (TG), joined at the northern end to a small chamber (TZ) and
containing a vertical shaft that rises to the surface at the southern
end (TN). The following six main ﬁlling phases have been distin-
guished in Galería (Ollé and Huguet, 1999; Pérez-González et al.,
1999; 2001; Vallverdú, 2002)(Fig. 2 and Table 1).
GI: A sterile unit formed by endokarstic detrital sediment. A
speleothem at the top of this unit has been dated to >350 ka (U/Th)
and 317 60 ka (ESR) (Grün and Aguirre, 1987). The Matuyamae
Brunhes boundary is less than 0.5 m below this (Fig. 2).
GII: All the lithic materials included in this study come from this
Unit, which is the ﬁrst one for which there is an archaeo-
paleontological record. This deposit is separated into two sub-
units by a continuous organic layer. The earliest one, GIIa, contains
evidence of the cave’sﬁrst exposure to the outside. This phase
comprises archaeological levels TG7 to TG9, TN2/TN2A/TN2B to TN4
and TZ-GIId. This unit has been correlated with OIS11 (Aguirre,
2001). TL dates provide even older chronologies: 503 95 ka for
a sample just below Levels TG7-TN2, and 422 55 ka for TG9
(Berger et al., 2008). The most recent ESR-US age data give new
dates of 350e363 ka (Falguères et al., 2013). We can therefore
deﬁne the chronological range of this subunit as between 450 and
The youngest subunit, GIIb, comprises archaeological levels
TG10D, TG10C and TG10B, TN5, TN6 and TN6DA and TZ-GIIb/c. This
subunit has been recently dated by ESR-US at 237e269 ka
(Falguères et al., 2013).
GIII: This unit is an archaeo-paleontological deposit that is also
separated into two subunits. The ﬁrst one, GIIIa, corresponds to the
lower part and comprises levels TG11 (from G.S.U.12 to G.S.U.07),
TG10A, TN7, and TZ-GIIa. Two dates are available for the GIIIa
subunit: a TL date of 466 39 ka (Berger et al., 2008) and an ESR-US
date of 221e280 ka (Falguères et al., 2013). The second subunit,
GIIIb, comprises levels TG11 (from G.S.U.06 to G.S.U.01), TN8, and
TZ-GIII. A stalagmite from TN8 has been dated to 256 33 (ESR)
(Falguères et al., 2001). According to Berger et al. (2008), the upper
part has a TL and IRSL date of 255 26 ka, which agrees with the
recently obtained ESR-US dates for this subunit of 221e269 ka
(Falguères et al., 2013).
GIV to GVI: These represent, respectively, the last inﬁll event
and the edaphic relict formation that sealed the cave. A stalagmite
from the top of GIV has been dated to 177 23, 211 32 ka and
222 31 ka (ESR), and 87 14 ka,118 þ71/49 ka, 135 13 ka and
166 25 ka (U/Th) (Grün and Aguirre, 1987; Pérez-González et al.,
1999; Falguères et al., 2001, 2013). A new date from the base of GIV
has yielded an IRSL date of 185 26 ka (Berger et al., 2008). A
Fig. 1. Location of the Atapuerca sites. On the right, a map of the karst (adapted from Ortega, 2009). In green, the upper level of the karst; in purple, the middle level and in pink, the
lower level. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this ﬁgure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 171
Fig. 2. Chronostratigraphic sequence of Galería and dating table (according to Grün and Aguirre, 1987; Pérez-González et al., 1999; Falguères et al., 2001, 2013; Berger et al., 2008).
Caption: 1) Upper Cretaceous limestone and dolomite (cave wall and roof; 2) Speleothems; 3) Terra rossa; 4) Limestone blocks, cobbles and gravels; 5) Alternance of ﬁne and
medium pebbles and clay loam; 6) Lutites, clay loam; 7) Gravels and clay loam; 8) Bat guano and clay loam; 9) Laminated loamy clay; 10) Laminated sandy clay; 11) Main
stratigraphical unconformities; 12) Main continuous archaeological levels; 13) Allostratigraphic units; 14) Archeo-paleontological levels (Modiﬁed from Falguères et al., 2013).
Correspondence between the units, subunits and identiﬁed levels of the Galería site, detailing the three sectors (TZeTGeTN), the dates and the methods used.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194172
stalagmitic crust at the top of the sequence of TZ has also been
dated to 135 13 ka (U/Th) (Pérez-González et al., 1999).
Of the herbivore and carnivore remains found in the Galería site,
the most abundant species are Megaloceros solilhacus sspp,Hemi-
tragus bonali,Dama dama clactoniana,Cervus elaphus priscus,Bison
sp. (small), Stephanorhinus cf. hemitoechus,Equus ferus,Equus cf.
hydruntinus Ursus deningeri,Panthera leo,Lynx pardinus spelaeus,
Felis sylvestris,Cuon alpinus europaeus,Canis lupus,Vulpes vulpes,
Meles meles,Mustela nivalis, and Mustela putorius (Rodríguez et al.,
2011). Additionally, the remains of micromammals (Rodríguez
et al., 2011) and birds (Sanchez Marco, 1999) are well represented
in the Galería site.
Two human remains, both recovered in TZ, are of particular note
in the Galería’s archaeo-paleontological record. The ﬁrst (from Unit
GII) is a right adult mandible fragment containing M2 and M3
(Bermudez de Castro and Rosas, 1992). The second specimen, from
the base of GIII, is a neurocranial fragment from the lambdatic area
of an adult individual (Arsuaga et al., 1999). As both remains have
features in common with the fossils from the nearby Sima de los
Huesos site (Arsuaga et al., 1997a), less than 2 km away from Galería
(Fig. 2), they can be ascribed to the species H. heidelbergensis.
The Galería assemblage lacks the characteristic features of a
home base, such as a high degree of anthropization on the faunal
remains, abundant and complete lithic reduction sequences or a
certain degree of spatial organization. In addition, the taphonomic
data suggest conditions of waterlogged ground and semi-darkness
that can, to some extent, explain the relatively limited domestic
activities documented. The occupational model thus infers
repeated low intensity visits for the purpose of obtaining the ani-
mals that had fallen into the natural trap created by the TN shaft, in
successful competition with carnivores (Díez and Moreno, 1994;
Huguet et al., 2001; Cáceres, 2002;Ollé et al., 2005;Cáceres et al.,
2010). Human and carnivore access to Galería was sporadic but
repeated. These visits did not correspond to signiﬁcant occupations
but rather to intermittent visits for obtaining animal resources.
These biological agents developed different strategies for obtaining
the animal resources. Hominins visited the site for the purpose of
preparing foodstuffs and transporting them out of the Galería. Cut
marks, principally on axial elements, but also on appendicular el-
ements present in the cave show that humans had primary access
to the carcasses. The limited evidence of bone breakage by humans
(1.2%) corroborates the low level of in situ consumption of food
(Cáceres, 2002). However, carnivores, mainly canids and (more
sporadically) hyaenids or felids, prioritized in situ consumption of
carcasses, and sometimes accessed skeletons abandoned by hom-
inins, as indicated by the evidence of carnivore activity overlapping
human activity (Cáceres, 2002; Ollé et al., 2005;Cáceres et al.,
The activity in Galería correlates with the functionality and
effectiveness of the natural trap. The lower levels -GII Unit- show
higher levels of human and carnivore activity than the upper levels,
where a smaller quantity of animal remains has been documented.
