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Central Iberia around the Last Glacial Maximum: Hopes and Prospects


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The currently most widely accepted model of population dynamics in Southwest Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum depicts the Iberian Peninsula as a human refugium. However, this refugium was generally thought to be limited to the coastal areas of Iberia, while the interior lands of the Spanish plateau were explicitly excluded as areas of significant human settlement. According to what we have termed the “crossing-area model,” these inner territories supposedly had no Solutrean settlements, only ephemeral visits corresponding to the passage of hunter-gatherers en route between the more favored coastal areas. In this paper we test the validity of this model in light of new data from several sites in Central Iberia, namely from the Madrid Basin and the southeastern foothills of the Central System mountain range. We conclude that the crossing-area model does not explain the current data and therefore should be reassessed. Consequently, we propose to open up new avenues of research aimed at approaching the central region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.
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Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 71, 2015
Copyright © by The University of New Mexico
Hopes and Prospects
Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño
Área de Prehistoria, Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid), C/ Colegios 2, 28801,
Alcalá de Henares Spain. Email:
 : Crossing-area model, Solutrean, Protosolutrean, Central Iberia, Spanish
Plateau, Las Delicias, Peña Capón
The currently most widely accepted model of population dynamics in Southwest
Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum depicts the Iberian Peninsula as a
human refugium. However, this refugium was generally thought to be limited to
the coastal areas of Iberia, while the interior lands of the Spanish plateau were
explicitly excluded as areas of signi cant human settlement. According to what
we have termed the “crossing-area model,” these inner territories supposedly
had no Solutrean settlements, only ephemeral visits corresponding to the passage
of hunter-gatherers en route between the more favored coastal areas. In this paper
we test the validity of this model in light of new data from several sites in Central
Iberia, namely from the Madrid Basin and the southeastern foothills of the
Central System mountain range. We conclude that the crossing-area model does
not explain the current data and therefore should be reassessed. Consequently,
we propose to open up new avenues of research aimed at approaching the central
region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.
H,    of the Iberian Peninsula, a large upland
plateau (the Meseta) divided in two by the Central System range, have been
depicted as being nearly depopulated during the Late Pleniglacial or Marine
Isotopic Stage (MIS) 2, and especially during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
This is in contrast to the common consideration of the Iberian coastal areas as
being part of a southwestern European human refugium during the harshest
periods of the last glacial cycle (Jochim 1987). The idea of a totally or virtually
depopulated Meseta was widely assumed during most of the twentieth century,
and it was articulated as a model during the 1990s. In this paper we fi rst discuss
the validity of this model in light of very recent data from the central area of the
plateau (referred to here as Central Iberia), corresponding to the Madrid Basin
and the southeastern foothills of the Central System mountain range (Figure 1;
also see Straus 2015: g. 1, this issue). Then we propose new hypotheses and
avenues of research to study human-environment interactions in Central Iberia
around the LGM.1
The idea of a mostly uninhabited Iberian plateau during the coldest stages of
the Upper Paleolithic was fi rst put forth by Breuil and Obermaier (1913:15).
Since then, other scholars have insisted that the harsh environmental and climatic
Figure 1. Location of Solutrean sites subject to modern studies in the Madrid basin
(Manzanares and Jarama valleys) and the edge of the south-eastern foothills of the Central
System range (Central Iberia). (map modifi ed from Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015: fi g. 1)
1: El Sotillo, 2: Santiago, 3: El Cojo, 4: Martínez, 5: Valdivia, 6: Nicasio Poyato,
7: Las Delicias, 8: Puente de los Tres Ojos, 9: Valdocarros, 10: Peña Capón
conditions of this interior and upland region were the main factors behind the
lack of permanent settlements during the MIS 2 and the LGM (Corchón 1997;
Davidson 1986; Sauvet and Sauvet 1983; Straus 1991; see Delibes and Díez
2006). During the 1960s, some Spanish authors highlighted the bifacial industries
found in the Manzanares Basin (Madrid) in the early twentieth century as showing
a focus of Solutrean settlement in Central Iberia (Almagro 1960). However,
these bifacial industries have been widely dismissed, mainly because they were
collected without stratigraphic control and their cultural attribution is confusing
(Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2012), including possible assignment of at least some to a
leaf-point Mousterian (see Freund 1952).
The currently most widely accepted interpretation of the LGM occupation
of Central Iberia was proposed by Straus et al. (2000), based on previous
interpretations (e.g., Straus 1991). These workers accepted some Upper Paleolithic
presence in the interior of Iberia prior to the Magdalenian, but it was interpreted as
“occasional uses of or ephemeral visits to the less oceanic parts of the Peninsula
during the LGM sensu lato” (Straus et al. 2000:561). The authors proposed that
sites such as Olga Grande and Cardina in the Côa Valley (Portugal), Peña Capón
in the upper Tagus Basin (Guadalajara), and El Sotillo in the Manzanares Valley
(Madrid) do not refl ect actual settlement of these territories, just the passage
of humans across these “less favored areas” (Straus et al. 2000:562; see also
Straus 2012). We term this interpretation of the population dynamics of inner
Iberia during the LGM “the crossing-area model.” The basis of this model can be
summarized as follows:
1. Data corresponding to the LGM in the Iberian plateau are limited to a
few sites.
