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The human settlement of Central Iberia during MIS 2: New technological, chronological and environmental data from the Solutrean workshop of Las Delicias (Manzanares River valley, Spain)

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The recent excavations (2008–2009) conducted at the open-air site of Las Delicias, located in the Manzanares River valley (Madrid), have revealed new important data for the understanding of the human settlement of Central Iberia during Solutrean times. In this paper, we present a geomorphological and taphonomic study of the Pleistocene deposits of Las Delicias, a technological analysis focused on the bifacial lithic reduction processes documented at the site, new Optically Stimulated Luminescence dates, and new palynological data. Together with the existence of numerous Solutrean lithic assemblages from the early 20th century excavations of the Manzanares terraces, these new data highlight the importance of the Manzanares valley as a focus of Solutrean settlement, not only related to flint procurement but also to foraging activities. Moreover, they require reconsideration of Central Iberia as a virtually unpopulated region during the Late Pleniglacial (MIS 2), and of the associated idea of its cultural dependence on the coastal areas of the Iberian Peninsula. We propose new avenues of research aimed at approaching the central region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.
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The human settlement of Central Iberia during MIS 2: New
technological, chronological and environmental data from the
Solutrean workshop of Las Delicias (Manzanares River valley, Spain)
Manuel Alcaraz-Casta~
, Mario L
, Fernando Tapias
, Felipe Cuartero
Javier Baena
, Blanca Ruiz-Zapata
, Jorge Morín
, Alfredo P
Manuel Santonja
Area de Prehistoria, Universidad de Alcal
a, C/ Colegios 2, 28801, Alcal
a de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Universidad Aut
onoma de Madrid. Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049, Madrid, Spain
Departamento de Arqueología, Paleontología y Recursos Humanos, Auditores de Energía y Medioambiente, S.A. Calle Santorcaz 4, 28002, Madrid, Spain
Departamento de Geología, Universidad de Alcal
a. Edicio de Ciencias, Ctra. A-II, Km 33.600, 28871, Alcal
a de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Centro Nacional de Investigaci
on sobre la Evoluci
on Humana (CENIEH), Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca 3, 09002, Burgos, Spain
article info
Article history:
Available online 19 August 2015
Manzanares valley
Central Iberia
Bifacial reduction
The recent excavations (2008e2009) conducted at the open-air site of Las Delicias, located in the
Manzanares River valley (Madrid), have revealed new important data for the understanding of the hu-
man settlement of Central Iberia during Solutrean times. In this paper, we present a geomorphological
and taphonomic study of the Pleistocene deposits of Las Delicias, a technological analysis focused on the
bifacial lithic reduction processes documented at the site, new Optically Stimulated Luminescence dates,
and new palynological data. Together with the existence of numerous Solutrean lithic assemblages from
the early 20th century excavations of the Manzanares terraces, these new data highlight the importance
of the Manzanares valley as a focus of Solutrean settlement, not only related to int procurement but also
to foraging activities. Moreover, they require reconsideration of Central Iberia as a virtually unpopulated
region during the Late Pleniglacial (MIS 2), and of the associated idea of its cultural dependence on the
coastal areas of the Iberian Peninsula. We propose new avenues of research aimed at approaching the
central region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.
©2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
The human settlement of Europe during the Late Pleistocene has
been described as a complex process of population movements
related to the environmental changes caused by the climatic uc-
tuations of the last glacial cycle (e.g. Terberger and Street, 2002;van
Andel and Davies, 2003;Gamble et al., 2004; Banks et al., 2008,
2009; Conard and Bolus, 2008; Hublin and Roebroeks, 2009;
Verpoorte, 2009; Bradtm
oller et al., 2012). Within this process, the
Iberian Peninsula, together with other regions of Southern Europe,
has been usually depicted as an ecological refugium where human
populations moved from northern latitudes during the harshest
periods of the glacial cycles (Jochim, 1987; Gamble et al., 2004). This
pattern has been especially claimed for the Last Glacial Maximum
(LGM), and more broadly for the Late Pleniglacial or MIS 2
(27.8e14.7 ka cal BP). In this context, the Solutrean techno-complex
of France and Iberia, traditionally linked to the LGM, has been
interpreted as a subsistence system directly responding to the
contraction of the human range towards the southwestern Euro-
pean refugium as a consequence of a rapid worsening of climatic and
environmental conditions (Straus, 1991, 2012; Straus et al., 200 0).
This Iberian refugium model posits the coastal areas of the
peninsula as the only territories suitable for human occupation
during the Late Pleniglacial. In contrast, the interior lands of Spain,
dominated by an upland plateau (the Meseta) divided in two by the
Central System range (Fig. 1), are considered a nearly depopulated
area during most of the Upper Paleolithic. This interpretation,
which is based on the scarce archaeological record for the Early
Upper Palaeolithic and the Solutrean in Central Iberia (see Tiffagom,
*Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses:,
(M. Alcaraz-Casta~
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Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124
2006; Banks et al., 2009; Cacho et al., 2010; Schmidt et al., 2012;
Aubry and Almeida, 2013), has been common in the Spanish liter-
ature since the beginnings of the 20th century (Breuil and
Obermaier, 1913; see Delibes and Díez, 2006 and Alcaraz-Casta~
et al., 2013 for references). It has also been highlighted in recent
surveys and paleoclimate simulations (Burke et al., 2014).
One of the major shortcomings traditionally faced by this model
are the numerous Solutrean-like pieces that were collected at the
Fig. 1. Geographic setting of Las Delicias (+) and other Solutrean sites within the middle and lower Manzanares River valley and the Iberian Peninsula. Sites excavated in the early
20th century subject to modern studies: 1: El Sotillo, 2: Santiago, 3: El Cojo, 4: Martínez, 5: Valdivia, 6: Nicasio Poyato. Recent excavations: 7: Puente de los Tres Ojos. Other
Solutrean sites in Central Iberia: 8: Valdocarros, 9: Pe~
na Cap
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 105
Manzanares River terraces (Madrid city center) (Fig. 1) at the be-
ginnings of the 20th century (Baena and Carri
on, 2002; Santonja
et al., 2011). However, these collections were recovered without
stratigraphic control and most of their sedimentary deposits were
destroyed during the city's expansion in the 1960s and 1970s. As a
consequence, references to a purported Solutrean occupation of the
Manzanares valley have been cautious in the last decades, even
besides the existence of several modern reanalyses that conrmed
the Solutrean character of some assemblages, such as those from El
Sotillo (Martínez de Merlo, 1984). In sum, although researchers
currently recognize the existence of some Solutrean occurrences in
Central Iberia, these are usually interpreted as occasional uses of or
ephemeral visits to the less oceanic parts of the Peninsula during
the LGM in sensu lato(Straus et al., 2000: 561; see also Straus,
2012; Corch
on, 2002: 130; Corch
on et al., 2012; Burke et al.,
2014: 44).
In this paper, we present the results obtained fromnew eld and
laboratory works conducted at a classic site of the Manzanares
River valley: Las Delicias. We will argue that geomorphological,
taphonomic, technological, functional, chronometric and environ-
mental data gathered at this site demand the reconsideration of
Central Iberia as a marginal area during MIS 2, including the LGM.
We propose that a more permanent human occupation of this re-
gion should be considered.
2. Las Delicias: a classic Palaeolithic site in the Manzanares
The archaeological site of Las Delicias is known since the exca-
vation conducted at the location by H. Obermaier and P. Wernert in
the late 1917 (Obermaier and Wernert, 1918). It is found in the city
center of Madrid (Central Spain), in the last stretch of the middle
Manzanares valley. The Manzanares River is a second order tribu-
tary of the Tagus River, and the stretch where Las Delicias is located
is in the central sector of the Madrid Neogene basin. The latter is
part of the Tagus basin (Fig. 1), and corresponds to the southern
foreland basin of the Central System range, located to the north and
northwest (P
alez, 1994).