The gradual reduction in the meat supply must have led to a loss of
interest in this cave, which thus became of marginal interest to both
humans and carnivores in Sierra Atapuerca.
According to this model, the Galería site would have been a
complementary settlement area to which hominins in the complex
karst network of the Sierra de Atapuerca made occasional planned
visits (Ollé et al., 2013). This type of strategy suggests that those
groups of hominins had a high degree of knowledge of the envi-
ronment and good planning and organization abilities.
Use-wear studies of the Galería stone tools were mainly
conducted using SEM (Márquez et al., 2001; Ollé, 2003; Ollé
et al., 2005) and yielded valuable functional information.
Although artefacts from all size groups were used, small-sized
ones were predominant. The highest usage rate was identiﬁed
on retouched ﬂakes, regardless of the raw material. The type of
action identiﬁed is closely related to butchery. Most of the use-
wear traces result from cutting animal tissue, and appear on
low- and medium-angled edges. There is also evidence of hide
scraping on the more abrupt edges. Woodworking has been
documented at all archaeological levels, but always less
frequently than butchery.
The lithic technology from the Galería site has been studied on
several previous works (Mosquera,1995; Márquez,1998; Carbonell
et al., 1999;Ollé, 2003; Ollé et al., 2005;Terradillos, 2010; García-
Medrano, 2011; Terradillos-Bernal and Rodríguez, 2012;García-
Medrano et al., 2013; Ollé et al., 2013). Fieldwork has been con-
ducted over an extended period, speciﬁcally from 1981 to 1996 and
from 2001 to 2010. This work presents all the ﬁnds from the GII
Unit, and covers the whole area of the Galería site (including the
three sectors, TZeTGeTN). We will also make a brief reference to
the handaxe recovered at Sima de los Huesos (Carbonell et al.,
2003; Carbonell and Mosquera, 2006).
The main aim of this study is to describe and interpret the lithic
remains found in the GIIa subunit, which includes the following
levels: GIId-TZ; TG7, TG8, TG9; TN2A, TN2B, TN3, TN4). We will then
compare that assemblage with the GIIb subunit, which includes the
immediately higher levels: GIIb-TZ, GIIc-TZ; TG10D, TG10C, TG10B;
TN5, TN6, TN6DA (Ollé and Huguet, 1999). The Galería’sinﬁll was
deposited through several entrances. Within each entrance,
different synchronically and diachronically related levels have been
identiﬁed. In some cases, the relationships between levels have
been considerably erosive, which makes the levels appear and
disappear (Fig. 3). This makes it difﬁcult to consider each one
independently. We have plotted the faunal and lithic remains found
at the Galería site in order to understand the stratigraphical re-
lationships between levels (García-Medrano, 2011).
The Atapuerca lithic assemblage has been analysed using the
Logical Analytical System, LAS (Carbonell et al., 1983, 1992, 1999;
Rodríguez, 2004). In this study, we combine different methodo-
logical approaches in order to complement the LAS’processual and
not typological view. Knapping methods are deﬁned by means of
faciality (number of ﬂaked faces), direction of removals and
arrangement of striking platforms. The methods considered can be
summarized as follows (Ollé et al., 2013):
- Unipolar longitudinal: knapping is typically performed on a
single surface, and the ﬂake scars run unidirectionally along the
thickness of the blank. At Atapuerca, this ﬂaking method was
very commonly used on pebbles and cobbles, leading to prod-
ucts with a signiﬁcant amount of cortex on their sides.
- Multifacial multipolar: this strategy is based on continuously
creating surfaces that will be used as both striking and removal
platforms. The angles between these surfaces tend to be close to
- Centripetal: this can be unifacial or bifacial, although the latter
dominates. It involves recurrent knapping around the edge of a
- Large tool preconﬁguration: here a given morphology is
conﬁgured on the blank’surface before the ﬂake is produced, in
order to guarantee a speciﬁc technical feature in the future
The following size classes are used to provide a basic metric
description: micro (20 mm), small (21e60 mm), medium (61e
100 mm) and large (>100 mm) (Carbonell et al., 1999).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 173
Having characterized the unknapped cobbles, cores and ﬂakes,
we will then make a more detailed study of the large tools, due to
the signiﬁcance of these tools in Acheulean contexts. In order to
better address this goal, the description of the conﬁguration
sequence deﬁned by the British research tradition (Newcomer,
1971; Wenban-Smith, 1989; Wenban-Smith and Ashton, 1998)
has been adapted. This method establishes several phases in the
shaping process: Test, Rough-out, Shaping and Finishing. The tools
have been assigned to a stage on the basis of their technological
characteristics, such as the amount of cortex, the distribution, size
and shape of the removals, the use of a hard or soft-hammer or a
combination of both, the type of retouch, the angle between the
two faces of the tool, etc. During the Shaping phase, the objects
receive their general morphology from large removals which
considerably modify the original bases, so the conﬁguring affects
30e50% of the object. The Finishing phase implies more attention
to edges and surfaces, and the conﬁguring affects 50e100% of the
object. Here, we are referring to the standardized large cutting
tools, such as bifaces, including both handaxes and cleavers.
The shaping processes have been studied, focussing on faciality,
percentage of perimeter modiﬁed by conﬁguring, extent, direction
and delineation (Rodríguez, 2004). However, to give a more
detailed description of the shaping strategies, we have counted the
number of scars per face and deﬁned ten models of large tools,
depending on where the presence of cortex was documented
This basic analysis has been completed by the use of several
measurements that have traditionally been used in the study of the
variability of large tools (Fig. 5)(Bordes, 1961; Roe, 1968, 1981).
These measurements complement the information about mor-
phologies and variations in size and shape (García-Medrano, 2011).
These measurements have been combined into three main indices:
Elongation (ratio of total length to maximum width), Reﬁnement
(ratio of maximum width to maximum thickness) and Planform
(ratio of total length to base length). To complete our analysis of
the technological strategies carried out inside the cave, we have
performed reﬁts and spatial analyses, which will be explained
4.1. Raw materials and assemblage composition
Seven main types of raw materials were identiﬁed in the Gale-
ría’s archaeological record, all of which are available in the direct
surroundings of Sierra de Atapuerca, within a 2e5 km radius of the
sites (García-Antón et al., 2002; García-Antón and Mosquera 2007.
Neogene chert is the most abundant material in the Atapuerca re-
cord. This rock was formed during the Astaracian (Middle
Miocene). It is extremely abundant in the Atapuerca area, and is
available in the form of large blocks around the caves. It has a
cryptocrystalline texture and ﬂakes easily, although the irregular-
ities in the texture and quality, even within the same blank, limit its
workability. Cretaceous chert, from the Middle-Late Turonian, ap-
pears in two areas less than 2 km from the site: inside the karst, and
in the highest part of the Sierra. This material, also cryptocrystal-
line, is more homogeneous and hence easier to ﬂake, but of limited
use due to the small size of its nodules (less than 15 cm). There were
some cases in which the variety of chert (Neogene or Cretaceous)
could not be deﬁned. This was either because the chert has been
considerably modiﬁed, or in other cases the specimens show no
features that are clear enough to deﬁne them.