2. These data denote occupations of short duration, as refl ected in low
density and single-layered sites.
3. The interpretation of the interior sites as evidence of population
movements between the coastal areas of Iberia can explain the typological
and stylistic similarities between Solutrean stone tools and graphic
expressions (rock and portable art) of the Cantabrian, Mediterranean,
and Atlantic territories.
4. Climate and environment in the upland regions of the Iberian plateau
were too harsh during the LGM to allow for permanent human settlement.
In our view, the main strengths of the crossing-area model are as follows:
1. Its basic claims are in consonance with an interpretation assumed in the
Spanish literature for more than a century.
2. Until recently the model’s shortcomings have been few and problematic.
Sites such as Peña Capón, although more recently excavated than the
Manzanares Valley sites mentioned above and containing undoubtedly
Solutrean industries, also lacked modern studies and chronometric
dates (Alcolea et al. 1997b). Furthermore, the presence of some rock
art depictions assigned on stylistic grounds by some specialists to the
Solutrean in Central Iberia (Alcolea et al. 1997a) has been widely
considered to be proof not necessarily of permanent human settlement in
this area, just of occupations of undetermined duration.
3. The vast majority of Upper Paleolithic sites discovered in Central Iberia
during the recent decades are Magdalenian—in other words, post-LGM
(Jarama II, Enebrales, El Monte and Estebanvela, among a few others;
see Cacho et al. 2012).
Recent studies of Iberian population dynamics during the Upper Paleolithic have
not been able to contradict this model (Schmidt et al. 2012) and even have explicitly
supported it on the basis of paleoclimate simulations (Burke et al. 2014:44).
Although until very recently the crossing-area model has reasonably explained the
archaeological record of Central Iberia, it is our position that some new data enable
us to call it into question. These data come basically from two sites located in the
Tagus River basin: Las Delicias, a classic open-air site in the Manzanares Valley
(Madrid) that has recently been reexcavated, and Peña Capón, a rockshelter near
the southern foothills of the Central System range (Sorbe Valley, Guadalajara),
where recent analyses of lithic and faunal materials have been conducted.
Geoarchaeological, chronometric, and paleoecological information from these
sites allow us to explore a number of new hypotheses concerning the settlement
of Central Iberia during Solutrean times. They also suggest that the crossing-area
model was biased by the poor quantity and quality of data available from the
interior regions of Iberia.
Las Delicias and the Solutrean in the Manzanares Valley
Las Delicias is one of numerous sites that were excavated in the middle and lower
Manzanares Valley (Madrid) at the beginning of the twentieth century (Alcaraz-
Castaño et al. 2012). Although it was traditionally assigned to the Lower or Middle
Paleolithic, recent excavations in two multilayered areas of the site (Sectors I and
II) have shown that its lithic collections mostly consist of thinning or bifacial
reduction fl akes, as well as foliate preforms abandoned at different stages of the
reduction process (Figure 2). Together with geomorphological, lithostratigraphic,
chronometric, and palynological results, these data have shown Las Delicias to
be a Solutrean lithic workshop consisting of a palimpsest of occupations focused
on the production of foliate pieces. OSL dates have given minimum ages for this
processes of 18.2 ± 1.3 ky  (Sector I, level IIb) and 12 ± 0.8 ky  (Sector II,
level 3b) (Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015).
Both sectors excavated at Las Delicias consist of multilayered archaeological
deposits (Figure 2); both show most of the phases of the bifacial chaîne opératoire,
including procurement; and both yielded high artifact densities. These traits are
not typical of sites corresponding to simple, ephemeral visits or places that were
just used occasionally, as predicted by the crossing-area model; rather, they denote
some degree of intensive and recurrent use of the surrounding territory.
Las Delicias is the fi rst Solutrean site in the Manzanares Valley to be
excavated with modern methods that has archaeological deposits in secure
stratigraphic position and yielded chronometric and paleoenvironmental data.
This has rekindled the importance of the bifacial assemblages recovered in the
unsystematic excavations on the Manzanares terraces during the early twentieth
century as proofs of the Solutrean occupation of the valley. According to modern
reanalyses (Baena and Carrión 2002; Martínez de Merlo 1984), most of these
assemblages are undoubtedly Solutrean. Furthermore, recent salvage excavations
in the area have revealed other Solutrean evidence (Tapias et al. 2012). In sum, at
least eight Solutrean sites (and probably more) can be currently recognized in the
Figure 2. A: Bifacial preforms abandoned in the middle-fi nal stages of the reduction
process (1–3), and bifacial reduction fl akes (46) from Las Delicias–Sector I, level IIc.
B: Stratigraphic profi le from Las Delicias–Sector I. C: Vertical distribution of lithic
ndings in Las Delicias–Sector I deposit. Level IIc contained 1,210 lithic items in
10 sq. m (modifi ed from Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015: fi gs. 4, 8, 9, and 10).