Las Delicias has been one of the classical references for the
Palaeolithic of the Madrid region, despite the diverse in-
terpretations that have been proposed to explain its problematic
lithic assemblage (Santonja et al., 2000, 2011; Alcaraz-Casta~
et al., 2012). Cultural attributions have ranged from Final classic
Acheulean(Obermaier and Wernert, 1918)toMousterian of
Acheulean tradition with Sbaikian inuences(Obermaier, 1925)or
Presolutrean(Freund, 1952). A key point in this discussion has
been the signicance of the bifacial pieces recovered at the site,
whose characterization as handaxes has been usually granted from
a typological viewpoint (Fig. 2). Thus, although at the turn of the
century some researchers already pointed to a possible Solutrean
character of Las Delicias lithic assemblage on the basis of some
technological attributes (Baena and Carri
on, 2002), the most
accepted interpretation still maintained a Middle or Lower Palae-
olithic chronology (Gonz
alez-Echegaray and Freeman, 1998;
Santonja et al., 2000).
In order to gain a better geoarchaeological understanding of the
site, and eventually to evaluate its implications for the discussion
on the human occupation of Central Iberia during the Late Plen-
iglacial (MIS 2), we devised a new research project that was initi-
ated in December 2008. This project was centered in the excavation
of part of the Quaternary deposits preserved at Las Delicias.
3. New excavations at Las Delicias: eldwork methods
Due to the urban expansion of Madrid, most of the sites that
were excavated in the Manzanares valley during the late 19th
century and the beginnings of the 20th century are now destroyed.
Thus, it is surprising that the topography of the area around Las
Delicias has survived with little modication until the present day
(Fig. 3). This has allowed the preservation of its Pleistocene de-
posits, and hence our new excavations at the site.
We rst conducted 12 mechanical test pits of 3 2 m along the
area. These allowed us both to evaluate the extent of the Pleisto-
cene deposits and to obtain the rst information on the stratig-
raphy and site formationprocesses. Locating lithic industry in some
of those test pits (numbers 2, 4, 5) justied extending them and
developing a systematic excavation project in two different areas
(Sectors I and II) (Fig. 3). These works were carried out in three
successive seasons between December 2008 and July 2009.
In Sector I we opened an area of 10 square meters, reaching the
Neogene clays at 1.25 m deep. Previously, anthropic llings were
lowered 0.65 m (level I) until we reached the Quaternary levels (IIa,
IIb, IIc and IId) (Fig. 4). Sector II is located very close to the area
excavated by Obermaier and Wernert in 1917, and thus can be
considered an extension of it (Figs. 3 and 4). In this sector, we
excavated mechanically 0.8 m of contemporary (i.e. modern) re-
mains, and other 0.8 m of Quaternary clayey silts corresponding to
level 2 and part of level 3, where very few traces of lithic industry
Fig. 2. A: Piece from the 1910s excavations at Las Delicias rst interpreted as handaxe point(Obermaier and Wernert, 1918: Fig. 8), and later as tenuifoliate sbaikian point
(Obermaier, 1925: Fig. 92). B: The same piece, currently interpreted as Solutrean foliate point in advanced stage of reduction (modied from Baena and Carri
on, 2002: Fig. 4:36).
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124106
were located. After obtaining an appropriate platform of 105 square
meters, we proceeded to the manual excavation of the basal levels
(3b and 4), in an area of 13 square meters in the rst season, and
subsequently of 7.5 square meters more in a second season. Only
around 15 square meters shown archaeological material (Fig. 3),
and we reached a maximum depth from the surface of 2.5 m.
Fieldwork methodology followed the excavation of natural
levels. Both these levels and every archaeological object larger than
2 cm were three-dimensionally recorded using a Total Station
opez-Fraile et al., 2014). Orientation and dip of the lithic products
were also registered. All the sediment was screened with water
through 0.5 mm sieves to recover small akes and debris.
4. Geomorphology, chronostratigraphy and site formation
Contrary to previous claims (Freeman, 1975: 693e694;
alez-Echegaray and Freeman, 1998:54e55), Las Delicias de-
posits do not belong to the terrace system of the Manzanares River.
Instead, they are located in a small depressed semi-endorheic area
of around 6 ha, extending between the Manzanares alluvial plain
and a NWeSE oriented structural surface of hard int. This surface
divides the drainage between the Manzanares River and the old
on stream (Fig. 5), a tributary of the Abro~
nigal stream
currently buried by the urban expansion of Madrid (Royo et al.,
Fig. 3. Location of mechanical test pits and systematic excavations conducted at the Solutrean site of Las Delicias (Madrid) during 2008 and 2009. The horizontal distributions of
lithic products located in Sectors I and II are represented.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 107
1929). This semi-endorheic depression lies over a substratum
composed of Miocene grayish-green and bluish clays, and is located
at þ16/20 m over the current Manzanares River channel. It is
drained by rills or gullies that originated thin accumulations of
alluvial-colluvial sediments. The excavated sectors in Las Delicias
(Fig. 3) are located in the periphery of this semi-endorheic
depression, being Sector I in a more external and higher topo-
graphic position than Sector II (Figs. 4 and 5).
According to data coming both from old surveys (Royo et al.,
1929) and some recent salvage test-pits (see Alcaraz-Casta~
et al., 2012), we have identied several int and int-carbonates
outcrops within a range of 200 m to the north and northeast of
Las Delicias site. The nearest outcrop is 50 m north of Sector I
(Fig. 5). Although the current urban situation of the site area and
surroundings (where no int levels are currently accessible) makes
it very difcult to obtain more direct data on this subject, it seems
reasonable to posit that Las Delicias knappers obtained their int
from one or several of these nearby outcrops. This could have been
done either by accessing directly to the outcrops, or just by col-
lecting on the slopes the blocks eroded and dragged by the chan-
nels draining water to the site.
In Sector I, below a rst level containing contemporary remains
(level I), we have documented a stratigraphic sequence consisting
of several Quaternary levels and sublevels (Fig. 4). These reach a
maximum depth of 0.6 m and are mainly composed of clayey silts,
containing also a small percentage of sandy fraction and gravels.
They also contain carbonate concretions of edaphic origin, whose
relative quantity allows distinguishing sublevels IIa and IIb. Below
IIb there is a thin matrix-supported ne gravel layer (IIc) that was
deposited in an alluvial environment with a strong carbonate
cementation (Fig. 8). Lastly, we have documented a sandy-silt
sublevel (IId) with limited continuity. Sublevels IIc and IId display
an erosive contact with the Neogene greenish clayey substratum
(level T). Although we have recorded lithic industry all along the
Quaternary levels, most of the products come from sublevels IIb
and, especially, IIc.
Fig. 4. Geological and stratigraphic proles of the Solutrean site of Las Delicias (Madrid). It is shown the relative location of the two excavated sectors and the excavation conducted
by Obermaier and Wernert in 1917. Location of pollen and OSL sampling is also shown.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124108
Sector II is adjacent to the area excavated by Obermaier and
Wernert in 1917. Here we have documented several stratigraphic
layers that can be directly correlated with those described by the
aforementioned researchers (Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al., 2012). The
stratigraphic depth of this sector ranges from 1.85 to 0.8 m in a
length of 3 m. The basal levels lay out on a small stream that
drained towards the Southwest (Fig. 4). Below a rst level of an-
thropic llers (level 1), we nd a rst Quaternary unit consisting of
several clayey silts levels with carbonate concretions (2a, 2b and
2d), and occasionally of thin layers of ne gravels with little con-
tinuity (2c). A third unit is found below them, in which we have
distinguished a very clayey silt level (3a) and a clayey silt level (3b),
with occasional ne gravel layers between and within them. First
occurrences of lithic industry occur in level 3b, which consists of
olive (5 Y 5/3) clayey silts with a few sandy fraction. This level
displays some degree of compaction and also some grooved frac-
tures (slickensides).
At the base of the Quaternary sequence of Sector II occurs level
4, which is 20e30 cm wide, and consists of matrix-supported ne
gravel layers mixed with a ne layer of silt (Fig. 4). This level dis-
plays an erosive contact with the clayey substratum, and lls in the
southwest -oriented small stream mentioned above. Similar to
level IIc of Sector I, level 4 is composed of sediments with different
granulometry and composition, which were transported in a small
alluvial fan environment. The ne gravel layers have a thickness
varying from 7 to 13 cm, and are composed mostly of carbonates,
and occasionally int and granules of quartz between 0.2 and
0.4 cm. There are also some larger pebbles, from 0.6 to 0.4 cm, with
the same compositions and percentages than the granules. The
matrix consists of gray-olive to brown clayey silts, and carbonate
cements do not appear as in Sector I. It is in this level, and especially
in the upper layer of ne-gravels, that most of the lithic products
are found (Fig. 4).