The other principal materials such as quartzite, quartz,
sandstone and schist are of Palaeozoic origin, and appear in the
form of medium to small cobbles. The main potential source
areas of these materials are the Quaternary Arlanzón river
terraces, but speciﬁc varieties of quartzite and quartz can also
be found in formations such as Utrillas facies, exposed a few
km from the sites. These materials ﬂake easily to moderately
Fig. 3. Longitudinal projection of all the faunal and lithic remains from the Galería site and detail of the ground. The GIIa levels have been marked in grey and the GIIb levels have
been marked in pink. The remains plotted come from Line G of the TG and TN areas and Line N of the TZ area (Modiﬁed from García-Medrano, 2011: 72). (For interpretation of the
references to colour in this ﬁgure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194174
easily, depending on the homogeneity and grain size of each
Finally, the limestone comes from the Cretaceous substrate of
the Sierra. It appears in all formats (mainly in blocks but also in
cobbles), with ﬁne to coarse grain sizes, and with limited ﬂaking
The initial period of Acheulean technology in Atapuerca (the
GIIa subunit in the Galería site) involved the use of six raw mate-
rials, of which Neogene chert (around 50%) and quartzite (33.57%)
were the most heavily used. The group of materials of secondary
importance includes sandstone (8.3%) and Cretaceous chert (6.5%).
The third group includes materials with a marginal presence, such
as limestone and quartz (Table 2).
Flakes are the main structural category (52.7%), followed by
shaped tools (24%) and unknapped cobbles (here we refer to all
those cobbles undoubtedly carried to the cave, with our without
marks; 18%). The small tools were basically made of Neogene chert
and quartzite. The large tools are, in more than the 58% of cases,
made of quartzite. There are very few cores (2.53%), and they are
basically made of chert (Neogene or Cretaceous) (Table 2).
However, the GIIa subunit has a unique characteristic, which is
not found in the rest of the Galería site or in other Atapuerca sites.
Fig. 5. Measurements taken from handaxes and cleavers, expressed as name and initials. Modiﬁed from García-Medrano (2011).
Fig. 4. Models of large tools, depending on where the cortical surface was located. Type 0 is non-cortical and Type 9 is completely cortical (he cortical surface is shown in grey and
the non-cortical part is shown in white).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 175
This is the substantial use of cobbles for knapping: in over 50% of
cases, the conﬁguration was produced on cobbles (García-Medrano,
The GIIb subunit represents a major change. Firstly, there was a
diversiﬁcation in terms of the raw materials used. Quartzite was
used less, dropping to 18.51%, and sandstone, Cretaceous chert and
limestone were used more extensively, increasing to 9.62%, 8.41%
and 7.21% respectively, as measured by the number of remains
(Table 3). In this subunit, the cores were not only knapped of chert
but also of quartzite. Secondly, the exclusive use of quartzite for
making handaxes and cleavers had come to an end, and a combi-
nation of 6 raw materials were used, of which sandstone was most
frequently used (36.84%). For the small toolkit a wider variety of
raw materials were used, and sandstone represents 24% of the
assemblage. Thirdly, knapping was performed on large ﬂakes,
which required considerable planning of the knapping sequences
and a different level of resource management.
4.2. Exploitation processes
Unknapped cobbles have a signiﬁcant presence in these levels of
the Galería site. In the GIIa subunit, they represent the 18.41% and
over 88% are quartzite cobbles. In the GIIb subunit, these continue
to be signiﬁcant, 11.54% of the whole sample. In this case, most of
the cobbles are quartzite (over 60%), but there is an increased
presence of both limestone (25%) and sandstone cobbles (over 12%).
In both subunits, most cobbles show marks, or associated marks
and fractures, resulting from percussion activities.
Two trends are observed when the length and thickness of
cobbles are compared with the dimensions of cores and large tools
(both quartzite and sandstone). Firstly, the unknapped are 45e
120 mm long and 10e70 mm thick. Secondly, the large tools made
of quartzite and sandstone are 60e170 mm long and 15e60 mm
thick. The dimensions of cores are very similar to those of the larger
cobbles (Fig. 6). In a small number of cases, therefore, the largest
cobbles could have been used as improvised cores. These are at a
very early stage of the knapping process and were basically
exploited using longitudinal methods (García-Medrano, 2011). This
aspect does not explain the signiﬁcant accumulation of cobbles
inside the cave. These have traditionally been interpreted as cob-
bles collected to provide for possible lithic knapping or bone
breakage requirements (Mosquera, 1995).
However, the discrepancy between the 90% of the unknapped
cobbles’shapes and sizes and the dimensions of the large tools and
cores (Fig. 6) indicate that these cobbles were not stored to be
exploited. These show a tendency to spherical shapes and the large
tools are longer and have ﬂatter bases. Having the same length as a
large tool, the cobble is between 15 and 20 mm thicker than it. In
addition, most of the cobbles have percussion marks and fractures
on their surfaces (Fig. 7), and the typology of these marks is clearly
related to the use of those cobbles as hammerstones. Therefore, in
spite of the scarcity of reﬁttings and the fragmentation of the
operational chains, there must have been more knapping activity
inside the cave than has been documented.
None of the subunits contained many cores, and in GIIa, there
were only 7 (2.53%). The production techniques were basically
carried out on Neogene and Cretaceous chert cores. In 60% of cases,
cobbles were used as blanks, with Cretaceous chert cobbles pre-
dominating (Fig. 8). The Unipolar Longitudinal method was most
commonly used, and it was applied to Neogene chert and quartzite
cores. Multipolar methods were used on the small Cretaceous chert
cobbles, focused to the production of small and thick ﬂakes. These
would, in most cases, be retouched to produce small tools.
All the lithic remains from the GIIa subunit, by raw materials and six general categories of tools. We found 55 indeterminate pieces of Neogene chert, which have been not
included due to their poor conservation status and the loss of any technological characteristics. We have not counted these remains.
Cobbles Cores Big tools Small tools Flakes Fragments Total
Sandstone 5 9.80 ee 317.65 35.88 12 8.22 ee 23 8.30
Limestone ee ee 15.88 ee 10.68 120.00 31.08
Quartzite 45 88.24 114.29 10 58.82 14 27.45 23 15.75 ee 93 33.57
Quartz 1 1.96 ee e e 11.96 ee ee 20.72
Cretac.Ch. ee 342.86 ee 611.76 96.16 ee 18 6.50
Neog.Ch. ee 342.86 317.65 27 52.94 101 69.18 480.00 138 49.82
Total 51 18.41 72.53 17 6.14 51 18.41 146 52.71 51.81 277
Bold represents the total number of tool category and italics for the % of this total with respect to the global total of the assemblage.
Lithic remains from the GIIb subunit, by raw materials and six general categories types of tools. Wefound 260 indeterminate pieces of Neogene chert; in most cases, they were
indeterminate due to their poor conservation status. We have not used these remains.