Manzanares Valley, in an area of around 5.5 square km (Figure 1). Moreover, in
the nearby Jarama River valley (Figure 1), a laurel leaf point was identifi ed among
the lithics from a late-nineteenth-century excavation at the site of Valdocarros
(Baena and Carrión 2002), thus widening the area of Solutrean settlement in the
Madrid Basin. As is the case with Las Delicias, most of these sites are focused
on fl int procurement and knapping activities and hence can be considered to have
been lithic workshops (Baena and Carrión 2002). However, in some of them,
such as El Sotillo, Nicasio Poyato, Martínez, and El Cojo, the signifi cant number
of retouched tools (Figure 3) reveals that foraging and consumption activities
also took place there. Altogether, these data suggest that the Manzanares Valley
functioned as an organized territory for human activity during the Solutrean.
In fact, for a recurrently frequented lithic workshop that includes evidence of
the procurement of the raw material—as is the case of Las Delicias—the most
parsimonious interpretation is that the toolmakers were also exploiting the biotic
resources of the surrounding environment.
Peña Capón and the Solutrean in the Upper Tagus Basin
Peña Capón is a northwest-oriented rockshelter (861 m above sea level) in a
limestone formation close to the southeastern foothills of the Central System in
the upper Tagus Basin (Sorbe Valley, Guadalajara). It was discovered in 1970
and was the object of a preliminary publication in the late 1990s (Alcolea et
al. 1997b). Recently, a more in-depth study of the lithics and faunal remains,
including the radiocarbon dating of several bone samples, was conducted. This
study, centered on the Protosolutrean layer, also documented the oldest examples
of pre-Magdalenian portable graphic art from the Iberian interior (Alcaraz-
Castaño et al. 2013).
The archaeological deposit of the rockshelter comprises, from top to bottom
(Figure 4), a surface level (1) containing mixed Magdalenian and Upper Solutrean
materials, including shouldered points; a Middle Solutrean level (2) with laurel
leaf points; a Protosolutrean level (3) with Vale Comprido points; and a level
containing undiagnostic lithic products produced mostly on quartz, from which
a date in the range of the Gravettian was obtained. Radiocarbon dates and some
lithic artifacts from each layer are shown in Figure 4. Both the lithics and the
fauna from the Proto- and Middle Solutrean occupations point to the use of Peña
Capón as a residence and hunting camp (Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013).
The sequence of Peña Capón has no parallel in Central Iberia up to the
present time, and hence it is of paramount importance to testing the crossing-area
model. The recurrent use of the site by hunter-gatherers during several episodes of
the MIS 2, including the LGM, is not proof of an ephemeral use of the rockshelter;
indeed it suggests the contrary at least during one part of the LGM. Furthermore,
although no other Solutrean sites have been found so far in this area of the upper
Tagus Basin, in the nearby rock art sites of El Reno and El Cojo caves (both 9 km
from Peña Capón), and also in Los Casares cave (76 km away), several examples
of arguably pre-Magdalenian depictions—probably of Solutrean age on stylistic
grounds—have been described (Alcolea and Balbín 2013). Therefore, we propose
Figure 3. Retouched tools and foliate points (mostly fi nished or broken in the very last
phase of production) from Solutrean sites of the middle and lower Manzanares Valley.
16: El Sotillo (after Martínez de Merlo 1984: fi gs. 9 and 11). 78: Nicasio Poyato (after
Baena and Carrión 2002: fi gs. 4.21 and 4.23). 910: Martínez (after Conde et al. 2000: fi g.
1 and pl. I). 1113: El Cojo (after Baena and Carrión 2002: fi gs. 4.14 and 4.26), and 14:
Puente de los Tres Ojos (after Tapias et al. 2012: fi g. 7).
that Peña Capón was not the product of an isolated occasional visit to this region,
but rather was part of an organized settlement during Solutrean times. In fact,
the presence of a sequence comprising Magdalenian, Upper Solutrean, Middle
Solutrean, Protosolutrean, and perhaps Gravettian occupations suggests that these
territories were in use by hunter-gatherers during a prolonged period of time. This
should lead researchers to study this area of Central Iberia on its own cultural and
ecological terms, and not necessarily as a subsidiary region of the coastal areas.
For the rst time, we now have solid data (geoarchaeological, chronometric,
technological, and paleoecological) on the LGM settlement of Central Iberia. Both
Figure 4. A. Lithics and dating results from the Peña Capón sequence. B. Photo from
the 1970 excavation of the Peña Capón stratigraphic sequence. Archaeological levels
are highlighted in white; the dark line separates the disturbed layer 1 from the rest.
