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In Western Europe, Acheulean cultural evidence is well attested by ca. 0.5 Ma. However, recent work has proven that it was present earlier; at the end of the Early Pleistocene. The timing and mode of the Western European Acheulean needs still to be investigated, and this knowledge appears to be strongly dependent upon data from sites with sufficiently well preserved archeo-stratigraphical sequences and/or geophysical conditions that guarantee reliable dating.
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The Ache ulean fro m A tap u erca: T h ree ste p s forw ard,one step ba ck
Andreu O lle
,M arina M osquera
,Xose Pe dro Rodríguez-Alvarez
Pa ulaGarcía- M edr ano
,D e bora h Ba rsky
, A rtu ro d e Lo m b era-H erm ida
Euda ldCarbonell
IPH ES ,InstitutCata la de Paleoecologia H um ana iEvo lucioSocial,Zona e duc a c ional4 (Edif.W 3),Cam pus S e sc e lades U RV,43007,T arrago na,Spain
Are a de Pre historia,U niver sitat Rovira iVirgili(U RV),F L let res, A v. C a taluny a 35,43002,Tarrago na,S pa in
Grupo de Estudos para a Pre historiadoNoroeste(GEPN), H isto riaI,U niver sidade de Sa ntiag o de Com postela,Praz a da U niver sidade,1,15782,
Sant iago de Com postela,Spain
article info
Articl ehisto ry:
Availableonline xxx
Keyw o rd s:
Lith ictechnology
Low er Paleolithic
MiddlePleisto cen e
InWesternEurope,Acheulean cultu ra l e v idence isw ella ttested by ca. 0.5Ma.However,recentworkhas
pr oven that it w as pr es ent earlier;atthe end ofthe EarlyPleis tocene. The timing and m ode of the
W estern European Acheulean needs s tillto be investiga te d,a nd thisknowledge appears to be strongly
dependentupon data fro m site s w ith su f cientlywellpres erved ar c heo- s tratigra phicalsequence sand/or
geophysical con d i tions thatgua rantee r eliabledating.
The ka rsticdeposits fro m th e Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos,Spain) represent one such case.They
con tai nexceptionallylong and continuous archeo-paleontological d ep osits th a t h a v e y ielded hom inins,
stone toolsand faunal r em ains fro m a p e riod c over ing the late Ear lyPleistocen e u p to th e H ol oce ne .
Prev ious w ork ha s a llow ed us to reconstructthe evolution oftechnology on a localscale,fro m th e late
Ea rlytotheMiddlePleisto cen e, an d to si t uat e t he appear ance of t he A cheulean m ore or les s s imulta-
yinthesite s o f G a ler ía,G r an D olina-TD 10 and the Simadelos H uesos,a taround 0.5 M a,afte r a
hiatus of ar cheological evi dence ofapproximately 300 K a.These Acheulean as s em blages appear inas-
so ciat ion w ith h o m ininfo ssi ls that have recentlybeenidenti ed as early m e m b e rs o f th e N e a n d e rta l
Delving furtherinto the description ofthe Ac heulean from A tapu erca,w e have recen t lyfoc used on the
technolog ical f eatur es that w e c ons ider to be ofparticul ar evolutiona ry signi c anc e and attem pted to
identifythem inotherEuropeankeysite s o f c o m p a ra b lechronolog ies .Indeed,w e identiedsomein-
ter nal evolutiona ry trends,w hich led us to propose thatthere w as a localtra nsition atAtapuerca fro m
th e A ch e u le a n to th e e a rlyMiddlePaleolith ic techno-com plexes .
H o w e v e r, th e c h ro n o logical setting resulting fro m th e intensive dating program s carried out inthe
GaleríaandSimadelosH uesos sites,an d esp eci ally,t he cor relation ofthese dates w ith th e o n e s a v a ilable
fro m G ra n D o lina-TD10,confron ts u s w ith som e apparentparado xes underlining the need to r ec ons ider
th e te c h n o logical interpr etation ofthe lith ictechnical record f rom Atapuerca.
Whilegreatefforts a re being m ade indating and analys isatm any European M iddlePleisto cen e site s,
as w ellas inestablish i n g co rre lations w ith w h ich t o bu ildconsistent regio n al seq u en ces, single,long,
con tinuous,and accuratelyexcavated(i.e. over a lar ge sur face ar ea) ar cheological successi ons re m ain
cru ci al to pr oper lyinterpret the appearance and evolution of the Ac heulea n throughout Europe.W e
fu rth e r stre ss th e importanceoftaking int o accou n t con di tioning fac tor s s uch as , r aw m ater ial avail-
ty , e n v iro n m en tal co n stra ints and site function issu es.
©2016Elsev i er Ltd and INQUA.Allrights reserved.
1. Introduction
Know ledge per tainin g to th e E u ro p e a n A c h e u lean has cons id-
er ablyim p ro v e d d u ring recent years. Data show in g th a t th e
Acheulian w as pr es entinEuropeearlier than pr eviouslythoughtis
one ofthe importantdiscoveri es thathas rec ently been con rm ed
* C o rresp o n d ing author. IPH ES , Institut Cat aladePaleoec ologiaHumanai
EvolucioSocial, Z o n a ed u caci ona l 4 (Edif. W 3), Cam pus Ses celades U RV , 43007,
Tarrag o n a, Sp ain.
E- m ail ad d resses: aolle@,andr eu.olle@ ur v .cat (A . O lle).
ContentslistsavailableatScience D ire c t
Quaternary Internationa l
journalhom int.20 16.01.042
1 040-6182/©2016Elsev ier L t d and INQUA.Allrights reserved.