The lack of stratigraphic continuity between the two sectors of
Las Delicias, together with the signicant topographic alteration
that this area has suffered due to human activity during the last
century, posits a problem for the morphostratigraphic under-
standing of the site. However, considering the topographic and
Fig. 5. Geology and geomorphology of Las Delicias area. Legend of Geological units according to Goy et al. (1989) and Calvo et al. (1989). 38: Valley bottoms (Holocene). 35: Alluvial
plains (Late PleistoceneeHolocene). 32: Colluvial deposits (Holocene). 31: Lower terraces (Late Pleistocene). 29: Semi-endorheic bottoms (Late PleistoceneeHolocene). 26: Alluvial
fans (Late PleistoceneeHolocene). 20: Mantled pediments (i.e. Glacis) (Lower-Middle Pleistocene). 6: Green clays with levels of carbonates and ints (Middle Miocene). 4e6: Clays
and arkosic sands with levels of carbonates and ints (transition from unit 4 to 6) (Middle Miocene). 4: Thick sands and arkosic sands (Middle Miocene). 3: Green and brown clays
(Middle Miocene).
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 109
Fig. 6. Fabric analysis and trampling signs of Las Delicias lithic assemblages. A: Orientation of lithic products from Sector I, showing total number of analyzed objects, mean vector (red
line) and kernel density (n ¼464). B: Orientation of lithic products from Sector II, showing total number of analyzed objects, mean vector (red line) and kernel density (n ¼556). C:
Percentages of orientation patterns of Sector I and II compared. D: Dips (total numbers) of lithic products fromSector I (n ¼467). E: Dips (total numbers) of lithic products from Sector II
(n ¼553). F: Stereogram showing dip patterns of Sector I (excluding the 0values). G: Stereogram showing dip patterns of Sector II (excluding the 0values). H: Normalized fre-
quencies of dips from Sector I and II compared. I: Flake from Las Delicias Sector I showing pseudoretouches and microfractures interpreted as signs of trampling. *Sector I ¼Sector I e
level IIc. Sector II ¼Sector II elevel 4. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124110
compositional data obtained, we interpret that the sediments are
arranged in two levels of stepped deposits with an altimetric dif-
ference of 3 m (Fig. 4). Therefore, we can conclude that the upper
levels (Sector I) are older than the lower ones (Sector II). The
chronometric dating supports this interpretation.
Overall, the described sequences at Las Delicias correspond to
alluvial facies that reached a semi-endorheic area from the plat-
form that divided the Carcav
on stream and the Manzanares River.
Therefore, the lithic assemblages contained in the deposits are not
in primary position, but they were transported from their original
location together with Miocene clays and ints eroded from the
outcrops located at the slopes and the top of the platform. Since the
sediments of Sector II are further away from their probable area of
origin than those of Sector I, and also because they lay out on a
small stream, it is reasonable to expect slightly different deposi-
tional conditions between the two sectors. In order to gain a more
in-depth understanding of this sedimentation conditions, and
eventually to know the formation processes of the archaeological
deposits of Las Delicias, we have conducted a taphonomic study of
the lithic assemblages and their location within the sedimentary
levels. This study consists of a fabric analysis of the lithics, and an
examination of their surface alterations.
The fabric analysis was based in the recording of orientations
and dips of the lithic products found at Las Delicias. In doing so, we
only considered objects larger than 2 cm and with elongation
values greater than 1.6 cm, as proposed by Lenoble and Bertran
(2004; but see Domínguez-Rodrigo et al., 2014 for a discussion on
the convenience of increasing this index to 2 cm, at least for bones).
In Sector I we measured 464 lithics, and in Sector II 556, being both
samples large enough to be statistically valid (Lenoble and Bertran,
2004: 458). Orientation and dip of the products were described in
consonance with the geographic North, using 5 values within 360
for the orientation of the major axes (A-axis), and 12 values within
for measuring dips (to which the value 0was added for
objects lacking any dip). Results are presented by means of different
diagrams in Fig. 6. According to them, we conclude that, in
consonance with geomorphological data, Las Delicias deposits were
deposited under low-energy transport conditions that did not
caused important selections or disturbance of materials in the
process of sedimentation. The high number of objects lacking any
dip (i.e. lying at on the stratication plane), both for Sector I
(21.6%) and Sector II (35.8%) (Fig. 6:DeE) points to a relatively low
extent of post-depositional disturbance. Also, the low degree of
anisotropy recorded in both contexts (Fig. 6:AeC) shows that al-
terations due to water ows were also limited. However, there are
some differences between the two sectors that demand further
(1) Despite none of the orientation patterns show clear
anisotropy, that of Sector II reects a slightly more pro-
nounced preferential (East-West) orientation (Fig. 6. B). This,
combined with the depositional conditions explained above,
and a lower nd density including a scarce presence of <2cm
items in Sector II (see section 7),suggestthatinthissector
disturbance during deposition was somewhat higher, and that
water ow was at least capable of sorting small-size lithic
(2) Although dip patterns in both sectors does not show striking
differences (Fig. 6.FeH), the lower presence of objects lying at
on the stratication plane in Sector I (Fig. 6:DeE) could point to
a higher degree of autochthonous disturbance due to post-
depositional edaphic processes. This is also supported by the
presence in this sector of some surface alterations in the lithics.
These alterations include, in most of the objects, a whitish pa-
tina and a thin carbonate rind on one surface (Fig. 8). Also, in
some products (16.5%) we have recorded abrupt and random
pseudo-retouches and microfractures (Fig. 6. I), which can be
related to post-depositional processes such as trampling
(McBrearty et al., 1998; Bird et al., 2007).
Lastly, it is important to note that, besides the pseudo-retouches
and microfractures recorded in Sector I, we have not documented
any important sign of water erosion, such as rounding, within the
lithic assemblages. This strengthens our interpretation that,
although depositional and post-depositional disturbance were
present at both sectors of Las Delicias, they were produced under
low-energy conditions, and therefore did not caused signicant
alterations of the lithic assemblages.
5. OSL dating
Sediment samples for luminescence dating have been obtained
in the two excavated sectors of Las Delicias. They were processed at
the Laboratorio de Dataci
on y Radioquímica of the Autonomous
University of Madrid (UAM) using the ne-grain dating method
(Zimmermann, 1971) for OSL (TL-DA-10 system). Samples were
subjected to a previous anomalous fading test which showed losses
of signal under 1%. Calculation of paleodoses and annual dose rates
has been based on the standard protocols proposed by Aitken
(1985), Nambi and Aitken (1986) and Arribas et al. (1990).
Although we collected samples from all sedimentological layers
of both sectors of Las Delicias, only two samples have been analyzed
up to the present time. These correspond to levels considered
optimal for OSL analysis according to their sedimentological
composition and morphology. Thus, none of the levels in which this
paper has focused (IIc of Sector I and 4 of Sector II) were analyzed
due to their high content of ne gravels and, in the case of level 4, its
excessive thinness. Dates were obtained from layers IIb (Sector I)
and 3b (Sector II), mostly composed of sandy and clayey silts (Fig. 4).
Therefore, although so far we have not been able to date the
most signicant Solutrean assemblages of Las Delicias (see section
7), the obtained results come from levels directly overlying them, in
which Solutrean industries have also been found. The dating results
are 18.2 ±1.3 BP for level IIb of Sector I, and 12 ±0.8 ka BP for level
3b of Sector II. These data are consistent with our geomorphological
interpretation of the site as a terraced deposit, since they conrm
that the upper levels (Sector I) are older than the lower ones (Sector
II). Complete dating results are presented in Table 1.
These dates refer to the formation of the sedimentary de-
posits where the lithic assemblages are contained, and not to the
production or abandon of the knapping products. Taking into
account that lithic assemblages are not in primary position, the
obvious conclusion is that they are older than the dates ob-
tained. Although it is not easy to assess the exact lapse of time
Table 1
OSL dating results for Las Delicias sediment samples.