1: “Mediterranean-type” shouldered point, 2, 46: laurel leaf points, 3: “Cantabrian-type”
shouldered point (after Alcolea et al. 1997b: g. 8.7), 78: Vale Comprido points, 9:
endscraper on a wide blade with inverse at retouch, 10: carinated bladelet core made on
quartz, 11: retouched bladelet, 12: notch on a hyaline quartz fl ake.
the Manzanares Valley and the upper Tagus Basin have evidence that confi rms
previously ambiguous data on the Solutrean settlement of Central Iberia, hence
enabling us to question the crossing-area model. These data can be summarized
as follows:
1. In the middle and lower Manzanares Valley, an important cluster
of Solutrean sites revealed both specialized workshops showing an
intensive and recurrent exploitation of the surrounding lithic resources as
well as related occupations with evidence of foraging and consumption
2. Near the southeastern foothills of the Central System is evidence of
a prolonged sequence of human settlement, starting probably in the
Gravettian and including at least Protosolutrean, Middle Solutrean, Upper
Solutrean, and Magdalenian occupations. The material expression of this
settlement is thus far only represented in the Peña Capón rockshelter, but
the entire sequence has reliable parallels in the regional rock art.
Together, these data enable us to suggest a regional development of Upper
Paleolithic technocomplexes in Central Iberia, including Late Pleniglacial times.
Together with other Solutrean evidence in more peripheral areas of inner Iberia,
such as those of the open-air Côa Valley sites (Portugal) (Aubry et al. 2012),
possibly Maltravieso cave (Extremadura) (Canals et al. 2010), or even El Palomar
cave (Albacete, Castile–La Mancha) (Córdoba and Vega 1988) and the open-air
site of Valverde (interior Galicia) (Lombera et al. 2012), the Central Iberia data
suggest the existence in these interior territories of more organized and permanent
LGM settlements than previously thought.
Therefore, in our view the time has come to question the role of the
Iberian plateau as a mere crossing-area during the coldest stages of the Upper
Paleolithic, and instead to approach these inland territories on their own cultural
and ecological terms. Population breakdowns in large areas of the plateau during
particular climatic crises should not be ruled out, and contacts with other regions
of Iberia should be addressed. However, current data do not point to understanding
the interior Solutrean settlement as exclusively related to the sporadic passage of
people between the coastal areas of the peninsula. Other explanations must be
considered to place this record in the context of the Iberian Solutrean, such as
mutual contacts or exchanges with groups from other regions. In fact, long-distant
exchange has been posed as a possible explanation for the presence of lithic raw
materials from the northern Meseta and the Central System in several Solutrean
(and Gravettian) sites of the Côa Valley (Aubry et al. 2012).
Nonetheless, although results derived from the new Central Iberia research
imply a considerable increase with respect to previous knowledge, and in our
view they are consistent enough to question the crossing-area model, they are
still insuffi cient and too problematic to build new models of human-environment
interactions in these territories. This is especially evident in the case of available
chronometric and paleoecological data, which are too scarce to propose ne-
grained correlations between population dynamics and climatic and environmental
variations in Central Iberia. Peña Capón yielded only one radiocarbon date per
level, and those dates were obtained on bones from the 1970 excavation (see
Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013). Similarly, in Las Delicias only one OSL measurement
per excavated sector has been obtained, and they have to be taken as minimum
ages, with one being far younger than the Solutrean. Although these results allow
us to propose a preliminary timeframe for the Solutrean of Central Iberia between
23.9 ± 0.3 ky cal 14C  (the date for the Protosolutrean layer of Pena Capón) and
˃18.2 ± 1.3 ky  OSL (the most reliable minimum age for the Middle or Upper
Solutrean of Las Delicias – Sector I [see Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015]), stronger
chronological data are obviously needed to build a reliable regional sequence. In
the same sense, the only paleoecological data for the LGM settlement of Central
Iberia are the palynological results obtained from Las Delicias deposits, which
could be related only to the very last phases of the Solutrean time range and not to
the time of the production or abandonment of the lithics recovered at the site (see
Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2015 for discussion).
Therefore, it is our epistemological responsibility to assume the uncertainty
of these data and thus limit our discussion on the LGM human-environment
interactions in Central Iberia to a number of hypothetical questions: (1) Were the
Solutrean occupations of Central Iberia related to relatively favorable episodes
within the otherwise harsh conditions of the LGM? (2) Were they favored by
the existence of ecological refugia? Or (3) do they just refl ect the adaptability of
Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers to harsh environments?
We propose that, in order to answer these questions, research should be
directed at the following objectives:
1. Since karstic environments in the Iberian plateau are few compared with
the coastal areas of the peninsula, archaeological eld surveys should
be focused on locating open-air sites. These surveys face a number
of diffi culties (see Arrizabalaga et al. 2014), especially in urban areas
(notably Madrid, its suburbs and surrounding cities). In the Manzanares
Valley, the number of Solutrean sites destroyed as a consequence of
urban development and construction is undoubtedly high. However,
other fl uvial contexts of inner Iberia are yet to be explored.
2. In order to test hypothetical contacts between Solutrean hunter-gatherers
from the interior and those from the coastal areas, it is important to search
for the lithic raw materials exploited in sites such as Peña Capón and Las
Delicias in the Cantabrian, Portuguese, and Mediterranean assemblages.