Quaternary Internationa lxxx (2016) 1e13
Pleas e citethisarticleinpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,on e step back,Q uater nar y Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.20 16.01 .042
at insite s su ch a s, L a N o ira (M onc elet al., 20 13,20 16)and Barranc
de laBoella(Mosqueraetal.,20 15, 20 16). In addition,detailed r e-
visi ons considering technological bu t al so b road p aleo-
enviro n m en tal issu es (Despriee et al., 2010, 2011; Ashton a nd
Lew is , 2012; Preec e and Par tt, 2012; N icou d , 2 013a; C erul eo
et al.,2015; Gallotti a nd Peretto , 2 0 1 5 ; M o n ce l e t a l.,2015;
Serangeli and Conard, 2015; Rubio-Jar a et al.,2016;Santonja
et al.,2016 ), a s w e llas intensive dating program s (Antoine etal.,
2007; D em uro et a l.,2014;Antoine et al.,2015;Falgueres et al.,
2015; L opez-Re cioetal.,2015), h av e h e lped to updatemanyas-
pectsregarding the Acheulian techno- c om plex in W estern E u ro p e.
New inform a tion m ade ava ilable has been cruc ial to face the
mainopenquestionson the hum an settlem entofEurope fro m th e
late EarlyPleistocen e to th e m id-late M iddlePleis tocene. Thes e
issu es i nclude: population dyna m ics (con t i nuity , sin k-an d -so u rce
and other popu lation m odels, h u m an m i grations), relationships
be tw e en differ ent groups of hom inins, technological variability
(w h ich relates to th e de nition ofthe Acheulean itse lf),phenom ena
explaining the appearanc e of speci c types of tec hnological
know how (diffusion, c onver gence ), re lationships betw een
te c h n o logy a nd environm ental changes, possibleinuencesof
hom ininspeciation e vents on te chnological d i ve rsity , e tc. O f
course,a m ore am plearcheologicalrecord than the one currently
availablewouldberequired ifw e are to properlyf
ace such issu es.
Thecurrentstateofknowledge indicates that onlyalimite d
num berofsite s d a tin g to th e e n d o f th e E a rlyPleistocen e m ay b e
a ttribute d to the earlyEuropeanAcheulean.Pres ently,w e observe
that there s eem s to ha v e be e n a coexis tenc e betw een thes e early
si te s inwhich h om inins practiced bi facial technology ,w ith o th e r
si te s inwhich th ey didnot.Inthelatter cas e,toolkits re e ct o n ly
th e u se o f simplecoreand aketechnologies .M or eover,accor ding
to m o st o f th e b ro a d ly accepted dates ,a gener al dissem i nation of
bifacialtec hnologies inWesternEuropecanonlybeattes ted fro m
th e M IS12 onw ar ds (M onc elet al.,201 6).
H ow ever, recent r esear c h offer s another s c enar iofor the
appearance and implantation ofthe Ache ulean inWesternEurope
that appear s to have been a m ore continuous process than previ-
ouslybelieved.Thisfact pointstow a rdsthe possibili
ty th a t w e m a y
be dealing w ith a q u ite unexplored re ality,so that som e of the
infer ences w e c an c ur rentlymakewith re sp e ct to th e a for em en-
tioned big issu es are sti lllacking the require d e m p irical robu st -
n ess. Inthissense,special caut ion m ust be a pplied w hen
con side ring the signi cance ofthe a bsence ofe vidence,especially
si ncethe gapsinthearcheologicalrecord are of te n simplyre ective
ofa lack ofr es ear c h.
In any c as e,phas es ofpeopling and depopulation s eem to have
been quite co m m o n in s ever alareas ofW es ter n Eur ope dur ing the
MiddlePleisto cen e (Despriee et al.,2011; M osquera et al.,2013,
20 16). Inthis context, the Atapuerca and Caune de lA rago se-
quence s,both loca te d insouthernEurope,areofspecial interes t.
Thisregion has been propos ed by s everalauthor s as a likelysource
ar ea for coloni
zing higher latitu d e s (Dennelletal.,2011; A shton
and Lew is, 2 012 ; M acD o n al detal.,2012). Itisreasonabletohy-
po thesize that the populat ions m oving into the m ore northerly
te rrito ries w ouldhaverequire d h ighlyefcient and innovative
te c h n ical strategi es w ith w h ich t o co p e su ccessfullywith th e
environm entalstresses posed by higher latitu d e s (M on cel et al.,
2015). W e therefore suggest tha t s ourc e area s w ouldconstitu te
likelycandidates inwhich t o i nvestigate the prese nc e of suc h
te c h n o logical lyadaptive innovations. F urthe rm ore, these a reas,
si mplybythefact ofhaving been po pulated inamorecontinuous
way,wouldtheoretical ly r ecor d sequences w ith lessgapsthan the
northern ones.
The currentlyavailabledatadoesnotallow usto elabor at
em uch
fur ther upon the gener al discu ssi on on the Europea n Acheulean
(fore xa m ple, M onceletal.,2 016).T h e a im ofthispaperis, rstly,t o
su m m ari ze the updated inform ation fro m A ta p u erca, p o inting out
th e signi c a ntva lue oflo n g arch e o -stratigraphicalsequencesw hen
try ing to explaincomplex phenom ena,s uch as the appear ance and
evolution of the Acheulean on a continental scale. Secondly, w e
present the contradictory asp ects d erived from r ec ent r es earch
madeonthelong se quence s fro m A tapuerca.