Cobbles Cores Big tools Small tools Flakes Fragments Total
Sandstone 6 12.50 19.09 736.84 54.95 19 8.26 228.57 40 9.62
Limestone 12 25.00 19.09 15.26 54.95 10 4.35 114.29 30 7.21
Quartzite 29 60.42 436.36 421.05 16 15.84 24 10.43 342.86 77 18.51
Quartz 1 2.08 ee ee 32.97 83.48 ee 15 3.61
Schiste ee ee ee e e 20.87 ee 20.48
Indet Ch. ee ee 15.26 ee ee ee 10.24
Cretac.Ch. ee 218.18 15.26 11 10.89 21 9.13 ee 35 8.41
Neog. Ch. ee 327.27 526.32 61 60.40 146 63.48 114.29 216 51.92
Total 48 11.54 11 2.64 19 4.57 101 24.28 230 55.29 71.68 416
Bold represents the total number of tool category and italics for the % of this total with respect to the global total of the assemblage.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194176
The GIIb subunit (11 cores, 2.64%) represents an important
change in exploitation techniques. In 50% of cases, the blanks are
ﬂakes. Additionally, the range of raw materials used increases from
three types to ﬁve, with the appearance of sandstone and lime-
stone (Fig. 8). The techniques are the same, but they are performed
differently: the centripetal strategy appears to have been the most
common technique and it was applied to cobbles or ﬂakes and to
very different materials such as sandstone, quartzite and Neogene
chert. The exploitation in the Galería site therefore started with a
simple use of raw materials with more expeditive methods,
independently of the raw material. The GIIb subunit, however,
shows a high level of knowledge of knapping techniques and raw
The cores exploited by longitudinal methods are in an early
stage of the exploitation process, but those knapped by centripetal
and multipolar methods are in a very advanced stage. Most of them
have been introduced to the cave after being knapped outside,
which indicates a high degree of mobility and probably an “outside-
inside-outside”route. In addition, the physical characteristics of
cores and ﬂakes are very different in terms of raw material quality.
The products show more regular textures and in general a better
workability than the cores. This implies that either the best quality
cores were brought into the cave and then transported back
outside, leaving the products inside after their use, or the best
quality ﬂakes were selected to be brought into the cave and then
left inside it.
However, we have documented three reﬁtting groups of pro-
duction sequences from the GIIa subunit (A, B and C in Fig. 9) and
four from the GIIb subunit (D, E, F and G of Fig. 9)(García-
Medrano, 2011). The Cretaceous chert core (A) has been exploi-
ted by the multipolar method and the Neogene chert (E), by a
longitudinal method. Both are exhausted. The quartzite and
sandstone cores (F, G), however, exploited by the centripetal
method, are in a medium stage in the production. They do not
Fig. 6. Metrical comparison of the total length and the total thickness of unknapped cobbles and quartzite and sandstone cores and large tools.
Fig. 7. Quartzite hammerstones from the GIIa subunit. A,ATA
094 TN2B F22, 2; B,ATA
095 TN2A F28, 9; C,ATA
095 TG7 H21, 1; D,ATA
095 TN2B H22, 2.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 177
indicate long knapping sequences but do prove the existence of
knapping activities inside the cave, mainly aimed at providing for
immediate needs, by detaching ﬂakes that were probably used to
meet these immediate needs.
In both subunits, the ﬂakes are basically Neogene chert,
quartzite and Cretaceous chert. In most cases, these are in micro
and small formats and they are basically the result of longitudinal
and centripetal methods. The ones resulting from longitudinal
methods have cortical platforms and only one or two previous re-
movals. They are quadrangular. The ﬂakes derived from centripetal
cores have non-cortical and bifaceted platforms and a considerable
variety of planforms. In addition, we have documented three large
Neogene chert ﬂakes and one limestone ﬂake, over 100 mm long
(Fig. 10), which were probably brought into the cave in order to
make large tools. This implies that the original block was prepared
in order for these ﬂakes to be detached in the desired manner. In
GIIb, the presence of medium-sized ﬂakes is greater, both because
centripetal techniques were used more extensively and due to the
blanks being larger. Additionally, new materials appear, such as
limestone, schist and quartz. No schist or quartz cores have been
found, so these ﬂakes must have been detached from cores outside
There is a selection of small and medium ﬂakes to be retouched,
basically Neogene chert and quartzite. This retouch process was
mainly used to make marginal scrapers and denticulated edges
(Tables 4 and 5).
4.3. Large tools’shaping processes
The lower levels of the Galería Complex (GIIa subunit) contained
a group of 17 large tools (6.14%) including choppers, chopping-
tools, handaxes and cleavers. Over 70% were made from cobbles,
of which around 60% were made of quartzite (Table 2), and the rest
in sandstone and Neogene chert (Table 6). These proportions are
exclusively of these lower levels of the Galería site. Subunit GIIb,
however, represents an important change. Firstly, the presence of
large tools drops from 25% to 16%, and that of small tools increases
from 75% to 84%. Secondly, the conﬁguration on ﬂake amounts to
50%. Thirdly, quartzite is replaced by sandstone as the material
most frequently used for large tools (Table 7).
The large tools made from cobbles represent a wide variety of
tool types, such as handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping-
tools. On the other hand, the only large tools made from ﬂakes
were handaxes and cleavers. Cobbles were therefore used inten-
sively, ﬂexibly and expeditiously, while large ﬂakes were system-
atically used to produce more standardized large tools (Fig. 10).
Additionally, the conﬁguration strategies on ﬂakes were more
highly developed and deﬁned than those used on cobbles.
The choppers and chopping-tools retain most of the original
shape of the cobble and its cortical portion. The conﬁguration is
aimed at producing convex and irregular distal edges by means of
large removals, obtained by hard-hammer percussion. Compared
Small tools from the GIIa subunit by raw material and type.
Marginal Denticulates Notch Point Scraper Endscraper Indet. Total
Sandstone ee e e ee 133.33 266.67 ee ee 35.88
Quartzite 2 14.29 17.14 214.29 214.29 535.71 17.14 17.14 14 27.45
Quartz e e e e ee ee 1100.00 ee ee 11.96
Cret.Ch. e e e e ee ee 466.67 233.33 ee 611.76
Neog.Ch. 1 3.70 11 40.74 13.70 622.22 311.11 27.41 311.11 27 52.94
Total 3 5.88 12 23.53 35.88 917.65 15 29.41 59.80 451
Italic represents the value of tool type per raw material, we show in italics the % with respect to the total of small tools per raw material.
Small tools from the GIIb subunit by raw material and type.
Marginal Denticulates Notch Point Scraper Endscraper Indet. Total
Sandstone ee 240.00 ee ee 360.00 ee ee54.95
Limestone 2 40.00 120.00 120.00 ee 120.00 ee ee54.95
Quartzite 3 18.75 425.00 212.50 16.25 531.25 16.25 ee 16 15.84
Quartz 1 33.33 133.33 ee ee 133.33 ee ee32.97
Cret.Ch. 5 45.45 436.36 19.09 ee 19.09 ee ee11 10.89
Neog.Ch. 18 29.51 17 27.87 23.28 46.56 15 24.59 ee 58.20 61 60.40
Total 29 28.71 29 28.71 65.94 54.95 26 25.74 10.99 5 101
Italic represents the value of tool type per raw material, we show in italics the % with respect to the total of small tools per raw material.
Fig. 8. Cores by raw materials (grey) and by generation (black). GIIa cores are on the left; GIIb cores are on the right.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194178
with the other types of large tools, these tools are signiﬁcantly
smaller. Their presence seems to correspond to immediate use of
the cobbles available in the cave. Their presence drops from 30% of
large tools in GIIa to 10% in GIIb.