Lab reference Location elevel (depth) Grain size (
m) Paleodose (Gy) Annual dose rate (mGy/year) OSL age (BP)
MAD-5566SDA Sector II e3b (1.90 cm) 2e10 33.68 ±1.94 2.80 12,028 ±794
MAD-5585SDA Sector I eIIb (1.10 cm) 2e10 45.44 ±3.33 2.50 18,175 ±1333
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 111
between the production of the lithics and their sedimentary
preservation at each sector of Las Delicias, a number of factors
can be considered on this issue. Both the geomorphological,
sedimentological and taphonomic characteristics of levels of
Sector I, their proximity to the probable origin of the archaeo-
logical materials (see Section 4), and also their higher nd
density compared to those of Sector 2 (see Section 7)pointto
the hypothesis that sedimentation not only involved a lower
energy process at this area, but also occurred in a shorter period
of time after the abandon of the lithics than in Sector 2.
Therefore, the date obtained for Sector I must be closer to the
real age of the lithics contained in its deposits than the one
obtained for Sector II.
If we take into account these factors, the OSL dates obtained at
Las Delicias, although still scarce, are consistent with our geo-
archaeological interpretation of the site. Despite the fact that none
of these dates fall within the chronological limits of the Iberian
Solutrean (c. 21e17 ka
CBPor25e20 ka cal BP) (see references in
Banks et al., 2009), they are acceptable, to different extents, as
minimum ages for the Solutrean assemblages of Las Delicias.
6. Palynology
Sediment samples for palynological analysis were taken on the
previously cleaned proles at both sectors of Las Delicias (Fig. 4),
using standardized techniques for archaeological sites (L
et al., 2003). The pollen was extracted by chemical treatment with
acids (HCI and HF) and alkalis (KOH), based on the standard pro-
tocol proposed by Coûteaux (1977), Girard and Renault-Miskovsky
(1969), and Moore et al. (1991), modied according to the specic
requirements of the lithology of each sample. The residue obtained
was then subjected to enrichment techniques, concentrating the
pollen grains by otation in Thoulet dense liquor (Goeury and
Beaulieu, 1979). The data obtained were statistically analyzed and
plotted using the TILIA
software packages
(Grimm, 1987). The pollen was zoned (only for Sector I) using a
divisive classication with the CONISS software included in the
As in the case of OSL dating, it is important to bear in mind
that the pollen found at the site relates to the formation of the
sediments, and not to the production or abandon of the lithic
products. Therefore, it is not possible to propose a direct corre-
lation between the environmental and climatic information
derived from the pollen data and the human behaviors inferred
from the Solutrean assemblages. However, the sequence of Sector
I still falls within the MIS 2 chronological limits, and it is even
possible, if we assume the positive error of the OSL date for sub-
level IIc (i.e. circa 19.5 ka BP), that its basal layers could be related
to the nal stages of the Last Glacial Maximum, at around
19 ka cal BP (S
ni and Harrison, 2010: Table 2). The
sequence of Sector II is younger, and is therefore totally out of the
Solutrean time range. According to the date obtained in level 3b,
this sequence corresponds to the nal phases of MIS 1, falling
within the limits of the Younger Dryas Event (Greenland Stadial
1), which is currently dated between 12.8 and 11.5 ka cal BP
(Muscheler et al., 2008).
6.1. Pollen of Sector I
Pollen data gathered at Sector I is especially relevant, as paly-
nological information corresponding to MIS 2 is scarce in the whole
Spanish plateau (Ruiz-Zapata et al., 2010; Vegas et al., 2010;
Martínez-Pillado et al., 2014), and totally unknown in the Madrid
basin. Taxa identied in Sector I, and their relative quantity, are
represented as a histogram in Fig. 7. The big picture shown in this
sequence is dominated by an open landscape composed by her-
baceous taxa, both steppe (Asteraceae liguliorae, Asteraceae tubu-
liorae and Poaceae) and xeric (Chenopodiaceae,Artemisia and
Ephedra), which suggest a cold environment. Moreover, the pres-
ence of Pinus and Juniperus point to regional vegetation in conso-
nance with a cold climate.
The alternation of taxa throughout the sequence, and results
obtained in the correspondence analysis (Fig. 7), dene the
following phases for Sector I:
Zone II: (Samples 1e3). Samples 1 and 3 are dened only by
presences, hence complicating their climatic interpretation. How-
ever, the high values of Pinus, together with the presence of de-
ciduous Quercus,Asteraceae liguliorae and Chenopodiaceae, points
to a probable cold and dry environment. In sample 2 there is an
increase in the values of pollen grains, showing a development of
the local mixed forest (deciduous Quercus, evergreen Quercus,
Corylus and Ulmus), which suggests a thermal improvement and an
increase in the availability of water. Nitrophilus taxa (Plantago and
Rumex) are developed together with the herbaceous plants char-
acteristic of the whole sequence.
Zone I: it is characterized by high pollen values and the devel-
opment of herbaceous taxa. According to the composition of forest,
three sub-zones can be distinguished:
Subzone Ic (samples 4 and 5): It is dened by the presence of
Pinus and Juniperus, the expansion of xeric and steppe taxa, and a
decrease in diversity. These data suggest an intensication of
aridity and cold.
Subzone Ib (samples 6 and 7): The increase of local forests
(Betula,Corylus,Fraxinus and Ericaceae), and the development of
aquatic plants suggest a climate amelioration. Under these condi-
tions we observe an increase of nitrophilus taxa, and also of
coprophilous and meso-eutrophic MNPs.
Subzone Ia (samples 8 and 9): The dominance of xeric and
steppe herbaceous taxa shows a progressive decrease in humidity.
The development of evergreen Quercus and Oleaceae points to a low
increase in temperature values.
The presence throughout the sequence of the non-pollinic
microfossil (NPM) Glomus fasciculatum indicates open landscapes.
This has been documented in other areas of the Iberian plateau
during different periods of the Late Pleistocene (Lopez-Garcia et al.,
2010; Ruiz-Zapata et al., 2012; Vegas et al., 2010; Arsuaga et al.,
2012; Martínez-Pillado et al., 2014).
In sum, although still scarce, palynological data gathered at Las
Delicias eSector I entails a rst approach for the palaeoecological
reconstruction of the Manzanares valley during the second half of
MIS 2, probably including the nal stages of the LGM. These data
point to a general dry and cold period dominated by open land-
scapes and steppe environments, which matches the general
characteristics of Mediterranean Europe during MIS 2 (Fletcher and
ni, 2008: 456e457).
6.2. Pollen of Sector II
Pollen quantity gathered at this area is very low and it shows a
low degree of diversity. Due to this scarcity of data, we have chosen
to group together samples from the same stratigraphic levels (see
Fig. 4). Graphic representation of data is not presented because it
would not be informative.
In general, data for Sector II show a predominance of Pinus as the
main taxon of the regional forest, coupled with a local open forest
consisting of Oleaceae and deciduous Quercus. Together with the
presence of Chenopodiaceae and the NPM 3b (Pleospora sp.), these
data point to the existence of a dry and typical Mediterranean
landscape. Broadly, pollen from Sector II of Las Delicias points to
less severe climatic and environmental conditions than those
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124112
inferred from Sector I. From bottom to top, the sequence can be
interpreted as follows:
Level 4 (sample 1): The low values of deciduous Quercus suggest
the existence of an open landscape dominated by Chenopodiaceae.
These conditions, together with the presence of the MNP 3b
(Pleospora sp), suggest a relatively dry environment.
Level 3b (samples 2e6): The appearance of Oleaceae, together
with taxa present in the previous phase, points to a slight thermal
improvement. A regional Pinus forest is now detected.
Level 3a (samples 7e12): The increase of the Pinus forest, and
the consolidation of the local Mediterranean forest (deciduous
Quercus and Oleaceae) together with Chenopodiaceae and Glomus
fasciculatum, suggest the permanence of a dry and typical Medi-
terranean landscape.
Level 2 (samples 13e17): The only detected taxa are Pinus and
Rosaceae, thus pointing to the disappearance of the local forest,
probably as a consequence of a worsening in the climatic
These data, although scarcer than those of Sector I, are consistent
with the attribution of part of this sequence eat least levels 3a and
3beto the Younger Dryas (YG). This event is also a cold and dry
period dominated in Mediterranean Europe by a re-expansion of
steppe environments, which were previously contracted in favor of
Mediterranean forests at the beginnings of MIS 1. Comparison of
both sequences of Las Delicias also conrms that the decline of
arboreal populations was much less marked during the YGthan that
occurring during the LGM (Fletcher and S
ni, 2008: 457).