During the lastyears,w e h ave achieved s ever a ls teps w hich th e
Atapuer ca r ecor d can contr ibute to debate s a bout the W estern
Europe Acheulea n.The rst ste p w as to e xpose a deta iled analysis
o f e ach re co rd from the Atapuerca site s (e .g. Carbonelletal.,1 999a,
1 999b,2001;Rodrígue z,2004).Thesecondstepwastoreconstruct
th e te ch n o logical evolution on a locals calefro m th e lateEarlyto
th e M iddlePleistocen e (Te rrad illos, 201 0; O lleetal.
,2013). T h e
th ird step w as to assess th e si gni c a nc e of the long e volutiona ry
tre n d s re co g n ized at Atapuerca, and to extrapo late them to the
Europe a n lat e Ear lyandearlyMiddlePleisto cen e co n tex t
(Mosquera etal.,2013). In addition, w e de sc ribe d the e arlier
Acheulean oc cur renc es in Atapuerca (García- M edrano et al.,2014),
ta k ing into accountissu es relating to raw m aterials'm anagem ent
and site function a t G a ler íaandGranDolina-TD 1 0 (Te rrad illos-
Ber naland Rodr íguez -A lvar ez,2014; G ar cía- M edrano et al.,2015).
The m ore restricted A cheulean recor d at SimadelElefantesite h a s
been also recen tl ydiscu ssed (De Lom bera-Herm ida etal.,2015).
At the sam e time,importantadvancesinotheraspectsofthe
Acheulean rec ord fro m A tap u e rca w ere p u b lish ed , am o n g w h i ch
th o se re g a rd ing hom ininsubsi
sten ce p attern s (Blas co etal.,2013a,
2013b; Rodríguez -H idalgo,201 5; Rodríguez -H idalgo et al.,2015)
and chr onological is s ues (s ee r eferences in Sec tion 3).The form er
are es peciallyimportantbecausetheyhighlight how differ ent the
features of the ar c heological assem b lages can be even w hen suc-
cessi ve occ upations e chronological lyclose-occurre d inthesame
enc lave.
B u t th e c e n tra l q u e stion w e a re treating here regardsthe chro-
nological f ram ew or k at A tapuer c a, as itisakeyissu e w h en
assessi ng technologicalevolutionary tre nds, a sw ellasw hen trying
to ex tra p o lat e these tr ends t ow ar ds a w ider evaluation of the
WesternEuropeanAcheulian context.Ther efore ,w e aim to assess
up to w hich p ointthe Atapuerca sequence m ay be representative of
th e W e stern European Acheulean as a w hole,es peciallyinlight of
new evidence.A reliabl
e chronological f ram e w o rk is ofparam ount
importancefor suc h a rev iew ; both fro m th e A tapuerca and other
W es ter n Eur opean s equences .
Itis w o rth n o tin g h e re th at so m e re ce n tlypublish ed d ates o b -
ta ined byapplying avariety ofgeoc hronologicalm eth od s to several
Atapuer ca site s (a n d levels) sti llshow slightinconsistencies and,in
som e cases, l ead to a technological p arad ox: th e l ate A cheulean
identied atGran Dolina-TD10.1, w here som e cultu ra l features
wereconsidered as transitional tow ar ds the ear lyMiddlePaleo-
lith ic,are presen t ly evaluated to be
olderthan thetypicalA ch eu lean
re p o rted at G a ler ía(especiallythelow e rlevels).I tisprecisel ythis
paradox thatthis paper aimstoexplore.Inlightofthisproblem atic,
which s eem s tobetaking us
one ste p ba ck,w e discu ss h o w
technological stu dies m ay contr ibute to clar ifying these phenom -
ena w hen taking into account external inuencesthatcould
explaintechno-morphological variability , su ch a s site function or
occu p ati on patte rns.
2. The Ache ulean at A tapuer c a
Studies concerning the Sierra de Atapuerca site s a llow to
c ons truc ta generalfram ew o rk w ith w h ich to an alyze the evolution
oflar ge and sm allver t ebrate fauna, paleo- enviro n m e n ts,h o m inins,
cultu ra l su b sisten ce strategi es , etc.,throughoutthe lat e Earlytothe
lateM iddlePleis toc ene.Thishasbeen m ade possible thanksto the
A.Olleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 132
Pleas e cite th isarticl einpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,one s tep back,Q uaternary Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.2016.01 .042
long sequence of hum an o ccupation events at Atapuerc a, w hich
cover a cu m u lative period of1 M yrs.The site s h a v e y ielde d stone
tool a ssem blages fro m a single geogr aphical area th at d oes n ot
sh ow extrem e en vi ronm ental changes through time(Ro dríguez
et al.,201 1).The hom inins presentatthe site s e x p loitedthesame
loc a le nvir onm ent: a kar s tic s ys tem develope d inasmoothrelief
cl ose to a uvial basin.Furtherm ore,they share a similar petr o-
graphicenvironm entand dem onstrate the sam e lith icraw m aterial
procurem ent patterns . Finally, t he Sierra de Atapuerca sequence
has provided a vastam ountofcontext ualinform ation indiffer ent
elds of know ledge: paleontology , z ooarc heology, paleoanthr o-
pology,geochronology,etc.O n the w hole,A tapuer c a pr ovides an
except io nal opportunity to look for technological f eatur es w ith
evolutiona ry signi c a nc e (Olleetal.,2013
), a n d to u se th isinfor-
mation a s a re fer entialfor the W es ter n European Low er Paleolith ic
In sum , w e observe that Atapuerca has yielded evidence of
M ode 1 techno logy inthelow e rlevelsofthe SimadelElefanteand
Gran Dolina site s, a sso ciated w ith H o m o sp.and Ho m o antecessor
rem ains,respectively.There follow s a hiatus of m or e than 300 K a
with o u t a n y e v idence ofa hom ininpresence,mainlyrepresented
by layer s TD 7 and TD 8 at G r an D olina (Mosqueraetal.,2013;
Rodríguez-G om ez et al.,2014), cover ing the timerangefro m c.