The presence of cleavers in these base levels of the Galería
complex is signiﬁcant and varied, increasing from the lower to the
upper levels. In GIIa they therefore represent over 23% of the large
tools, and all are made of quartzite. In the GIIb subunit however,
they account for almost 37% of the large tools, and are made of
sandstone, quartzite or Neogene chert. In general, equal numbers of
cleavers were made from ﬂakes and from cobbles. In this analysis,
we have considered the “classic”cleavers made from ﬂakes (Tixier,
1956) together with those made from cobbles, paying more
attention to the ﬁnal tool outline (namely the transversal distal
edge) and to their hypothetical use than to the reduction sequence
required to obtain the blank.
These tools reﬂect a wide range of variability and differences
both in size and in type of conﬁguration. They correspond to Types
0, 1, 2 and 5 (Tixier, 1956). The largest ones have been made from
large cobbles and the smallest from small ﬂakes, retaining a high
proportion of the original cortex in their medium-proximal portion
(cleaver made from a cobble, B in Fig. 21; cleavers made from ﬂakes,
C and D in Fig. 21). The Neogene chert cleavers are made from large
ﬂakes, with lateral striking platforms, and with a clear tendency to
have quadrangular shapes and an unretouched transversal edge (B
and C of Fig. 23). Some quartzite cleavers are examples of the
tendency to create the transverse edge by means of a large removal
(Fig. 11). Some small, plane and marginal scars can be identiﬁed on
this removal. These are probably related to the ﬁnal use of these
instruments. The concave proﬁle of the distal edge may also be the
product of a loss of material due to the tool being used. This has
been noticed in some of the cleavers studied for use-wear traces, in
which clear evidence of forceful hitting actions (Fig. 11.1) has been
recorded. This characteristic edge fracturing points to chopping
actions, although it is difﬁcult to identify the worked material
because the fracturing process itself restricts the formation of more
diagnostic wear features as rounding and polishes (Fig. 11.2)
(Ollé, 2003). We therefore seem to have evidence of the last
moments in the useful life of these tools, after which they would
have been abandoned inside the cave.
Handaxes are the commonest type of large tool found in both
subunits. In GIIa they represent more than 45% of the large tools. In
over 60% of cases, they were made from quartzite or sandstone
cobbles (B, E and G of Fig. 20); the rest were made from ﬂakes of
Neogene chert or quartzite (A, C, D and F of Fig. 20). In the GIIb
subunit, these proportions change, since over 60% of the handaxes
were made using ﬂakes (A, B, C, D and H of Fig. 22), and they were
made from a wider variety of raw materials. Handaxes clearly made
from cobbles represent only 10%, while in 30% of cases the shaping
process was so extensive that it has been impossible to identify the
type of blank (E, F, and G of Fig. 22).
All the handaxes found in the Galería base levels belong to the
ﬁnal phases in this operational chain: the Shaping and Finishing
phases. There are no rough-outs or pre-shapes, although some of
the large Neogene chert ﬂakes were probably intended to be used
for making these large tools (Fig. 10). The large tools from the
Galería base levels are ﬁnished tools (García-Medrano, 2011). In
the GIIa subunit, handaxes mostly belong to the Shaping phase.
During this phase, the tools receive their general morphology from
large removals and short operative chains. The conﬁguring affects
30e50% of the object, retaining an important part of the blank’s
shape. In GIIb, however, the handaxes mainly belong to the Fin-
ishing phase. This phase implies more attention paid to edges and
surfaces, and the conﬁguring affects 50e100% of the object. The
shapes of the blanks have therefore been more extensively
Within the GII Unit, there is little evidence of several phases of
retouching and, as mentioned above, retouching was mainly
effected by means of hardhammer percussion. Overall, this has
resulted in wavy edges and a certain lack of attention, so it is often
possible to identify the general features of the original blank: a
signiﬁcant part of the cortex in one or both faces, the original
thickness of the base, or the original ventral face in the case of a
ﬂake. The fact that no special attention was paid to speciﬁc details
points to the idea that the general shape of these tools was the main
goal of the production processes.
Large tools from the GIIa subunit by type of tool (Handaxe in the Shaping phase, Handaxe in the Finishing phase, Cleaver and Chopper), type of blank and raw material
(sandstone, limestone, quartzite and Neogene chert). The percentages for each group are shown in italics.
Shaped tools from cobble Shaped tools from ﬂake Total
Sandstone Limestone Quartzite Neo. Ch. Total Quartzite Neo.Ch. Total
Handaxe Shap. 3 e1e433.33 12360.00 741.18
Handaxe Fin. ee1e18.33 eeee15.88
Cleavers ee2e216.67 2e240.00 423.53
Choppers e131541.67 eeee529.41
Total 3 1 7 1 12 32517
25.00 8.33 58.33 8.33 70.59 60.00 40.00 29.41
Large tools from the GIIb subunit by type of tool (Handaxe in the Shaping phase, Handaxe in the Finishing phase, Cleaver and Chopper), type of blank and raw material
(sandstone, limestone, quartzite and Neogene chert). The percentages for each group are shown in italics.
Indet blank Shaped tools from cobble Shaped tools from ﬂake Total
Limestone Quartzite Cretac.Ch. Indet Ch. Total Sandstone Quartzite Total Sandstone Limestone Neog.Ch. Total
Handaxe Shap. eeeeee1e116.67 111333.33 421.05
Handaxe Fin. 1 1 1 e375.00 eeee1e2333.33 631.58
Cleavers eee1125.00 21350.00 e12333.33 736.84
Choppers eeeeee2e233.33 eeeee210.52
Total 1 1 1 1 4516225919
25.00 25.00 25.00 25.00 21.05 83.33 16.67 31.58 22.22 22.22 55.56 47.37
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 179
4.3.1. Morphological variability within the large tools sample
Morphological variability among handaxes and cleavers has
been explained as due to a variety or combination of factors. The
“raw material model”explains that the original blank shape de-
termines the ﬁnal morphology of the tools (White, 1995; Ashton
and White, 2003). The “reduction sequence model”describes
how successive reduction stages explain the morphological varia-
tions of stone tools in the course of the sequence (Dibble, 1995;
McPherron, 2006). A greater distal length is therefore linked to
triangular/pointed shapes. On the other hand, a shorter distal
length must be associated with oval shapes, due to the more
extensive conﬁguration process or to re-sharpening. Other authors,
however, state that these differences can simply be explained by
cultural traditions (Boëda, 1995; Sharon, 2008).
Roe (1968) was one of the ﬁrst researchers to deﬁne handaxe
types in terms of the shapes of the large tools: the pointed, oval and
cleaver traditions. These morphologies were deﬁned by the posi-
tion of the maximum width with respect to the total length. Roe
found no sites in Great Britain where the cleaver was the pre-
dominant type of tool. The dichotomy between the oval and
pointed traditions was therefore the focus of the British Acheulean
Taking into account Roe’s morphological deﬁnitions, the bifaces
from the Galería base levels are mostly oval in shape (Fig. 12) and
there is a strong homogeneity throughout the archaeological
sequence (García-Medrano, 2011). A considerable number of
Fig. 10. Large Neogene chert ﬂakes from the GIIa subunit (A: Ata095 TN2B E27,1; B:
Ata095 TN5 F28, 1). Modiﬁed from García-Medrano (2011).