7. Lithic technology
In both sectors of Las Delicias we have recovered an important
number of int knapping products (Table 2). In Sector I, these are
present all along level II (sublevels IIa, IIb, IIc, IId), being especially
abundant in sub-level IIc (Figs. 4 and 8). In Sector II, some lithic
products have been found in sub-level 3b, but most of them come
from level 4 (Figs. 4 and 11).
Flint knapped products are the only archaeological remains
preserved in the sediments of both sectors. Although petrological
studies have not been carried out yet, a macroscopic inspection of
the lithic objects has revealed that ints exploited at Sector I were
different than those exploited at Sector II, both in color and surface
alterations (Figs. 8e10 and Figs. 11e13). The most abundant lithic
products in both sectors are raw (i.e. unretouched) akes, while
cores and retouched blanks are very scarce (Tables 4 and 5).
Therefore, typological approaches are virtually irrelevant for the
study of these assemblages. In order to propose a chrono-cultural
assignment for them, and ultimately to understand the cultural
processes taking place at the site, the only decisive analytical
method implies studying techniques and methods of knapping
within a theoretical framework based on operative chains (chaînes
eratoires) and lithic reduction sequences (e.g. Inizan et al., 1999;
Andrefsky, 2008).
Although there are some differences between the assemblages
preserved at both sectors of Las Delicias, all of them exhibit a sig-
nicant number of akes that show specic attributes and stigmata
typically found in the context of bifacial reduction technologies
aimed at the production of foliate points. The identication of these
Fig. 7. Pollen histogram corresponding to the sequence of Las Delicias eSector I. * NPM ¼Non-pollinicmicrofossils.
Table 2
Total amount of lithic products found in every level of both sectors excavated at Las
Levels >2cm <2 cm Total (%)
Las Delicias eSector I
IIa 456 185 641 (27.4%)
IIb 206 104 310 (13.3%)
IIc 806 521 1327 (56.8%)
IId 32 27 59 (2.5%)
Total 1500 837 2337 (100%)
Las Delicias eSector II
3b 164 59 223 (19.5%)
4 749 173 922 (80.5%)
Total 913 232 1145 (100%)
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 113
thinning akes or bifacial reduction akes has been the most
relevant feature in the characterization of these assemblages as the
product of Solutrean bifacial technologies. In order to strictly
identify these akes, we have established a number of technolog-
ical and technical attributes that have to be fullled in a given
product so that it can be dened as belonging to a bifacial reduction
process. Technical attributes are basically related to the use of
organic soft hammers (antler or wood), while technological ones
respond to the bifacial knapping method employed and the specic
shaping of foliates.
These attributes, shown in Table 3, have been systematically
recognized in several Solutrean workshops of Southwest Europe
(Aubry et al., 1998; Tiffagom, 20 06: 48, 51) and also in a signicant
number of Paleo-Indian sites in America (e.g. Pelegrin and
Chauchat, 1993; Klaric, 2012). Furthermore, they have been
described as typical of the middle and nal phases of bifacial
reduction processes through experimental knapping (Pelegrin and
Chauchat, 1993; Baena, 1998; Callahan, 2000; Apel, 2001; Aubry
et al., 2008). In our study, we have considered that a product can
be securely dened as a bifacial reduction akewhen it shows at
least 3 among the most relevant of these attributes (Table 3).
The established requirements to identify bifacial reduction akes
are only fullled in the products belonging to the middle and nal
phases of the reduction process (i.e. thinning akes). Therefore,
akes corresponding to the initial phases, probably obtained through
direct percussion with hard hammers, are very likely to be missed in
our classication, and thus fall into the non-diagnostic akes cate-
gory (Tables 4 and 5). As in the studied assemblages we have iden-
tied other (although minority) knapping processes besides bifacial
reduction (akes and blades productions), in the absence of retting
studies we are not able to securely classify these products as part of
the bifacial reduction or any other operative chain.
Furthermore, in both sectors of Las Delicias we have found some
products that can be characterized as blanks for the production of
bifacial pieces abandoned in different stages of the reduction pro-
cess. Although only few of these pieces clearly resemble typical
Solutrean foliate points, most of them can be placed within the
process of bifacial reduction aimed at their conguration. There-
fore, these products have been considered as preforms (e.g.
Callahan, 2000) of Solutrean foliates.
Our study has shown that all sub-levels from level II in Sector I,
and also sublevel 3b and level 4 of Sector II, can be securely related
to Solutrean knapping processes. We have also found that lithics
exhibit a high degree of technological homogeneity in each sector.
Therefore, in this paper we will focus on the results obtained in the
technological analysis of the most signicant assemblages of each
of the two excavated areas at Las Delicias: those coming from sub-
level IIc of Sector I and level 4 of Sector II. These two assemblages
can be taken as representatives of each of the two archaeological
contexts found at the site.
7.1. Sub-level IIc of Sector I
In the 10 m
excavated in Sector I (see Section 3), we have
recorded a total number of 1327 int products in sub-level IIc. Only
546 of them are complete, while 778 present fractures. Cortex is
Fig. 8. Las Delicias eSector I. a: Sublevel IIc in the process of excavation. b: Detail of knapping products and carbonates in level IIc. c: Vertical distribution of lithic ndings in
sublevels IIa, IIb and IIc.
Table 3
Technical and technological attributes considered in this study to identify a lithic
product as a bifacial reduction ake. At least 3 of the attributes highlighted in bold
must be fullled.
Technical attributes and stigmata Technological attributes
Platform edge grinding Facetted or dihedral platforms
Lipped platforms Oval morphologies
Absent or diffused bulbs Interior platform (aking)
angles close to 90
Thin products: Ratio
thickness/width less
than 0.20
More than 3 negatives in the
dorsal face, especially if
showing opposite directions.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
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found in 239 objects. The surface conditions include, in most of the
products, a whitish patina and a thin carbonate rind on one surface
(Fig. 8). In some pieces (16.5%) we have recorded abrupt and
random pseudo-retouches and microfractures, which can be
related to post-depositional processes such as trampling
(McBrearty et al., 1998; Bird et al., 2007)(Fig. 6. I). Find density,
fracture index, cortical index, and mean size of akes larger than
20 mm are presented in Table 4.
Sub-level IIc lithic assemblage is dominated by raw akes and
ake fragments, which altogether sum 90.3% (n ¼119 8 ) of the
total amount of products. We have identied 109 bifacial
reduction akes, 21 of which are smaller than 20 mm. Taking into
account only the objects larger than 20 mm, akes than can be
securely related to the middle and nal stages of the reduction
process make up 10.9% of the assemblage (Table 4). Attributes
and stigmata typical of the use of soft hammers are clearly
recognizable in most of these pieces (Fig. 9:5,6,7;Video1,3D
PDF 1).
Supplementary data related to this article can be found online at
In this level we have documented 7 products that have been
interpreted as preforms of bifacial Solutrean pieces. Blanks for
these pieces were akes in 5 cases, except for 1 slab and 1 tabular
fragment. Their mean size is shown in Table 4. Five of them were
abandoned, due to different knapping accidents, in the initial or
middle stages of the reduction process (Fig. 10: 3, 4; Video 2), while
two others were discarded in more advanced phases (Fig. 10:1,2;
Videos 3, 4). Even one of the latter can be classied, although
broken and unnished, as a laurel leaf point (Fig. 10: 1; Video 3; 3D
PDF 2).
Supplementary data related to this article can be found online at
Only a very limited number of products point to the presence of
other operative schemes besides the bifacial reduction. These are
represented by 27 blades (3.3% of the products larger than 20 mm)
and 1 unidirectional prismatic-like blade core (Fig. 9:1,2&3).
Finally, retouched blanks are very few (0.4% of the total products),
expedient in nature, and limited to 2 notches and 3 akes with
discontinuous retouches.
7.2. Level 4 of Sector II
In the 15 m
with knapped lithic remains in this level, we have
recovered 922 objects (Fig. 11). 476 are complete and 446 show
fractures. Cortex is found in 348 products. None show relevant
macroscopic signs of natural or mechanical alterations. Find den-
sity, fracture index, cortical index, and mean size of akes larger
than 20 mm are presented in Table 5.