900 to c.550 ka (Ber geretal.,2008;Pa re setal.,2 0 13 ; M o ren o et al.,
2015). Interestingly,the A cheulean appears m ore or les s s imulta -
neouslyinthesite s o f G a lería,G r an D olina-TD10 and Simadelos
Huesos.These assem bl
ages ar e associated w ith pr e- N eander tal
hom ininremains (Arsuaga etal.,2014) , an d re ect com p lex and
diverse beha vioral and subsis tence patter ns . M iddlePleistocen e
bifacial technology that w e consider indicative of the A c heulian
techno-com plex isalso p resen t i nupperlevelsoftheSimadel
Elefante s ite (De Lom bera-Herm ida etal.,2015).
2.1. The G aler íalithictechnological record
The c om pletestratigraphicsequenceofGaler íashowsclear
Acheulean features (s ee below ). Italso p rovi desa generalimageof
technological stabi lity th ro u g h time,likelyinuencedbythe
maint enance oft he s am e occ upationalpattern.Thissite w a s likel
nev er use d a s a ba se -cam p,but rather for spora dicand repeated
low intensity v isits to e x p loitthe resourcesprovided by the her-
bivores that had fallen into th e n atu ral trap crea ted by the s haft
(Olleetal.,2005; Caceres et al.,2010).The hom ogeneity a n d th e
rep etitiv e w a y s th a t th e c a v e w a s u se d o v e r timecontribute to the
general image oftechnological stab ility o f G a ler íaalong the
seq u en ce (García- M edr ano et al.,2014,2015).
The Acheulean fro m G aler ía(Carbonelleta l.,1 995,1 999b,2001;
García- M edr ano, 2011; G ar cía- M edr ano et al., 201 3, 2014, 2015;
Olleetal.,2013)ischaracterized by t he dom inance of the cen -
tripetalknapping m etho d;the abundance o fdivers i ed and stan-
dardized sm allretouche d tools, w i th long a nd intensively
retouc hed edges (Fig. 1); th e v i
rtual absence of choppers and
cho pping-tools; an d th e rel ative ab undance of handaxes and
cl eaver s (Fig. 2). T h e o p e ra tive s equences alw ays appear
Fig. 1. Selection of cores(Ae G )and sm allt ools(H e L)fro m G aler ía. A , A ta'90 TN 07 F 27,28; B,Ata'93 TZ G IIIK06,22;C,Ata '90 TN 07 H 26,1;D ,Ata'91TN 6DA F 25 ,82; E,Ata'93 TG 10C H 22,
6;F,Ata '96 TZ G IId L03, 246;G, Ata '93 TN 2B G23,2;H ,Ata '85 TG11 G SU11 F 19,5 1;I,A t a'93 TN 05 E25,36;J,A t a'92 TG1 0B F 17,34;K , Ata'92 TN 05 G 25,45;L ,Ata'91 TN 6DA F25,36.
A.O lleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 13 3
Pleas e citethisarticleinpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,on e step back,Q uater nar y Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.20 16.01 .042
frag m en te d , w ith k n a p p ing activities m ainly undertaken outside
th e ca v e .
Inspite o f th e re lative s tability ofthe technology throughoutthe
seq u en ce,w e h ave identi ed som e subtle changes.The low erlevels
of G a ler ía(UnitGIIa) ar e char acter ized by t h e m assive use of
qua rtz ite cobbles to produce ake s and also to elabor ate the han-
daxes and cleaver s .The latter w er e m ade using simplestrategies
and t aking advantage ofthe or iginalcharacteristics ofthe cobbles ;
maintaining corticalsurf aces and focusing on shaping speci c tool
Som e tec hnolog ical changes have been identi ed half-w ay
through the sequence (UnitGIIb) and upw ards: there isawide r
divers ity o f raw m a te rials and the use of chertand sandstone in-
creases; l ar ge akes w er e us ed as blanks forcore sa nd L CT s,and the
intens ity ofhandaxe shaping inc r eas es .
In the upper levelsofthesequence(UnitGI
II), th e size an d
sh ap i ng intens ityoftheLCTsdecreaseinfavor of ret ouched akes
(d e n ticu l ates ,s cr aper s,points).M ore com plex knapping schem es
werealso gr adualpr ogr es s ivelyintroduced,no tablybifacialdiscoi d
strateg i es w ith co re su rface hierarchizat ion.The se featureshave led
s om e res ear c her s to s ugges t that thes e levelsshow sometransi-
tiona l chara cteristi cs t ow ardsthe M ouste rian (Te rrad illosand D íez,
Cleaver s ( ake cleavers , but also b i facial clea vers and other
pieces w ith tra n sv e rsa l e d g e tips)are m ore frequentatthe base of
thesequence and absentfrom theupperlevels(Sub-unitGIIIb).The
te ch n ique s em ploy e d to m ak e these toolsalso var y. Th ey w er e
m ade both on akes(cleaver ss ens u s tricto)andoncobbles ,and very
few ofthem pres ent a slightlyretoucheddistaled ge.T yp ol ogical ly,
th e m o st fre q u en t cl
eaver types are 1 ,2 and 5 (Tixier,1 956).