Fig. 9. Reﬁttings of the production sequences from the GIIa subunit (A: Ata093 TN2B E27,1 eAta093 TN2B E27,2 eAta093 TN2B E27,3 eAta093 TN2B E27,4 eAta093 TN2B E27,5; B:
Ata095 TN2B G25,1 eAta095 TN2B G25,2; C: Ata093 TN2B H23,1 eAta094 TN2B F22,6) and the GIIb subunit (D: Ata092 TN5 F25,48 eAta093 TN5 E24,6; E: Ata092 TN5 G26,72 eAta092
TN5 G26,74; F: Ata092 TG10B G18,78 eAta092 TG10B G20,125; G: Ata092 TG10B F19,334 eAta092 TG10B G20,19).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194180
handaxes present convex proximal butts. In the case of tools made
from cobbles, the striking platforms are usually cortical. In general,
these tools have narrow outlines and a clear tendency to pointed
distal ends. The handaxes having pointed shapes are also the widest
and have the shortest butts. There is an invariable tendency to
thicker, elongated tools, but in the most recent GII levels there is a
less variability in shape and the assemblage becomes more ho-
mogenous (Fig. 13).
There is a signiﬁcant increase in the large tool dimensions from
the GIIa to the GIIb assemblages but, as in the case of the shapes, the
sample from the GIIb subunit is more homogenous (Fig. 14). In the
GIIa subunit, the pointed handaxes are the shortest. The “reduction
sequence”pattern does not, therefore, seem to work. Nevertheless,
at that time the degree of conﬁguring was very limited and the
knappers aimed to conﬁgure the middle-distal portion and
retained the original morphology of the proximal end. The results
from the GIIb subunit were very different. The pointed handaxes
are the longest, and the oval ones are the shortest. Thus, when the
conﬁguring process is more intense (Fig. 15), the “reduction
sequence”model works. If we compare the percentage of the
Fig. 11. Two quartzite cleavers from the GIIa subunit and detail of the distal end (A: Ata094 TN2B F22 n.3; B: Ata095 TN2B G28 n.4). In green, a large removal to produce the
transverse edge and in blue, scars probably produced by using the tool. 1) Quartzite cleaver (A) used by its transversal edge in a chopping action against a non identiﬁed material.
Also the side edges (especially the right one) show evidences of use (dotted line). 2) Wear traces recorded under the SEM, in form of edge rounding and only initial polish of the
quartz crystals. Asterisk (*) shows the location of the SEM micrographs. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this ﬁgure legend, the reader is referred to the web version
of this article.)
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 181
Fig. 12. Morphologies of bifaces from the base levels of the Galería site, in relation to the location of the maximum width. From left to right, cleaver type, oval type and pointed type.
All the handaxes and the cleavers, including the Sima de los Huesos’handaxe have been taken into consideration.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194182
surface affected by knapping, the GIIa subunit is characterized by
tools for which up to 60% of the surface has been affected by the
shaping processes. In the GIIb, however, most of the large tools have
had between 40% and 100% of their surfaces transformed by the
A similar pattern of conﬁguration has been found in both sub-
units. The knapping is concentrated on the middle-distal end
(Fig. 16). This fact has also been corroborated through the use-wear
studies. The analysed handaxes concentrate the use-wear traces
along the lateral edges, especially on their end portions. The
proximal ends, more abrupt, less shaped and quite often presenting
cortical surfaces, seem to have worked as prehensile surfaces. The
actions identiﬁed are those of cutting, and when the wear features
are developed enough, the worked material has been identiﬁed as
soft animal matter (clearly pointing to butchery activities) (Fig. 17).
Most of the variability in terms of intensity of shaping appears in
GIIa, where the conﬁguring strategies are less well-deﬁned and are
characterized by a limited number of scars, arbitrarily distributed
over the surface. In the GIIb subunit, however, the greater homo-
geneity in terms of shapes and the more extensive shaping pro-
cesses are accompanied by an increase in the number of scars per
face. The GIIa assemblage presents up to 20 scars per face, and in
GIIb the tools have been conﬁgured with between 5 and 50 scars in
most cases. An exception was found in the GIIa subunit, a quartzite
handaxe-pick (Fig. 20) which is in the Finishing stage of conﬁgu-
ration. It represents a very extensive conﬁguration, restricted to the
middle-distal part and especially on the edges.
The differences between handaxes in the Shaping and Finishing
stages are a constant feature of the GII unit. The handaxes in the
Shaping stage show a smaller surface area affected by the knapping
process and fewer scars (between 5 and 30) than the handaxes in
the Finishing stage (between 10 and 70) (Fig.18). On the tools made
from cobbles, most of these scars are related to the process of
conﬁguring with the tool, but when the blanks were large ﬂakes of
Neogene chert, there are many scars that actually correspond to the
previous task of detaching the ﬂake. In spite of these technological
Fig. 14. Metrical Comparison between the handaxes in their three different morphological groups (Roe, 1968): Pointed, Cleaver and Oval Morphological Types. In blue, Tip Length;
in green, Total Length; in grey, Maximum Width. The box plots diagram is essentially a summary plot based on the median, quartiles, and extreme values. Boxes represent the
interquartile range that contains 50% of the values (the range from the 25th tothe 75th percentile). The line across the box indicates the median. The whiskers represent maximum
and minimum values, excluding outliers (which are indicated by circles, at least 1.5 times the interquartile range) and extremes (indicated by asterisks, at least 3 times the
interquartile range). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this ﬁgure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
Fig. 13. Metrical Indices. The horizontal axis represents the number of cases (N), and
the vertical axis represents the values of the indices: Reﬁnement (ratio of maximum
width to maximum thickness, shown as a grey line) and Elongation (ratio of total
length of tools to maximum width, shown as a black line). The red lines represent the
midpoint in the boundaries of the indices (1.5, in the case of Elongation and 2.35 in the
case of Reﬁnement). These ﬁgures include only handaxes and cleavers, and exclude
choppers and chopping-tools. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this
ﬁgure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 183
Fig. 15. Percentage of surface (dorsal on the left, and ventral face on the right) affected by the conﬁguration. The data is shown by subunit (GIIa above and GIIb below), and by faces.
Fig. 16. Biface Models (from 0 to 9, taking into account cleavers and handaxes), depending on the location of the cortex. Type 0 is a non-cortical tool and Type 9 is completely
cortical. The data is shown by subunit (GIIa above and GIIb below), and by faces.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194184
characteristics, the handaxes in the Shaping stage are smaller than
those in the Finishing stage (Fig. 19). The tools that were more
extensively conﬁgured are bigger. There is therefore not a direct
relationship between the intensity of the conﬁguring process and
the dimensions of the ﬁnal objects; their size is affected by other
variables, such as the features of the original blank.