Studies of lithic raw material sources and human mobility—especially
including least-cost path analyses, such as those developed for the sites
of the Côa Valley—are an excellent basis for this research (Aubry and
Mangado 2006; Aubry et al. 2012, 2015).
3. As mentioned above, we need more reliable data from the currently
known Solutrean sites and collections. In this regard, it is of paramount
importance to re-excavate the key site of Peña Capón, which will
enable us to study the site formation processes as well as to acquire new
samples for chronometric and paleoecological analyses. Although access
to this site presents signifi cant diffi culties since it is often underwater
(see Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013), we are currently trying to solve them.
We hope that some of these objectives can be accomplished very soon. At
least some of them will be addressed in a research project in which the author,
together with other researchers, is currently involved. This project, “Testing
Population Hiatuses in the Late Pleistocene of Central Iberia: A Geoarchaeological
Approach,” is focused on the study of population dynamics in Central Iberia
during the Late Pleistocene. Of course, research in other areas of inner Iberia, and
especially on the northern Meseta, where no Solutrean evidence is known thus far,
is also urgently needed.
This work was presented in the session “The Human Settlement of Western Europe during
the Last Glacial Maximum” of the XVII World UISPP Congress held at Burgos (Spain).
I wish to thank Prof. L. G. Straus for his invitation to participate in this session, and also
for his constructive comments on the manuscript of this paper. I also thank Prof. Dr. Gerd-
Christian Weniger for his cooperation. Part of the writing of this paper was done in the
Neanderthal Museum (Germany), supported by a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship
within the 7th European Community Framework Programme. The text was lightly edited
by L. G. Straus.
1. I am grateful to my colleagues at Las Delicias and Peña Capón for their work, and
especially to Drs. Javier Alcolea, Rodrigo de Balbín, Manuel Santonja, and Javier Baena
for their helpful comments. I have used the word “we” in this paper to acknowledge their
input, but any errors in interpretation are my own.
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... Thus, classic views on the Upper Paleolithic settlement of inland Iberia have depicted these lands as nearly or totally depopulated until the end of the LGM. Reasons behind this purported lack of cultural developments have revolved around the potentially harsh climatic and environmental conditions of these interior and upland regions as opposed to the more favored environments of the Iberian coastlines (see Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015). ...
... Although they were considered part of the Upper Paleolithic settlement of central Iberia until the 1960s (Almagro Basch, 1960;Jordá, 1955), later on, these assemblages were largely dismissed, mainly because they were collected without stratigraphic control and However, after the re-study of some of them, such as El Sotillo, Nicasio Poyato, Martínez or El Cojo (Baena and Carrión, 2002), and especially after the re-excavation of Las Delicias site, where a minimum OSL age of 18.2 ± 1.3 ka BP was obtained for a layer containing Solutrean assemblages ( Fig. 6. 15-16) (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2017), the middle and lower Manzanares valley has been demonstrated to be a focus of human settlement during the LGM. In an area of around 5.5 square km at least eight Solutrean open-air sites can be currently recognized here (Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015). Most of these sites are focused on flint procurement and knapping activities, and hence can be considered to have been lithic workshops. ...
... A notable progress in this context is, for example, the recent archaeological and paleoenvironmental work in central Iberia reported above. Through the acquisition of new chronometric, paleoenvironmental, and archaeological evidence, former scenarios of a punctual human occupation in the Iberian hinterland during the LGM have been challenged (see e.g., Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2019, 2017. ...
The Iberian Peninsula is considered one of the most well-suited regions in Europe to develop studies on the relationship between environmental changes and human adaptations across the Late Pleistocene. Due to its southwesternmost cul-de-sac position and eco-geographical diversity, Paleolithic Iberia was the stage of cyclical cultural/technological changes, linked to fluctuations in climate and environments, human demographics, and the size, extension, and type of social exchange networks. Such dynamics are particularly evident during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) timeframe, with a series of innovations emerging in the archaeological record, marking the transition between the traditionally defined Gravettian, Proto-Solutrean, Solutrean, and Magdalenian technocomplexes. Stemming from a workshop organized in Erlangen in 2019 on “The Last Glacial Maximum in Europe - state of knowledge in Geosciences and Archaeology”, this paper presents, in the first part, an updated review on the paleoenvironments and human adaptations across four macro-regions (Northern, Inland, Mediterranean, and Western Atlantic Façade) in Iberia during the LGM; and, in a second part, a discussion on the pronounced inter-regional variability, unresolved research questions, and the most promising research topics for future studies.
... Los sedimentos del Seno A de la Cueva de los Casares contienen micromamíferos y constituyen un documento excelente para valorar la teoría sobre el poblamiento paleolítico del centro de la Península Ibérica durante el Pleistoceno superior y su influencia en la fauna. Multipaleoiberia engloba además a equipos de investigación de un conjunto de yacimientos del interior peninsular como Torrejones, Malia, Peña Capón, El Molino, todos ellos con un interesante registro de microvertebrados que empieza a estudiarse en el seno de este proyecto (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2015, 2017. ...