Fig.2. Selec tion ofhandaxes and cleaver s fro m G aler ía.A ,A t a'90 TG1 0A G 21, 90;B,Ata '90 TN 07 E29,1;C, Ata'88 TG 10A G 17, 83;D , Ata'85 TG11 G S U11 G 21,48;E,Ata'95 TN 05 G 25,
30;F ,Ata'92 TG 10 B H 20,25;G,Ata'94 TG07 F2 0,4;H ,Ata'93 TN 05 F25,32;I,Ata '94 TN2B F 27,2;J,A ta'94 TN 2B F 22, 3.
A.Olleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 134
Pleas e cite th isarticl einpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,one s tep back,Q uaternary Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.2016.01 .042
H andaxesare the m ostfre q u en t la rg e to o l ty p e ,a n d th e y a re a ll
pres ented inthelast s tages of t heirshapin g p rocesses.W h ilethey
disp lay m ainly oval m or phologies, w e have identi ed som e evo-
lution intheir sh ap e,si ze and technicalch aracteristi cs over ti me:in
th e basal levels ,they are m ade m ainlyonquartzite cobbles ,w ith
sh ap ing focuse d only on a spe ci c a re a of the tool (m a inlythe
medial-d istalsecti on)so thatthe tool'ssurface p re serves p art o f th e
originalcortex.The nish i ng s tages w er e freq u en tly carried out by
m ean s o f se co n d ary retouch inordertogeneratecarefullyshaped
si lh o u e tte s. C o n tra stingly,m or e signi c a ntte c hnologicalch an ge i s
obse rv e d in the upper levels(UnitGIII) w her e the handaxes w ere
m ade on akes and ar e s m aller- s ized.Inthispartofthesequence
th e sh a p ing processes affec t a la rger are a of the toolsperiphery,
resu lting in a t otalabsen ce of cort ex.I
n addition, the sha ping took
place us ing few er blow s . Ther efor e, s econdary retouch w a s not
used and the silhouetteswereles s c ar efullymanaged.Alth o u g h
th e re a re stilla num berofpiec es w ith o v a l m o rp h o logies , ther e isa
cl ear tendency tow ards the production ofm ore triangular s hapes
(García- M edr ano et al.,2015).
2.2. T he S imadelos H uesos technological record
The Sima de los H ue sos ne v e r se rved a s a place of hum an
occupation.The pa rticu l ar com position ofits ar c heological record,
an ac cum ulation ofhom inins and a single handaxe,as w ellasthe
unusualconditions underw hich it w as acc um ulated,has led us to
proposeasymbolicexplanation. At leas t 28 hom inincorpses
appear to have been intentionallythrowninto the Sima(orchasm).
Interpreted as the rs t evidence of m ortuary practices, th e
assem bl age includesa si
ngle,w ell-shaped handaxe thatcouldhave
been deposite d so m e k ind ofoffer ing orperhapsasa sign ofgroup
identity (Carbonelle tal.,2003; Carbonelland M osquera,2 006).
Th e handaxe w as m ade fro m a red d ish -l ight brow n, veined
quartzite , w h ich i sahigh-qua lity m a te rialt hat isquite ra re inthe
enviro n m e n t.Itrepr es ents a nals tage ofc on gur ation.Itpres ents
an oval contour and, alth o u g h itissomewhatlar ger
(1 5 4 9 7 4 8 m m ), its featur es clear lylink itw ith th e L C T s fro m
th e G a leríasub-unitG IIa(García- M edrano et al.,2014)(Fig.3).
2.3. T he Gra n D o lina-TD 10 technolog ical record
The G ran D olina-TD 1 0 unitcontains num ericallyrich lith icas-
sem bl ages ,including allofthe el
em ents of the different oper ative
seq u en ces. T h i s se em s to be be ca use the spa cious entrance and
outer part of the c ave w as r epeatedly u sed as a b ase-cam p , alte r-
nating w ith sh o rter and m ore s poradicvisi ts, e sp e ciallyintheup-
perm ost part ofthe sequence (upper TD10 .1).The e x cav ations of
Unit TD 10 cov e raround 95 m
.Sub-units T D 1 0 .1andTD10.2have
been entirelyexcavated,whilein sub-units T D 1 0 .3andTD10.4
Indeed,TD 10 contains the riches t r ecord s o far exhum ed fro m
th e A ta p u e rca site s; to g e th e r th e T D 1 0 . 1andTD10.2collections
con t ai nmorethan158,000 faunaland lith ic r em ains,com pared to
th e ca .1 4 ,000 fro m allthe G aler íaunits.S tu d iesofboth sub-units o f
Gran Dolina revealed the exis tence of s ever alr epeated long-term
occu pati ons,ea ch cha racterized by d ifferent proportions offaun al
sp ecies (Blasco et al.,201 3b;Rodríguez -H idalgo,2015; Rodríguez -
Hidalgo et al.,2015), ra w m a te rialsselec tion and technological
decisi ons.
Although several genera l technical trai ts o f th e T D 10 assem -
blages are s imila r to th e o n e s fro m G a ler
ía(intermsofraw material
m anagem entand knapping behavior), signi c a nt differ ences have
be en highlighted betw ee n the tw o site s. R e g a rd ing shaping stra-
tegies ,TD 10 globa llyshowsahighervariety and s ta ndardizat ion of
th e sm a lla nd m edium -sized ret ouched akes com pared toGaler ía
(i.e.denticu l ates ,s ide-scrapers and points).Inaddition, thishigher
inter estforthe sm alltools w asc or related w ith a low e rfreq u en cy o f
th e large cutting toolsmadeon akeblanks (Olleetal.,2013;
García- M edr ano et al.,2015).