The Galería base levels clearly show that the knapping was
adapted to suit the selected blank. We have documented two
Fig. 17. Quartzite handaxe (ATA93-TN5, G25,30) used by its right lateraland distal edges in a cutting action. a) Wear traces recorded under the SEM, in form of well developed polish
on the ridges of the microscars. b) Detail of the spot of maximum wear development, where soft linear features parallel to the edge can be observed. Asterisk(*) shows the location
of the SEM micrographs.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 185
different types of conﬁguration. The ﬁrst one is related to those
handaxes in the Shaping phase. These are basically made from
sandstone or quartzite cobbles. They retain a signiﬁcant part of the
original blank’s technical and physical characteristics (such as the
cortical surface or the thickness). This conﬁguration is made by
removing large amounts of material, which signiﬁcantly modiﬁes
the edges and generates a wide variability in shape, with just a few
blows. This is the type of handaxe that predominates in the GIIa
subunit. The second type is represented by handaxes in the Fin-
ishing stage of conﬁguration, and is well deﬁned in the GIIb sub-
unit. In this case, the blanks selected are larger bases, the majority
of them ﬂakes. In spite of having been more extensively conﬁgured,
these tools are the longest, as the knapping aimed to modify their
middle-distal portion. At the proximal end most of the
conﬁguration seems to be basically oriented to solving problems
with holding the object (and sometimes the original surface was
5. Discussion: the Acheulean technology of Galería and the
Acheulean technology originated in East Africa, around 1.7 Ma
(Isaac and Curtis, 1974; Dominguez-Rodrigo et al., 2002; Lepre
et al., 2011; Beyene et al., 2013), and was then dispersed across
Africa, Europe and western and south Asia (Bar-Yosef, 2006). In
Europe, Acheulean technology is documented around 500 ka and
suddenly appears at dozens of sites. There are, however, very few
sites dated to between 0.9 and 0.5 Ma, leading some authors to
Fig. 19. Metrical comparison between Choppers/Chopping tools, Cleavers and Handaxes (in the Shaping and Finishing stages of conﬁguration). In blue, Tip Length; in green, Total
Length; in grey, Maximum Width. Boxes, lines, whiskers, outliers, and extremes are as described in Fig. 14. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this ﬁgure legend, the
reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
Fig. 18. Comparison between the number of scars by type of tool and by faces. Boxes, lines, whiskers, outliers, and extremes are as described in Fig. 14.
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194186
suggest that the population of Europe may have decreased or
nearly disappeared at that time (Mosquera et al., 2013). In recent
years, new lithic assemblages with Early Acheulean features have
been appearing dispersed around Europe which, for the ﬁrst
time, date to the end of the Lower Pleistocene. In Spain, the
Solana del Zamborino (Guadix-Baza, Granada) and Quípar
(Murcia) have been dated to 900 ka (these dates being debatable,
Scott and Gibert, 2009; Jiménez-Arenas et al., 2011) and La Boella,
Tarragona, has been dated to around 700 ka (Saladié et al., 2008;
Vallverdú et al., 2009). In France, La Noira has been dated to
700 ka (Moncel et al., 2013) and there is also level P of L’Arago
(570 ka) (Barsky and de Lumley, 2010). Other examples have been
found at Notarchiricco in Italy, dated to 650 ka (Piperno and
Multiple sites have been found in Europe that date to 500 ka,
such as Boxgrove (in England, Roberts and Parﬁtt, 1999), Galería in
Atapuerca (Berger et al., 2008; Falguères et al., 2013), Cageny-la-
Garenne (in France, Bahain et al., 2001) and others (see Santonja
and Villa, 2006). The discontinuity between the Mode 1 and
Mode 2 occupations has also been observed in the hominin fossil
record, between 600 and 500 ka (MacDonald et al., 2012). H.
antecessor was replaced by an immigrant population represented
by the hominins of Galería and Sima de los Huesos, H. hei-
delbergensis (Arsuaga et al., 1997a).
Fig. 20. Handaxes from the GIIa subunit. (A: Ata087 TN2 S/C; B: Ata094 TN2B G22,5; C: Ata095 TN4 G28,3; D: Ata096 TG GIId H12,10; E: Ata095 TN2B H23,1; F: Ata095 TN2B G28,3; G:
Ata094 TG7 F20,4; H: Sima de los Huesos quartzite handaxe).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 187
We have also documented this hiatus between 900 ka and
500 ka in the occupation of the Sierra de Atapuerca (Mosquera
et al., 2013). In Galería we have an occupational sequence
running from 500 ka to 250 ka, which offers us the chance to
analyze the local evolution of the Acheulean technology. The GIIa
Unit represents the ﬁrst documented evidence of human presence
in the Atapuerca sequence after this hiatus. This technology reﬂects
the use of six main raw materials, predominantly Neogene chert
and quartzite. The ﬂaked blanks are basically quartzite cobbles. The
Neogene chert was mainly used in producing small ﬂakes and small
retouched tools. The exploitation techniques are characterized by
limited development of the production sequences and by their
simplicity, with the Longitudinal and Orthogonal methods being
represented. The operational chains are very fragmented and most
of the knapping work was carried out outside the cave. The large
tools include choppers, chopping-tools, and especially, cleavers and
handaxes. These were basically made from quartzite cobbles, taking
advantage of the originals’morphology and often retaining a sig-
niﬁcant part of the original shape. The conﬁguration was obtained
through a limited number of removals, which were dispersed and
non-systematic, and little care was taken with the edges. These
aspects lead us to mention maximization of effort. By using
Fig. 21. Cleavers from the GIIa subunit. (A: Ata094 TN2B F22,3; B: Ata094 TN2B F27,2; C: Ata094 TG7 F20,2; D: Ata095 TN2B G28,4).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194188
minimum effort and short operational chains, these populations
produced efﬁcient lithic tools. The predominant use of quartzite for
producing large tools can been related to this material’s versatility
and greater durability. These aspects gave the populations of
Atapuerca a signiﬁcant degree of economical adaptability
The handaxe from the Sima de los Huesos site ﬁts into the
general features of the quartzite handaxes from the GIIa subunit. It
Fig. 22. Handaxes from the GIIb subunit. (A: Ata089 TG10C F15,15; B: Ata093 TN5 G25,30; C: Ata091 TN6DA F25,115; D: Ata008 TZ GIIc N2,152; E: Ata088 TG10B E18,1; F: Ata092 TG10B
H20,25; G: Ata090 TG10B F17,63; H: Ata096 TZ GIIc L2,48).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 189
Fig. 23. Cleavers from the GIIb subunit. (A: Ata092 TG10c G18,1; B: Ata091 TG10B F20,53; C: Ata008 TZ GIIc N2,14; D: Ata093 TN5 F25,32; E: Ata096 GIIc H13,17; F: Ata092 TG10c G17,1).
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194190
is an oval handaxe made from quartzite and measures
154 97 48 mm (Fig. 12 and 20). This handaxe is in the Finishing
stage of conﬁguration. It shows two conﬁguration series: an initial
series during which it was shaped by large invasive removals that
were probably made by hardhammer percussion, and a second one,
during which the conﬁguring process was focused on the edges and
on the convex distal end (Carbonell et al., 2003; Ollé et al., 2013).
The GIIb subunit (237e269 ka) shows some signiﬁcant tech-
nological changes. Although the same raw materials were used,
their proportions are quite different. Neogene chert continues to be
the main material, but quartzite loses its predominance, and
sandstone becomes the third most important lithic resource. In this
subunit the knapping was mainly carried out on ﬂakes, and there
was a signiﬁcant increase in sizes. Centripetal exploitation became
the main technique. The large tools are made from ﬂakes, with
sandstone becoming the most heavily used material. In this case,
there is a certain degree of standardization in the way the shaping
process was carried out. The operational chains are longer than in
the GIIa below it. These result in a greater modiﬁcation of the blank,
as seen from the increased number of scars.
Throughout the sequence, the pattern of hominin beneﬁt of the
herbivores that fell into the cavewas homogeneous. This consists of
transporting complete small animals or selectively transporting the
most nutritious segments of medium or large animals (Cáceres,
2002; Ollé et al., 2005). The main difference within the sequence
is the scarcity of bone remains in the GIIa subunit. This does not
reﬂect a lower level of human activity in the Galería site. Rather, it
reﬂects the poor conservation of remains in the GIIa subunit, due to
the inﬂuence of organic sediments (Huguet et al., 1999; Ollé and
Huguet et al., 1999). Nor was there any change in the raw materials
available and used by humans. So, this change must therefore be
interpreted as an evolution of the local Acheulean traditions.