As in Sector I, raw akes and ake fragments are the dominant
categories in the lithic assemblage of level 4. They sum 821
products, which is 89% of the total amount of objects. Among
them, we have classied as bifacial reduction akes a total number
of 36 pieces, 5 of which are smaller than 20 mm. Therefore, akes
larger than 20 mm that can be securely related to Solutrean
bifacial knapping processes (Table 3) are proportionally lower in
this level, making up only 4.1% of the total (Table 5). Moreover, in
these akes signicant stigmata produced by organic percussion,
such as lipped platforms, are not so marked as in Sector I (Fig. 12:
5e8; Video 5).
Supplementary data related to this article can be found online at
In this level we have recorded 5 pieces classied as Solutrean
bifacial preforms, 4 of them congured on akes and 1 on a wide
blade. Their mean size is shown in Table 5. None of these preforms
were knapped up to advances stages of the reduction sequence, as
it was the case with some pieces in Sector I. Three were discarded in
the middle stages (Fig. 13: 2; Video 6), while 2 were rejected in a
very initial stage of the process (Fig. 13: 1; Video 7).
Supplementary data related to this article can be found online at
Regarding knapping processes other than the bifacial reduc-
tion, compared to Sector I in this level there is a higher variety of
cores and by-products related to blade and especially ake pro-
ductions (Table 5), including a Levallois-like core (Fig. 12: 1).
However, these pieces also show expedient strategies and there-
fore can be related to opportunistic tasks. Blades (Fig. 12:2e3)
sum up to 4.1% of the products larger than 20 mm. Finally,
retouched blanks are slightly higher than in Sector I, making up
1.7% of products >20 mm. Besides akes with continuous or
discontinuous retouches (n ¼8), we found 2 notches, 2 end-
scrapers, and 1 backed blade. None are curated artifacts, but are
best characterized as expedient tools, and typologically unstan-
dardized (Fig. 12:3&4).
Table 4
Technological categories and main indexes for Las Delicias Sector I, level IIc.
Technological categories (Sector I) Number % % >2cm
Natural int fragments 13 1% 1.6%
Non-diagnostic akes
616 46.4% 76.4%
Highly cortical (100-66% cortex) 28
Cortical (66-33% cortex) 20
Partially cortical (33-10% cortex) 61
Cortical ake fragments 93
Non-cortical akes 159
Non-cortical ake fragments 255
Bifacial reduction akes 88 (21 broken) 6.6% 10.9%
Bifacial pieces 7 (all broken) 0.5% 0.9%
Initial preform 3
Preform (middle stages) 2
Preform (nal stages) 2
Blades 27 2% 3.3%
Partially cortical (33-10% cortex) 3
Cortical blade fragments 1
Non-cortical blades 7
Non-cortical blade fragments 16
Cores &by-products 4 0.3% 0.5%
Expedient ake cores 2
Blade core 1
Rejuvenation ake (semi-tablet) 1
Retouched blanks 5 0.4% 0.6%
Retouched akes 5 (4 broken)
Chunks 46 3.5% 5.7%
<2 cm products (D
ebris) 521 39.3% e
<2cmakes 129
<2cmake fragments 344
<2 cm bifacial reduction akes 21 (7 broken) 1.6%
Splinters 27
Total 1327 (806 >2 cm) 100% 100%
Flakes mean size
36.7 37.3 9.7 mm
Preforms mean size
80.5 54.4 18.8 mm
Cortical index
Fracture index
Find density
132.7/square meter
Non-diagnostic in terms of bifacial reduction.
Mean size (length width thickness) of complete akes larger than 20 mm.
Preforms mean size includes broken pieces.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 115
Fig. 9. Lithic products from Las Delicias eSector I, level IIc. 1 &2: Blades. 3: Unidirectional blade core. 4: Non-diagnostic ake probably related to the rst stages or the bifacial
reduction sequence. 5. Bifacial reduction ake showing platform edge grinding, lipped platform, absence of bulb, thin prole, oval morphology, right aking angle and 9 negatives
showing opposite directions. 6: Bifacial reduction ake showing platform edge grinding, absent bulb, thin prole, right aking angle and 10 negatives showing opposite directions.
7: Bifacial reduction ake showing platform edge grinding, absence of bulb, thin prole, oval morphology and right aking angle.
Table 5
Technological categories and main indexes for Las Delicias Sector II, level 4.
Technological categories (Sector II) Number % % >2cm
Natural int fragments 18 2% 2.4%
Non-diagnostic akes
621 67.3% 82.9%
Highly cortical (100-66% cortex) 33
Cortical (66-33% cortex) 50
Partially cortical (33-10% cortex) 98
Cortical ake fragments 117
Non-cortical akes 194
Non-cortical ake fragments 129
Bifacial reduction akes 31 (12 broken) 3.4% 4.1%
Bifacial pieces 5 0.5% 0.7%
Initial preform 2 (1 broken)
Preform (middle stages) 3 (all broken)
Blades 31 3.4% 4.1%
Partially cortical (33-10% cortex) 2
Cortical blade fragments 7
Non-cortical blades 5
Non-cortical blade fragments 17
Cores &by-products 11 1.2% 1.5%
Expedient ake cores 5
Expedient ake cores on ake 3 (1 broken)
Expedient blade core 1
Levallois-like core 1
Crested blade 1
Retouched blanks 13 1.4% 1.7%
Retouched akes 10 (3 broken)
Retouched blades 3
Table 5 (continued )
Technological categories (Sector II) Number % % >2cm
Chunks 19 2.1% 2.5%
<2 cm products (D
ebris) 173 18.8% -
<2cmakes 33
<2cmake fragments 131
<2 cm bifacial reduction akes 5 0.5%
Splinters 4
Total 922 (749 >2 cm) 100% 100%
Flakes mean size
41.1 37.6 11.8 mm
Preforms mean size
79.1 66 23.7 mm
Cortical index
Fracture index
Find density
61.5/square meter
Nondiagnostic in terms of bifacial reduction.
Mean size (length width thickness) of complete akes larger than 20 mm.
Preforms mean size includes broken pieces.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124116
Fig. 10. Bifacial preforms from Las Delicias eSector I, level IIc. 1. Laurel leaf point in advanced stage of reduction abandoned due to a double fracture. 2: Small point in advanced
stage of reduction abandoned due to hinged removals and a double fracture. 3. Flake in initial-middle stage of reduction abandoned due to excessively thin edges and a medial
fracture. 4. Large ake in a middle stage of reduction abandoned due to excessively thick and sinuous edges.
7.3. Discussion on the Solutrean lithic assemblages
On the basis of both the signicant number of bifacial reduction
akes and the several bifacial preforms documented in the two
lithic assemblages presented in this paper, we can conclude that the
knapping processes that took place in these two levels of Las
Delicias correspond to Solutrean technologies. This interpretation
is also strengthened by the OSL dates obtained at the site. However,
considering that these dates have to be taken as minimum ages,
and also considering the scarcity of nished retouched tools
recovered at the site, it is difcult to propose a concise chrono-
cultural denition for Las Delicias Solutrean assemblages. None-
theless, the presence of a laurel leaf point in level II of Sector I
(Fig. 10.1.) suggests that it can be related to either the Middle or
Upper Solutrean, since these points were absent in prior Proto-
solutrean and Lower Solutrean stages (e. g. Banks et al., 2009).
Therefore, levels of Sector II, even less typologically informative,
must correspond at least to the Middle or, most probably, Upper
As we have explained elsewhere (Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al., 2012:
445e446), our interpretation of Las Delicias occupations as
belonging to the Solutrean contradicts those proposed in several
papers by Obermaier and Wernert, who related level 4 of Sector II
rst to the Acheulean, and subsequently to the Mousterian. In our
view, those interpretations were biased by a static and essentialist
typological perspective that understood every single archaeological
lithic object as a nal product conceived as such by the Palaeolithic
knappers. A more dynamic technological approach has revealed
that pieces previously interpreted as handaxes (Fig. 2)areunn-
ished and discarded foliate preforms, and thus typologically non-
As the presence in both sectors of products securely related to
blade and ake production is marginal in number (especially in
Sector I) and expedient in nature, it is fair to conclude that most of
the non-diagnostic akes classied as such in Tables 4 and 5, belong
to the initial and middle phases of bifacial reduction processes.