Actually, TD 10.1showsawider and m ore selective procure-
mentstrategies w hich are re ected inahigher degree of e xploi-
ta tion of the ra w m a te rial (Te rrad illos-Be rna l a nd Rodríguez -
Alvar ez, 2014
). T h e k n a p p ing strategies ar e de ned by a dom i-
nance ofthe centripetalm ethod,w ith a h igher freq u e n cy o f th e
hierarc hized str ategies and, nam ely, t h e clear em ergenc e of the
Levallois knapping m ethod atthe end ofthe TD10 sequence (up-
per TD10 .1) (Fig.4).
How ever,the evolution of the technological b eh avi ors inside
the T D10 sequence are difcultto assessup to now.Firstly,
be ca use publish ed d ata refers only to the upper sub-unit:TD10.1.
Secondly, b ecause sub-units T D 1 0 .3andTD10.4arestillunder
excavat ion.Third ly, because som e layer s s how extr em elypartic-
ular features .Thisisthe case ofthe m ainlayer insub-unitTD 10.2,
which sh o w s a stri kinglymarkedspecializat ion concerning both
th e faunals pectrum (w ith b iso n reach ing 99% ofthe a sse m blage,
Rodríguez -H idalgo, 2015)and the exploita tio n of th e ch e rt re-
so u rces w i th n o p a ra llel i
ntheotherAtapuercasite s. T h e o n ly
si gni c a nttechnicalf eaturewecanhighlightisthat the size ran ge,
degree o fshaping and regular m or phologies of the lar ge cutting
toolsseemstodecreasefro m T D 10 . 2 to the end of the TD10
seq u en ce (Fig.5).
The technological ch an ges i denti ed inTD10.1andTD10.2do
notpreclude a clear-cutrupture w ith re sp e ct to th e te ch n o logical
modelsiden ti ed in otherA cheulean rec ords fro m A tap u e rca (i.e.
the upper sequence of Galería, García- M edr ano et al.,2015).
How ever,the TD10 record isaccompanied by other punctuated
but signi cant changes insubsisten ce (regu l ar hunting, fro m
wide ran ge pr ey s tr ategies to m onos peci c lar ge her bivore
com m unalhunting,and long-te rm use ofthe site s a s a re sidential
ba se cam p)(Blas co et al., 2013a,2013b;Rodríguez -H idalgo,2015;
Rodríguez-H idalgo et al.,2015). T h e y a lso i nclude technologi
innovations (tool hafting, bone tools and bone retouch ers)
(Carbonelletal.,2001; Roselletal.,2011;Rodríguez - H idalgo
et al.,2015)thatare presentin ear lyMiddlePaleolith icsite s
(M oncel et al.,2012). O th e r ten d e n cies,such as the differ ential
repr es entation of sm a lltoolsatTD10 compared toGalería, m ay
resu ltfro m d isti n ct u ses o f th ese cav i ties dur ing the M iddle
Pleis tocene.
These and other featur es (i.e. . ake elongation, r e nem ent,
th ickn ess an d volum e;García- M edr ano et al.,2015) together w ith
th e A ch e u lean char ac ter isti cs of th e G aleríarecord,allow ed us to
cl as s ifyTD10.1asalate A c heulean,w ith som e tran si tiona lfeatures
tending tow ards the earl
yMiddlePaleolith ic(Olleetal.,2013).
Fig.3. Q ua rtz ite h a n d a x e fro m th e S imadelos H uesos site .
A.O lleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 13 5
Pleas e citethisarticleinpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,on e step back,Q uater nar y Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.20 16.01 .042
3. The c hronological f ram ew ork
The a ge of the S ie rra d e A tap u erca k arsticinllshasbeen a
major issu e fro m th e b e g innin g o f th e sy ste m a tic r esearch pr oject
in 1978.O ver the year s ,intensive inves tiga tions have been car ried
o utapplying a variety ofdating technique s (Fal g ue res,1986;G rün
and A guirre ,1 987;Pare s a nd Pe rez-Gonzale z,1995;Bisch o ffet al.,
1997; Falgueres et al., 1999; Pares and Perez - G onzalez, 1 999;
Pa res e t a l., 2000; Falguer es et al.,2001;Bisch offetal.,2003,
2007; Pare s et al.,2006; Berger et al., 2008; Ca rbone lletal.,
2008). T h e re su lts fro m a ll thes e analys is h av e b e e n co rrelat ed
with the huge body of r es ear c h on biochronology and pa leoenvir-
onm ents from the study of the fossil assem b l ages (e.g. Cuenca-
Bescos and García ,2007; Blainetal., 2009; Cuenca-Bes cos et al.,
2010). The c om bined results fro m a l
l of these studies allow us
to d a y toelabor ate a gener alr econs t ruction ofthe biostratigraphical
and chr onologicalrecord f ro m th e Sie rra d e A tap u e rca d e p o sitional
seq u en ces, w h ich i sso crucial for fram ing the cultu ra l e v idence
(Rodríguez et al.,201 1).
Furt her dat ing efforts of the Atapuerca deposits have been
su ccessfully undertaken during the las t few year s,w ith a focus on
improving the available m easu rem en ts, o n l ling som e gaps,and
also on introducing new technique s (Morenoetal.,2012;Arnold
et al.,2015; M oreno et al.,2015). W h ilefor the oldest inlling
phas es atG r an D olina and SimadelElefa nte the m os trece ntw orks
have re ned or onlyslightlyadjusted the availabledates(Pares
et al.,2013; A rnol
d and Dem uro,2015; M oreno et al.,2015), th e
resu lts o n layer s bear ing Ach eulean evidence have presented
importantdiffer ences inrelation to pre viouslyobtained data,thus
ra isi ng questions re garding the general fram ew o rk o f h o m inin
cultu ra l e v o lution a tthissite .