Clark (1994) and Santonja and Villa (1990) noted the progressive
loss of the archaic characteristics in favour of Mode 2 characteristics
of reﬁning morphologies and taking more care over the conﬁgu-
ration of the tools. These authors analyzed the Acheulean tech-
nology of the Iberian Peninsula and described three phases. The
known Middle Pleistocene sites of the Iberian Peninsula almost
invariably appear in ﬂuvial deposits of middle river terraces
(Santonja and Villa, 2006) .The initial phase of Acheulean tech-
nology on the Iberian Peninsula involved the use of hard-hammers
to create irregular handaxes,a large number of cleavers, and the use
of cobbles as blanks for knapping. Secondary retouching is almost
absent. This phase also retained Oldowan techniques and techno-
logical characteristics. Santonja and Villa (2006) included the
Pinedo (Toledo) and La Maya III (Salamanca, þ50 m terrace in the
Tormes terrace) sites in this phase. During the second phase, han-
daxes and cleavers continued to have irregular morphologies, but
the centripetal technique spreads and evolves, and the ﬁrst stages
of the Levallois technique appear. The La Maya II and I
(Salamanca, þ30/þ12 terraces in the Tormes river) and the Man-
zanares and Tagus basin sites (such as El Sartalejo in Cáceres
province, þ28 m terrace in the Alagón river) have been included in
this phase. In the third phase, the handaxes were nearly symmet-
rical, with micoquian morphologies, the cleavers had undergone
bifacial retouching and the picks were well deﬁned. This is the case
of the El Basalito (Salamanca, þ20 m terrace in Yeltes river) and
Porzuna (Cuidad Real, þ5 m terrace in Bullarque river) sites. The
soft-hammer was included progressively throughout the evolution
of Acheulean technology, and this led to greater control over the
The technological changes seen throughout the lower levels of
the Galería site seem to be coherent with these global character-
istics. The lithic technology of Galería is similar to that of other
Iberian sites such as Torralba and Ambrona, El Sartalejo, the
Terraces of Manzanares and the Duero basin sites, among others.
These sites show a technology characterized by the use of quartzite
cobbles and an abundance of cleavers and irregular and thick
handaxes. The differences between sites have traditionally been
linked to the differences in the raw materials available (Mosquera,
1998; Santonja and Villa, 2006). The knapping seems basically to
have been carried out using hardhammers.
The features that are common to the Iberian Acheulean tech-
nology and its similarities with the North African Acheulean as-
semblages have led some authors to propose the Strait of Gibraltar
as route by which this technological complex reached southern
Europe around 500 ka (Santonja and Pérez-González, 2010; Sharon,
2011). Furthermore, the technological characteristics of the central
and northern European Acheulean industries, such as the pre-
dominant use of ﬂint, the long shaping sequences, the reshaping of
edges, and the scarcity of cleavers, seems to distance these in-
dustries considerably from those used on the Iberian Peninsula and
in North Africa. These differences have traditionally been linked to
the technology used in the latter zones having a different origin
(Moloney et al., 1996; Santonja, 1996; Sharon, 2009, 2011).
The appearance of Acheulean technology in Atapuerca has been
documented to around 450e350 ka in Sima de los Huesos and in
the GIIa subunit of the Galería site. In spite of the scarcity of remains
and the signiﬁcant degree of fragmentation in the operational
chains, the Galería site has given us the chance to document the
appearance of the technology and some important changes within
this assemblage. The initial Acheulean technology in Atapuerca is
characterized by the use of a wide rangeof raw materials as well as
the overwhelming use of cobbles for knapping. The exploitation
techniques are very simple, being basically longitudinal and
multipolar, mainly applied to Neogene and Cretaceous chert cores.
Shaping activities are important in this assemblage, and in most
cases the handaxes, cleavers and choppers were made from
quartzite cobbles. The shaping sequences are simple, aiming to
generate a general shape but without much care being taken over
the edges or to create symmetry. Most of the handaxes are in the
Shaping stage of conﬁguration, retaining remains of the cortex on
the surfaces, principally in the proximal part.
The type of occupation had a considerable effect on the tech-
nological assemblage. As a result, the operational chains are very
fragmented and there is a signiﬁcant degree of transfer from
outside the cave to inside it and then back out again. However, the
large number of cobbles with marks and fractures associated with
knapping activities and the documented reﬁts seem to testify to
certain knapping activities having taken place inside the cave,
aimed at resolving speciﬁc problems.
The GIIb subunit represents a technological change that
occurred around 250 ka. Cobbles and quartzite blanks lose their
predominance, in favour of the use of ﬂakes as blanks. Knapping on
cobble is mainly replaced by knapping on ﬂake, and there is an
increase in the size of blanks. The centripetal method is most
commonly used and it is applied to a wide variety of raw materials.
The predominance of quartzite is replaced by sandstone and
Neogene chert. The more extensive conﬁguration documented in
the GIIb subunit resulted in greater technological and morpholog-
ical homogeneity in this assemblage. In this case, more care was
taken over edges, and in most cases the handaxes are in the Fin-
ishing stage of conﬁguration.
Although future work with larger samples are needed, Galería
seems to reﬂect a technological evolution from a more expeditious,
ﬂexible and less curated technological knowledge to a lithic
assemblage characterized by longer operative chains and the use of
P. García-Medrano et al. / Quaternary International 353 (2014) 170e194 191
centripetal techniques to maximize the exploitation of cores, more
care taken over tools, longer operative chains, and tools predomi-
nantly in the Finishing stage of conﬁguration processes. These
technological characteristics result in a more standardized assem-
blage. The technology may have went from a more expeditious
technological base to a compacter technology with a “mental
template”that was well deﬁned and assimilated in the minds of H.
heidelbergensis. Larger blanks were chosen for making these tools.
In this case, curation refers to a tool that was made, transported,
used, transported again and perhaps used and transported several
times (Ashton and McNabb, 1994). At that period, the “mental
construct”deﬁned by Ashton and McNabb (1994) seems therefore
to have existed as a prior idea that went further than the changes in
the types of raw materials used.
We have deﬁned some technological changes that may imply
that technological evolution took place within this Acheulean
context. However, due to the characteristics of the Galería record
(the limited number of remains, the important inﬂuence of the type
of occupation and the high level of fragmentation of the operational
chains) it is difﬁcult to extrapolate this data to other Acheulean
sites. The technological change between the two periods in the
Galería site could be corroborated by the ﬁnds during the new
ﬁeldwork, beginning in 2010.
This research is part of the MINECO Project Comportamiento
ecosocial de los homínidos de la Sierra de Atapuerca durante el Cua-
ternario III (CGL2012-38434-C03-03) and the AGAUR project
Desenvolupament social i tecnològic al Plistocè inferior i mitjà
(2009SGR-000188). The ﬁeldwork is sponsored by the Junta de
Castilla y León. We are deeply grateful to Fundación Atapuerca and
to all the members of the Atapuerca team involved in the recovery
and study of the archaeological and paleontological record from the
Galería site. P.G. beneﬁted from a predoctoral research grant from
the Fundación Siglo para las Artes en Castilla y León.
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