These products, in some cases similar to the backed akes
described in Discoid or Levallois contexts, have been related to the
initial phases of Solutrean reduction schemes in several sites
(Tiffagom, 2006: 51). Future retting studies will be of paramount
importance to test this hypothesis.
We therefore interpret both sectors of Las Delicias as showing
the existence of catchment and knapping areas specialized in the
production of foliate pieces during Solutrean times. Although the
presence of natural int blocks is scarce in both sectors (Tables 4
and 5), this fact can be explained by the fact that both lithic
Fig. 11. Las Delicias eSector II. a: Level 4 in the process of excavation (2009-1 campaign); dashed line separates sterile sediments to the West from those yielding lithic remains to
the East. b. Level 4 in the process of excavation (2009-2 campaign). C. Detail of knapping products in level 4.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124118
Fig. 12. Lithic products from Las Delicias eSector II, level 4. 1: Levallois-like ake core. 2: Blade. 3: Notch on blade. 4: Expedient endscraper on large cortical ake fragment. 5:
Bifacial reduction ake showing a hinged removal, platform edge grinding, lipped platform, absence of bulb, thin prole, oval morphology, right aking angle and 5 dorsal negatives.
6: Bifacial reduction ake showing platform edge grinding, absence of bulb, thin prole, right aking angle and 6 dorsal negatives showing opposite directions. 7: Bifacial reduction
ake showing absence of bulb, thin prole, oval morphology, right aking angle and 4 dorsal negatives showing opposite directions. 8: Bifacial reduction ake showing platform
edge grinding, diffused bulb, thin prole, right aking angle and 7 dorsal negatives showing opposite directions.
assemblages are not in primary position. Thus, it was probably at
any of the int outcrops located no more than 200 m to the north
(Fig. 5), where the catchment and knapping activities took place. As
can be attested in most of the bifacial preform pieces of both sectors
(Fig. 10:2e4 and Fig. 13:1e2), blanks for their production are
mostly large akes. On these akes, the reduction sequence starts
with the preparation of striking platforms aimed at the reduction of
one face in a rst stage, and then the other face in subsequent
phases (e.g. Callahan, 2000).
However, as it is shown in Tables 4 and 5, there are some rele-
vant differences between the lithic assemblages of the 2 sectors
that demand further discussion. These differences can be explained
along 2 lines of evidence: (1) the site formation processes and (2)
the technological processes taking place at the site.
Concerning the rst, we must note that sediments of Sector I are
closer to the platform where they were originated than those of
Sector II (Fig. 5). Moreover, level 4 of Sector II lies along a small
stream, which shows that transport energy in this area was prob-
ably higher than in Sector I, as is also suggested by the fabric
analysis. These geomorphological differences could inuence the
higher density of ndings in Sector I, its higher amount of debris
and, to some extent, its lower mean size of akes larger than
20 mm.
Concerning the second, although both lithic assemblages can
be securely related to Solutrean technologies, there are some
differences in their lithological and technological composition.
Besides the fact that the ints exploited in the two sectors are
different, in Sector I a number of features show that the Solutrean
knappers reached the advanced stages of the bifacial operative
chain, while in Sector II only the initial and middle phases were
carried out. This functional difference is supported by the higher
presence of bifacial reduction akes and debris in Sector I, its
higher nd density, its lower ake mean size (but see Marwick,
2008: 1193), its lower cortical index (Tables 4 and 5) and, espe-
cially, the presence in this sector of 2 bifacial pieces in an
advanced stage of reduction. However, since no pressure tech-
nique has been attested in any of these pieces, and none of them
can be classied as totally congured, we cannot certicate that
the very nal steps of thinning and retouching (e.g. Callahan,
2000) were carried out at the site. The lower presence of stig-
mata related to organic percussion in Sector II also strengthens
this interpretation, and points to a more sporadic use of organic
hammers in contrast to Sector I.
In sum, although slightly inuenced by depositional and post-
depositional processes, archaeological data collected at both sec-
tors of Las Delicias inform us on how hunter-gatherers groups
exploited int outcrops in the Manzanares valley and developed
bifacial technologies during Solutrean times. Level IIc of Sector I
shows knapping processes which include all stages of the reduc-
tion sequence except the very nal ones. However, Level 4 of
Sector II points to a strategy in which the main objective is prob-
ably limited to the conguration of middle-staged bifacial pre-
forms. Our interpretation is that both the unnished preforms of
Sector II, and the more advanced of Sector I, served as reserves of
foliate tools, which were later nished and used once they were
taken to the nearby residence and hunting camps. This behavior
has been described for other open-air int workshops in France,
such as Cantalouette 2 (Dordogne) (Bourguignon et al., 2012)and
the well-known site of Les Maîtreaux (Indre-et-Loire) (Aubry et al.,
1998, 2008). Although there are no strong signs of consumption
activities at any sector of Las Delicias, the minority presence of
retouched tools could point to a secondary use of the site as a
residential area, which in any case would be subject to the main
use of Las Delicias as a int procurement and lithic workshop (see
Aubry et al., 1998; Ríos-Garaizar and Ortega, 2014 for discussions
on the functional variability of sites focused on knapping
8. Discussion: the Solutrean settlement of Central Iberia
Data presented in this paper conrms Las Delicias as the rst
Solutrean site in the Manzanares River valley excavated with
modern methods, in secure stratigraphic position, and yielding
chronometric and palaeoenvironmental data. Both sectors of Las
Delicias are multilayered archaeological deposits, both show most
of the phases of the bifacial operative chain including procurement,
and both present high nd densities, especially level IIc of Sector I.
These traits are not typical of sites just responding to ephemeral
visits or used occasionally, but they denote some degree of intense
and recurrent use of the territory.
Therefore, Las Delicias can be taken as important evidence of
an organized settlement of this area of Central Iberia during
Solutrean times. Indirectly, this should also highlight the
importance of the bifacial assemblages recovered in the non-
systematic excavations of the Manzanares terraces during the
early 20th century, most of which have been demonstrated as
undoubtedly Solutrean (Fig. 14). According to modern studies of
old collections (Martínez de Merlo, 1984; Baena and Carri
2002) and new rescue excavations (Tapias et al., 2012), at least
seven other Solutrean sites (and probably more) can be currently
recognized in the middle and lower stretches of the Manzanares
valley, in an area of around 5.5 km
(Fig. 1). Another site in the
nearby Jarama River valley has to be added (Fig. 1), where a laurel
leaf point has been described among the lithics from a late 19th
century excavation (Baena and Carri
on, 2002). As is the case with
Las Delicias, most of these sites are interpreted as focused on
procurement and knapping activities, and hence can be consid-
ered lithic workshops (Baena and Carri
on, 2002). However, in
some of them, such as El Sotillo (located 1.3 km from Las Deli-
cias), Nicasio Poyato, Martínez, or El Cojo, the existence of a
number of retouched tools (Fig. 14) reveals that foraging and
consumption activities were also taking place at this area during
Solutrean times. Put together, these data suggest that the Man-
zanares valley functioned as an organized territory for human
activity during the Solutrean. This valley was a rich ecosystem
that harbored both abiotic and biotic resources during the
warmest periods of the Middle and Late Pleistocene (Conde et al.,
2000; Ses
e et al., 2011; Panera et al., 2014). Although subject to
colder and drier environments, as shown by pollen of Las
Delicias-Sector I, current data suggest that the Manzanares valley
was also a habitable area during MIS 2, including at least the last
part of the LGM.
This picture is not consistent with the depiction of Central Iberia
as a region where only occasional uses or ephemeral visits occurred
during Solutrean times, as proposed in the classic and still widely
accepted models (Straus et al., 2000), now also supported on the
basis of paleoclimate simulations (Burke et al., 2014). On the con-
trary, current data, although still scarce, is strong enough to pro-
pose new avenues of research aimed at testing the hypothesis of
Central Iberia as a more populated area than previously thought,
and not necessarily a subsidiary region of the coastal areas of the
Iberian Peninsula. Recent research on the Sorbe River valley (Gua-
dalajara province), close to the south-eastern foothills of the Cen-
tral System Range and belonging to the Upper Tagus Basin, also
strengthens the importance of the Solutrean settlement of at least
some regions of Central Iberia. Here, the rock shelter of Pe~
na Cap
(Fig. 1) has revealed a prolonged sequence of human settlement
during MIS 2, comprising at least Protosolutrean, Middle Solutrean,
Upper Solutrean, and probably Gravettian occupations (Alcaraz-
no et al., 2013).