Atthe Simadelos H ue sos site ,m u ltipledating techniqueshav e
nallyconvergedtowardsam inimum agefor the hom ininlayer of
427 ± 12 Ka (Arnoldetal.,201 4). T h issitu a tes the A c heulean evi-
dence fro m th issite w ith inthesametimefr am e as t hat of th e
modernhuman/N eander talm os t recent com m on ancestor ; s om e-
timebefore ca . 430 Ka (pre-M IS11)(Arsuaga etal.,2014).
AtG alería,tw o m aindating program s have recently been pub-
lish ed (Falguer es etal.,2013;D em u r o et al.,2014)and thei
have challenged par t of the chr on o- technological sequ en ce p ro-
posed forAtapuerca (Olleetal.,2 013),a s w e llas c ertaininsights on
the r s tappear ance ofthe A cheulean there (García- M edrano et al.,
20 14). Infa ct, so m e o f th e n e w d a te s a p p e a r tobesigni c a ntly
yo ungerthan those previously publis hed; s ugges ting thatthe true
burial age of s om e of the G aleríadeposits w o u ldhadbeenprevi-
ously overestimated.Ifwe take intoaccounttheESR/US dates
(Fal guer es etal.,2013), th e low e rlayers(GIIa) w ouldbesitu a te d a t
350e 363 Ka ,and the re stofthe se q ue nce (fro m G IIbtoGIII)w ould
be pla ced betw een 280 and 220 Ka .H ow e v er,the age estimates
obta ined by TT-OSL and pIR-IRmethods(Dem uro et al.,2014)
movesupwardsallthe se quenc e ,pointing to a w eighte d m ean age
of3 1 3þ -14 K a for the lo w erm o st su b -u n i tG IIa,and a r ange of220
to 260 for the upperm ostsub-uni
ts G IIbtoGIII(Fig.6).
The implicati ons ofthisnew scenarioareevident:ifthe form e r
TL da tes situated the low er-m ost Ache ulean assem b lages fro m
Galer íaatMIS13(Ber ger et al.,2008), the subsequent w orks
Fig. 4. Se lection ofc ores (Ae E)and sm alltools(FeK)fro m G ra n D o lina-TD 10.A,Ata'00 TD 10.1I15,2; B ,A t a'01 TD 10.1 K22,7;C, Ata '02 TD 10.1J19,76;D ,Ata'10 TD 10.2 N 1 9,52;E,
Ata'08 TD 1 0.2 M 21,70;F, Ata '00 TD10.1 N 21,23;G, Ata'00 TD10.1 N 20,66;H , Ata'03 TD 1 0.1K21,412;I,A ta'04 TD1 0.2M12,49;J,A ta'10 TD 10.2 N 21,350;K, Ata '10 TD 10.2N22,2.
A.Olleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 136
Pleas e cite th isarticl einpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,one s tep back,Q uaternary Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.2016.01 .042
su g g est th a t th e y a re m o re re ce n t, situ a tin g th e m rstlyatthe
be g inning ofM IS11(ESR/Us),and then atM IS9(TT-OSL/pIR-IR).
Fu rth erm o re, rese arch at T D 10 , including a rec ent s tudy
(Moreno etal.,2015), a lth o u g h k e e p ing som e discrepancy and
inconsisten cy i nside the TD 10 s equence, s eem toagreeinsitu a ting
th isunit betw een 350 and 450 Ka; that is, sl ightlyolder than the
oldestlayer s of G aler ía(broadly,M IS12-MIS11).Thesenew esti-
mations there fore lead to a s or t of par adox,m aking the so-called
ty p ical A cheulean fro m G aleríayoungerthanthelate A c heulean/
earlyMiddlePaleolith icfro m G ra n D o lina (TD10.1).
Inthissense,currentworkisfocuse d on re nin g th e stra ti-
graphicprecisi on concerning the location ofa llofthe datesinthe
strati graphy,on detailed c om parison s of th e resu l
ts a v a ilablefor
eac h given pointdated,and on com bining thisinform a tion w ith th e
bioc hronological an d en vir onm entaldata.W e are also w o rk ing to
exploitnew dating technique s tofu rth e r re n e th e av a ilablesetof
dates.Infact, system ati csampling for pIR-IRandTT-OSLdatesin
th e e n tireuppersequence hasbeen carried out(fro m T D 8 to T D 11 ),
and w e ar e pr es entlyawaiting these new results.
Intermsofsmallver tebrate biostratigraphy,allthe assem blages
fro m G aleríaandGranDolina-TD 10 are situ a ted w ith intheAta-
puerca FaunalUnit6 (Cuenca-Bescos et al.,2010),thus providing
limite d b iochronologicalp reci si on.
Thism ultiplici ty o f a v a ilable dates and dating m ethods for the
sam e d ep o si
ts issom ew hatunusualinmostoftheEuropeansite s.
Itappearsthatwhatwe may lear n from the Atapuerca chrono-
logical dat a as it stands toda y, isthat,inarcheolog ical si te s in
general, th e te n d e n c y to d ra w co n clusions ba sed upon onlyafew
datesshouldbetreatedwith m o re ca u tion. W e rem a rk tha tinfact,
Galer íaand GranDolina have yielded so m any dates that,instead of
cl arifying the chronological f ram e w o rk for th e su ccessi on ofoccu-
pational events ,they ha ve s om etimesled to c ontradict ory situ a -
tions (a s de scribe d a bove).