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Es mi discurso de entrada a la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas, Químicas y Naturales de Zaragoza en el que pretendo analizar la relación entre los seres humanos y la naturaleza, entendiendo por ésta a las comunidades de plantas, animales y el sustrato paisajístico en el que nos movemos los seres vivos, lo que técnicamente se denomina la biosfera, de la cual, por el pujo típicamente humano de destacar, hay una parte que denominamos antroposfera. Puede arrojar luz el análisis científico de la interacción entre humanos y comunidades de animales y plantas del pasado, algo de lo que se ocupan las disciplinas paleontológicas y arqueológicas, especialmente en el “corto” período geológico denominado Cuaternario. Como dice Erwin: los paleontólogos debemos analizar lo que origina la biodiversidad actual, no sólo catalogar fósiles; (Paleontologists must model the causes of biodiversity rather than simply cataloguing fossils, as they curate the only record of ecosystems undamaged by humans (Douglas Erwin, 2009).)
... Menacho se encontrarían dentro de la variabilidad de algunas industrias del Pleistoceno superior final en la Península Ibérica, un período escasamente representado en las zonas interiores (Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;Straus, 2018). Entre estas industrias destaca la documentada en el nivel 3 de la cueva del Esquilleu (Cantabria), con una cronología aparente en torno a 19 ka obtenida mediante radiocarbono, aunque algunas muestras proporcionaron resultados más recientes (Baena Preysler et al., 2012). ...
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En este trabajo presentamos el conjunto lítico de Base Menacho (Badajoz, España), documentado en un nivel sedimentario que cubre los depósitos aluviales de la terraza fluvial T3 +10-20 m sobre el cauce actual del río Zapatón, subafluente del río Guadiana en el sector de las Vegas Bajas (Badajoz, España). El conjunto se compone de 46 elementos líticos incluyendo lascas, núcleos y configurados. No se han identificado elementos líticos carac-terísticos que permitan una atribución firme a los tecnocomplejos de Modo 2 o 3. Ya que los elementos líticos fueron documentados en arenas finas y no muestran evidencias aparentes de marcas de abrasión, asumimos de forma preliminar la ausencia de transporte (o muy limitado). Estas observaciones sugieren que el conjunto se encuentra en posición primaria. La datación por Resonancia Paramagnética Electrónica (ESR) de una muestra de cuarzo procedente del nivel arqueológico proporciona una edad del enterramiento de 19,2 ± 1,7 ka (1σ). Teniendo en cuenta todas las fuentes de incertidumbre relativas al resultado, esta datación numérica permite: 1) correlacionar a Base Menacho con el Pleistoceno superior final y en particular con el estadio isotópico (MIS) 2; 2) establecer indirectamente la cronología de una industria lítica cuyas características poco resolutivas son similares a otros conjuntos relativamente poco estudiados documentados en contextos fluviales de la Península Ibérica; y 3) situar a Base Menacho en el Paleolítico superior, un período con escasas evidencias arqueológicas en el interior de la Península Ibérica. Aunque estos resultados preliminares prometedores demuestran el potencial interesante del conjunto lítico de Base Menacho, reconocemos también la necesidad de realizar una excavación arqueológica en un futuro próximo, para aumentar el tamaño del conjunto y obtener una mejor comprensión de su variabilidad y de los procesos de formación del yacimiento.
... Although no index fossils or significant technological strategies have been recognized in these levels, the absence of foliate armatures, the higher presence of quartz and bladelets as compared to levels 1-3 (Supplementary Dataset 5), and their chrono-stratigraphic position, allow us to securely relate them to pre-Solutrean human occupations (Fig. 10). Based on the assemblages from the 1972 excavation at the site (Supplementary Text S1), a Proto-Solutrean component with Vale Comprido points (level III) ( Supplementary Fig. S3), and a potentially Gravettian occupation (level IV) were described 20,25 . According to new radiocarbon determinations, these two levels (III and IV as defined in 1972) are currently dated to 25.6-24.9 ...
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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;Yravedra et al., 2016;Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2017). ...
The emergence and distribution of the Solutrean technocomplex in Western Europe is credited as a direct result of climatic changes associated with the Last Glacial Maximum. Across Iberia, spatial clusters of sites are considered to reflect the deliberate occupation of regional refugia which enabled human survival. In southern Iberia in particular, it is commonly thought that benign climatic conditions made it a regional refugium that was especially attractive for human settlement. However, this perspective has endured without a critical examination of its refugium status, thereby hindering a more comprehensive understanding of hunter-gatherer mobility and settlement in the region. Drawing on the relationship between lithic technology, land-use strategies and ecology, this paper tests the assumption that mobility and settlement strategies in southern Iberia conform to expectations of hunter-gatherer behaviour in an ecological refugium. This is achieved using statistical analyses of retouched stone tool assemblages which serve as a proxy for site function and related strategies of mobility. The results demonstrate a considerable use of logistical mobility strategies which likely sought to overcome problems arising from unevenly distributed resources. These findings undermine the refugium status of southern Iberia and question the validity of a ‘refugium’ concept for understanding the regional Solutrean record and beyond.