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124120
Fig. 13. Bifacial preforms from Las Delicias eSector II, level 4. 1. Large ake in initial stage of reduction (i.e. tested blank) abandoned due to sinuous and excessively thick edges. 2:
Flake in a middle stage of reduction abandoned due to a medial fracture.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124 121
9. Conclusions
Although historically underestimated and subject to preser-
vation problems typical of open-air sites located at current urban
areas, the middle and lower stretches of the Manzanares valley
currently show data suggesting the existence of an important
focus of human settlement in Central Iberia during Solutrean
times. For the rst time in the history of Spanish Palaeolithic
research, Las Delicias has shown solid data supporting the hu-
man occupation of the Manzanares valley during MIS 2,
including the LGM. These data demand the reconsideration of
Central Iberia as a mere crossing-area during the coldest stages
of the Upper Palaeolithic, and point towards approaching this
region in its own cultural and ecological terms. If Iberia func-
tioned as a human refugium during the LGM, this refugium was
not limited to the coastal areas of the peninsula. At least some
territories of the upland regions of the plateau were also part of
it, despite their less favorable environmental and climatic
However, cultural data, and especially chronometric and
palaeoecological data from Central Iberia, are still insufcient to
build specic models on humaneenvironment interactions at the
local and regional levels. Therefore, further research on this and
other regions of Central Iberia are very much needed in order to
develop new perspectives on population dynamics during MIS 2 in
the Iberian Peninsula and Southwest Europe.
The archaeological excavations conducted at Las Delicias were
authorized and funded by the Direcci
on General de Patrimonio
orico de la Comunidad de Madrid. We are very much grateful to
all students from University of Alcal
a and Autonomous University
of Madrid who participated in eld and laboratory works. Fran-
opez-Fraile developed the 3D-scans videos presented
in this paper. We also appreciate the work of Dr. Bienvenido
Martiínez-Navarro, and comments made by 2 anonymous re-
viewers, which contributed to improving the scientic quality of
this article.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at http://
Fig. 14. Solutrean industries from different sites of the Manzanares River valley. El Sotillo (modied after Martínez de Merlo, 1984: Figs. 9 and 11): 1, 2 and 5: endscrapers, 3 and 4:
backed bladelets, 6: broken laurel leaf point, probably nished. Nicasio Poyato (modied after Baena and Carri
on, 2002: Figs. 4.21 and 4.23): 7: bifacial point, broken by overshot, 8:
endscraper. Martínez (modied after Conde et al., 2000: Fig . 1 and L
amina I): 9 and 10: nished laurel leaf points. El Cojo (modied after Baena and Carri
on, 2002: Figs. 4.14 and
4.26): 11: broken laurel leaf point, nished, 12: broken willow leaf point, nished, 13: Bladelet core/endscraper. Puente de los Tres Ojos (modied after Tapias et al., 2012: Fig. 7):
14: broken laurel leaf point. All pieces come from non-systematic excavations carried out in the early 20th century, except number 14.
M. Alcaraz-Casta~
no et al. / Quaternary International 431 (2017) 104e124122
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... In fact, evidence of late Neandertal or Mousterian survival south of the Ebro River on the Iberian Peninsula, which has been reliably dated using the Ultrafiltration method, ceases more than 40-42 ka BP (Kehl et al. 2013;Wood et al. 2013;Higham et al. 2014;Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015, 2017aWolf et al. 2018, but see Zilhão et al. 2017 for a discussion). The oldest evidence of Upper Paleolithic sites (Gravettian) within the Iberian Peninsula is dated to around 25-26 ka BP at the Peña Capón (Guadalajara, Spain) site (Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013, 2017b, 2019a, which could indicate a long period with no evidence of human presence inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Nevertheless, La Boja rockshelter site displays early or basal Aurignacian chronologies of around 36.5 ka cal BP, though it is located on the coast (Zilhão et al. 2017). ...
... As a final remark, evidence of occupation of inland Iberia during the Middle-Upper Paleolithic period is increasingly growing in the areas surrounding the Cueva de los Torrejones (Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013, 2017b, 2019a, 2019bAlcolea González et al. 1995, 1997Sala et al. 2020) and, therefore, it is necessary to continue working in the region to expand upon the information currently available. ...
Pleistocene human remains are rare inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Most are considered Neandertals, but anthropological analyses and direct dating are rare. Recently, we published a study of a navicular from this region found in the Torrejones Cave. The results showed it differed from that of Neandertals and it was re-identified as Homo sapiens. Following the previous stratigraphic and biochronologic descriptions, we suggested that it could correspond to an Upper Paleolithic human, since the navicular was apparently recovered in the Late Pleistocene from an in situ unit. Direct radiocarbon dating from this fossil (4855-5036 cal BP), believed to be the only Paleolithic Homo sapiens from inland Iberia, as well as other hominin and faunal remains from the site, show that the human bones actually date to the Chalcolithic. The unexpectedly recent chronology for the navicular implies that there is no evidence of human fossils from the Upper Paleolithic in Torrejones Cave. Thus, any date from the Middle/Upper Paleolithic human record should be taken with caution until in-depth paleoanthropological, stratigraphical and/or direct dating studies are conducted. Extraordinary caution is recommended when human remains are recovered from apparently Paleolithic units in contexts bearing Holocene sepulchral units on the uppermost levels and/or some evidence of bioturbation.
... Un punto para tener en cuenta al respecto es la falta de contextos apropiados en la Península Ibérica para un trabajo con tal fin. La existencia más bien restringida de yacimientos que presenten caracteres de talleres de talla podría dificultar estas expectativas, presentando dichos contextos cadenas operativas bastante fragmentadas al respecto(Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2017, 2021Aubry et al., 2003;Cascalheira et al., 2021;Zilhão, 2013).En cuarto lugar, atendiendo a los aspectos mencionados previamente, como proyectos futuros, se habría de plantear la posibilidad de ampliar la muestra experimental, por un lado. Por otro lado, sería interesante introducir el control de otras variables determinantes en los estudios tecnológicos como es la propia diversidad de la "mano" del tallador. ...
... Thus, cortical flakes, preparation products and tested cores were assigned to the initialization stage or phase I; raw blanks, core maintenance by-products, thinning flakes and productive cores to the exploitation stage or phase II; and retouched blanks, retouching flakes and exhausted cores to the consumption and abandonment stage or phase III. The study of bifacial reduction sequences aimed at the production of foliate armatures followed methods described in Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 107 and were ultimately backed in experimental flintknapping works [148][149][150] . ...
Full-text available
As the south-westernmost region of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula stands as a key area for understanding the process of modern human dispersal into Eurasia. However, the precise timing, ecological setting and cultural context of this process remains controversial concerning its spatiotemporal distribution within the different regions of the peninsula. While traditional models assumed that the whole Iberian hinterland was avoided by modern humans due to ecological factors until the retreat of the Last Glacial Maximum, recent research has demonstrated that hunter-gatherers entered the Iberian interior at least during Solutrean times. We provide a multi-proxy geoarchaeological, chronometric and paleoecological study on human–environment interactions based on the key site of Peña Capón (Guadalajara, Spain). Results show (1) that this site hosts the oldest modern human presence recorded to date in central Iberia, associated to pre-Solutrean cultural traditions around 26,000 years ago, and (2) that this presence occurred during Heinrich Stadial 2 within harsh environmental conditions. These findings demonstrate that this area of the Iberian hinterland was recurrently occupied regardless of climate and environmental variability, thus challenging the widely accepted hypothesis that ecological risk hampered the human settlement of the Iberian interior highlands since the first arrival of modern humans to Southwest Europe.
... Crucially, this reinforces the complex scenario of settlement and human-environment interactions emphasised by the growing discovery of sites from interior and so-called inhospitable regions of Iberia (e.g. Fernández Gómez & Velasco Ortiz, 2013;Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;Yr