4. Fa cin g the par adox
According to our initial technolog ical i nter pretations,the cul-
tu ra l e v idence fro m G aler ía(attrib u te d to a ty p ical A ch eu l ian)
sh ou l d pre- date thatofthe upper par tofTD 10 (attr ibuted to a lat e
Acheulian).H ow ever,the new datesprovided by geochronological
methodsindicate another scenario,cha ng ing the timing for the
earlies tA c heulean fro m G aleríafro m M IS13 to M IS9.Thisleads us
to a paradoxical situ a tion inwhich an earlyMiddlePaleolith ic
techno-com plex s eem s to have em er ged at TD 10.1before the
Acheulean one at G aler ía.Ifw e w ere w orking intwodistan t si tes
for w hich on l yoneorafew dates had been obtained, this
Fig.5. Se lec tion of handaxes,cleavers and other lar ge cut ting toolsfro m G ra n D o lina-TD10.A,Ata'88 TD 10 J15,10; B ,A ta'00 TD10.1N19,120;C,Ata'00 TD 10.1J21 , 13; D ,A ta'00
TD 10.1L13,6;E,Ata'03 TD1 0.1J10,34; F,A t a'01 TD 10.1 N 14,320;G,Ata'09 TD1 0.2 H 20,82; H ,Ata'12 TD 10.2J11,1; I,Ata '12 TD 1 0.2.2H14,1;J,A ta '93 TD1 0.3I1 6, 229.
A.O lleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 13 7
Pleas e citethisarticleinpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,on e step back,Q uater nar y Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.20 16.01 .042
circu m stan ce m ay h av e b e en inter preted as a technologicaldelay
in th e m o re re cen t o f th e tw o site s. T h e fac t is thatthe data w e are
com p aring fro m A tapuer ca com es fro m site s th a t a re situ a te d o n ly
50 m a part, m a k ing ithighlyunlike ly that such different
technological trad i tions couldhaveco-existed i nsuchgeographi-
callyclose site s.
Inordertoface the A tapuer ca par adox,ther e ar e s everalm atter s
to c o n sider. Firstly, th er e ar e s t illsome errors intheavailable
Fig.6. Stratigraphiclogs fro m G ran D o lina and G aleriasite s. A v a ilablenumericaldates betw een the units b e a ring Acheulean as sem blages .D ates c om ing fro m GrünandAguirre
(1987),Fa lgueres et a l.(1999,2001, 201 3),Berger e ta l.(2008),Dem uro etal.(20 14),Arnoldetal.(2015);M oreno e tal.(2015);(m odi ed fro m García- M edr ano et al.,2015).
A.Olleetal./Q uaternary Internat ional xxx ( 2016) 1e 138
Pleas e cite th isarticl einpressas:Olle,A .,et al.,The Acheulean fr om A tapuerc a:Thr ee s teps for w ar d,one s tep back,Q uaternary Internationa l
(2 0 1 6 ), h ttp :// int.2016.01 .042
num erical d ates, p art i cular lyconcerning the low e rm ost and the
upperm ostlevels.I nthiscase,w em ustw aituntilt he specialists can
elabor ate m ethodologies that w illm ore a de quate lydealwith th is
problem .A s w e know ,the pr oble m o f co rrelations isaccentuated
whenwearedealing w ith d iffer ent r adiom e tricm ethodsand w ith
th e e p iso d i c natur e of sedimentinlling and erosion incaveenvi-
ro n m en ts (Dem uro etal.,2014).
Secondly, if the new dates are correct,thiswould m ean that
Gran Dolina-TD10 isslightlyolderthan Galer ía. Ther efor e,w hatw e
previouslyinterpr eted as the tr ans ition totheearlyMiddlePaleo-
lith ic (upper TD 10) fro m th e A ch e u lean (G alería) couldinfact
repr esent:
a) Tw o di
ffer enttechnologic altraditionstha ta re note v olutionary -
rela te d , b u t rath e r p arallelintime.Inthissense,som eauthors
havedisti nguish ed tw o clear ly- differ entiated techno-com plexes
in the SW European Pleistocen e (Santonjaetal.,20 14,20 16).In
our view , thiswould m ean that TD 10 lith icrecord might be
ro oted inprevious te chnologicaltr ad itions (i.e.European M ode
1)notrelated to the developed Ache ulean ofG aler ía.
b) A situ a tion inwhich TD 10 w ou l d not be r epres entative of the
end of the Acheulean, but r ather its b e g inning inAtapuerca,
which w as t h en d eveloped at the G aler íacaveafte r th e G ra n
Dolin a cave collapsed.Inthis(unlikely) c ase,w e shouldtota lly
rev isi
twhatwe previouslyconsidere d as tra n sitiona l inthe
Acheulean and M iddlePaleolith ic.
For bot h of t h e above scen arios,w e m ust w a itfor TD 1 0.3and
TD 1 0.4tobefully excavat ed,in o rd e r to se e w h e th e r th e se u n its
pres ent or not s imilar ities w ith G a ler ía,and s o that w e m ay better
addresssom e ofthese new lyarisi ng questions.Both sce na riospoint
tow a rd s a ra th e r co n tinuous hom inin presence at the Sie rra d e
c) TD 10 and G aleríacouldbetwofacets of a s ingletechno-
com plex, w hos e var iability co u ldbeexplained by a si nk
and s our c escen ari o(Dennelletal.,2011), inwhich m an y
differ ent hum an, s ocial and/or cultu ra l g ro u p s m a y h a v e
occupied the cavesduring differ enttimesandforvar ied uses .
Thishypothesiscouldsuggestthatthereistoo much var<