... No indications of loess formation were found for the period of the global LGM (23-19 ka), thus, we expect less dry and less cold conditions in central Iberia during that time. This is in line with mild North Atlantic SSTs (Eynaud et al., 2009) and indications of recurrent human occupation due to temperate phases within and around the LGM in the northern part of the upper Tagus Basin (Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;Yravedra et al., 2016;Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2017). ...
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During glacial times, the North Atlantic region was affected by serious climate changes corresponding to Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles that were linked to dramatic shifts in sea temperature and moisture transfer to the continents. However, considerable efforts are still needed to understand the effects of these shifts on terrestrial environments. In this context, the Iberian Peninsula is particularly interesting because of its close proximity to the North Atlantic, although the Iberian interior lacks paleoenvironmental information so far because suitable archives are rare. Here we provide an accurate impression of the last glacial environmental developments in central Iberia based on comprehensive investigations using the upper Tagus loess record. A multi-proxy approach revealed that phases of loess formation during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 (and upper MIS 3) were linked to utmost aridity, coldness, and highest wind strengths in line with the most intense Greenland stadials also including Heinrich Events 3–1. Lack of loess deposition during the global last glacial maximum (LGM) suggests milder conditions, which agrees with less-cold sea surface temperatures (SST) off the Iberian margin. Our results demonstrate that geomorphological system behavior in central Iberia is highly sensitive to North Atlantic SST fluctuations, thus enabling us to reconstruct a detailed hydrological model in relation to marine–atmospheric circulation patterns.
... The current discussion on the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Iberia shows clear shortcomings resulting directly from: (1) the lack of research in inland Iberia, when compared to the coastal regions; (2) the difficulties of locating open-air sites that can expand the geographic and temporal scope of the archaeological record; and (3) the challenges of dating (especially using 14 C) (Aubry et al., 2002;Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015). ...
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The timing of the Neanderthal-associated Middle Palaeolithic demise and a possible overlap with anatomically modern humans (AMH) in some regions of Eurasia continues to be debated. The Iberian Peninsula is considered a possible refuge zone for the last Neanderthals, but the chronology of the later Middle Palaeolithic record has undergone revision and has increased the debate on the timing of Neanderthal extinction. Here we report on a study of the 5-m-thick archaeological stratigraphy of the Cardina-Salto do Boi, an open-air site located in inland Iberia, from which optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages were obtained for Middle and Upper Palaeolithic occupations preserved in overbank alluvial deposits. Geomorphology, archaeostratigraphy, stone-tool evolution, and OSL dating support the persistence of Neanderthals after 41 ka in central Iberia; the transition between the Middle Palaeolithic material culture and the AMH-associated Aurignacian blade and bladelet production is estimated to lie between 34.0 ± 2.0 ka and 38.4 ± 1.9 ka. Our results demonstrate that investigations focusing on different geomorphological situations are necessary to overcome the current limitations of the evidence and to establish more consistent models for Neanderthal disappearance and AMH expansion in the Iberian Peninsula.
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This paper focuses on palaeoenvironmental conditions and climate variability during the Upper Late Pleistocene (c. 28,000–11,700 cal BP) in SW Europe (Iberian Peninsula) and their influence on human settlement patterns. All the palaeoenvironmental and archaeological sequences available for this period are analysed, together with a new palaeoenvironmental study related to a key deposit: Verdeospesoa mire (northern Iberian Peninsula). The multiproxy analysis (pollen, spores, non-pollen palynomorphs, magnetic susceptibility, organic content and macrocharcoal) of this sequence, with the support of six Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates, shows the climatic variability of that period, with some dry/cold and humid/temperate episodes. While in vast regions of central and northern Europe very few archaeological sites of this age are known, in the Iberian Peninsula no occupation gaps have been detected in all this period, supporting the idea of SW Europe as a glacial refugium for human groups during the worst periods of the Upper Late Pleistocene.
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The central Meseta is a high plateau located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula. Abundant evidence of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupations of the region contrasts with scarce evidence of a human presence during the early Upper Palaeolithic. On this basis, it has been suggested that climatic downturns triggered the temporary abandonment, or near abandonment, of the central Meseta during the Last Glacial period. We conducted three archaeological surveys in Guadalajara province, located in the southern part of the region, in 2009, 2010, and 2017. Survey results, interpreted in the light of a habitat suitability model, support a hypothesis of climate-driven abandonment (or near-abandonment) of the central plateau during the Last Glacial Maximum and suggest that the Tagus River Valley, which links the Spanish interior to the Atlantic seaboard, was a focus for the Palaeolithic occupation of the region at other times.
The environmental conditions that existed during the period between 45 and 30 ka are of vital importance for addressing the transition between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. It seems to be a hiatus of Paleolithic populations, a “no (hu)man’s land” in Central Iberia, coinciding with the mid part of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3, between 42 and 28 cal kyr BP. This break in the archaeological record makes it difficult to address this period paleoecologically. Here we present a new cave site, Portalón del Tejadilla (Segovia), dated to a period roughly between ∼34.2 and 40.4 cal kyr BP in which cold-adapted faunas, such as woolly rhinoceros and giant deer, have been recovered in a hyena den site context. This site is located in Central Iberia, and more specifically, on the southern edge of the northern Plateau, an unexpected region for the presence of these faunas during the MIS 3. These new findings extend the geographical distribution of several species, including Coelodonta antiquitatis and Megaloceros giganteus. Furthermore, they document a climatic deterioration (colder and dryer) during the mid MIS 3 in Central Iberia in one of the coldest and driest episodes of the Late Pleistocene. Portalón del Tejadilla fills this temporal gap and provides valuable paleoecological information about the transition between the Middle to Upper Paleolithic.
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In the archaeological record of Paleolithic Europe, southwestern France stands out as a region of exceptional richness and complexity, known for its abundance of sites, detailed sequence of archaeological cultures, and rich inventory of parietal and portable art. In order to explain the extraordinary developments in this area, attention must be given to the unique combination of factors that set this region apart from the rest of western Europe. Some of these factors are local and will be mentioned briefly. Others, however, are regional, in that they may be discovered only by examining southwestern France in the context of a larger area. It is these latter factors that are the main focus of this discussion. Southwestern France will be viewed as a refugium for European populations during the last glacial maximum, and the implications of this view will be explored.
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Solutrean culture has been interpreted as a response to the Last Glacial Maximum in western Europe. However, to establish a link depends on our knowledge of the impact of global climatic changes at a local level and on the differential preservation and signifi cance of the record. The identifi cation of lithic sources, technology, function, and place of discard is an effective way to mitigate some of these biases and to improve our understanding of hunter-gatherer societies. We present the results of a study of fl int materials found in several rockshelters and open-air sites preserving Upper Solutrean lithic assemblages from France and Portugal, using a Geographic Information System. The network defi ned by a leastcost algorithm is considered a proxy for social and territorial reconstruction. Our goal is to identify recurrences and differences in Solutrean raw material network and management as compared with Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic assemblages in the same areas, considering environmental changes.
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El yacimiento de Las Delicias (Madrid), conocido desde la excavaci?n practicada en el sitio por H. Obermaier y P. Wernert a finales de 1917, ha sido desde entonces uno de los referentes cl?sicos del Paleol?tico del valle del Manzanares, a pesar de las variadas interpretaciones que ha originado su problem?tica colecci?n industrial. Tras un an?lisis historiogr?fico de sus interpretaciones, presentamos aqu? un primer avance de los resultados obtenidos en un proyecto de investigaci?n sobre este yacimiento, iniciado en el invierno de 2008. Este proyecto, planteado a partir de la excavaci?n de parte de los dep?sitos cuaternarios a?n conservados en Las Delicias, se ha centrado en mejorar nuestro conocimiento geoarqueol?gico del yacimiento con el objetivo de resolver los interrogantes tradicionales que ?ste ha propuesto a la disciplina. El an?lisis tecnol?gico de la industria l?tica recuperada, junto con el estudio litol?gico y geomorfol?gico del dep?sito, permite situar en el Solutrense el yacimiento de Las Delicias. ?ste se convierte as? en el ?nico emplazamiento conocido en el entorno del Manzanares ?hallazgos aislados aparte? con industrias solutrenses en posici?n estratigr?fica bien definida y excavado con metodolog?a actual. Se apunta una primera discusi?n sobre las implicaciones de los resultados obtenidos en el debate sobre la ocupaci?n humana de la Meseta durante el tramo central del Paleol?tico Superior.The archaeological site of Las Delicias (Madrid, Spain) is known since the excavation conducted at the location by H. Obermaier and P. Wernert in the late 1917. It has been one of the classical references for the Palaeolithic of the Madrid region, despite the varied interpretations that have been posited to explain its problematic lithic assemblage. Following a historiographical analysis of the site?s interpretations, we present the results of a research project initiated in the winter of 2008. This project was centered in the excavation of part of the quaternary deposits still present in the area, and its main objective was to gain a better geoarchaeological understanding of the site?in order to solve the questions that it has traditionally posed to the discipline. The technological analysis of the lithics, together with the lithological and geomorphological analysis of the deposit, allows us to place Las Delicias in the Solutrean period. Thus, besides some isolated finds, this site becomes the only one in the Manzanares area containing Solutrean industries in a well-defined stratigraphic position and excavated with modern methods. We make some reflections on the implications of our findings for the discussion on the human settlement of Central Iberia during the middle part of the Upper Palaeolithic.
The history of the hominin settlement of Europe has always been marked by range expansion and contraction in the face of interglacial-glacial cycles. The last major contraction occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and was manifested culturally in western Europe by the Solutrean technocomplex, during which the surviving human population was especially concentrated in favored areas of a refugium corresponding to southwestern and southeastern France and the Iberian Peninsula. This period was marked by signifi cant developments in technology (especially weaponry), social networking, and artistic expression. This paper reviews the current state of knowledge of the Solutrean phenomenon with special emphasis on settlement-subsistence systems and regional similarities and differences in material culture and responses to the climatic crisis of the LGM.