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Abstract

Bifaces dominate the Acheulean stone tools recovered during the archaeological excavation of layer X of Gruta da Aroeira, dated to 389–436 ka. Faunal remains and a human cranium were found in association with this lithic assemblage. The raw materials used are mostly quartz and quartzite cobbles available in the vicinity of the site. Technological and systematic analysis shows that there are no Levallois elements and suggests that on-site knapping consisted of the reduction of centripetal cores. Flake cleavers are absent. Use-wear analysis indicates the processing of hard materials, mainly wood. Gruta da Aroeira represents one of the few Middle Pleistocene sites that provide securely dated diagnostic human remains and associated Acheulean lithics, thus representing a major step forward in our understanding of the variability of westernmost Europe's Acheulean and of the human populations that made it.

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... Em relação aos núcleos, explorados maioritariamente a partir de calhaus rolados, predominam as plataformas de percussão corticais e os padrões de redução simples e expeditos, essencialmente monopolares, observações que remetem para uma exploração oportunista, mas muito eficiente (Meireles 1992; Relativamente às lascas, assinala -se o predomínio de lascas simples, com percentagem variável de córtex, ou de lascas com dorso natural, o que indicia o desenvolvimento lateral da debitagem, correlacionável com a exploração de seixos rolados de quartzito enquanto suportes predominantes da matéria -prima utilizada (Meireles 1992;Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Cura 2014;Monteiro -Rodrigues -Gomes -Cunha -Ribeiro 2016;Daura et al. 2018;Ferreira et al. 2020;. Os padrões de exploração são essencialmente monopolares, o que vai ao encontro do predomínio de sequências de redução monopolares (Meireles 1992;Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Cura 2014;Monteiro -Rodrigues -Gomes -Cunha -Ribeiro 2016;Ferreira et al. 2020;Monteiro -Rodrigues et al. 2020), variando a média de levantamentos na face dorsal das lascas, por vezes, inclusive, entre matérias -primas (ex.: Cunha -Ribeiro 1999). ...
... Os padrões de exploração são essencialmente monopolares, o que vai ao encontro do predomínio de sequências de redução monopolares (Meireles 1992;Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Cura 2014;Monteiro -Rodrigues -Gomes -Cunha -Ribeiro 2016;Ferreira et al. 2020;Monteiro -Rodrigues et al. 2020), variando a média de levantamentos na face dorsal das lascas, por vezes, inclusive, entre matérias -primas (ex.: Cunha -Ribeiro 1999). Os suportes provenientes de núcleos com um padrão de exploração organizado são residuais, situação contrariada pontualmente em jazi-pontualmente em jazidas onde o talhe centrípeto tem uma maior importância (ex.: Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Daura et al. 2018). Regista--se a presença maioritária de talões corticais face aos talões lisos, e a presença reduzida de talões diedros e facetados (Meireles 1992;Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Cura 2014; Monteiro -Rodrigues -Gomes -Cunha -Ribeiro 2016; Daura et al. 2018;Ferreira et al. 2020;. ...
... Os suportes provenientes de núcleos com um padrão de exploração organizado são residuais, situação contrariada pontualmente em jazi-pontualmente em jazidas onde o talhe centrípeto tem uma maior importância (ex.: Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Daura et al. 2018). Regista--se a presença maioritária de talões corticais face aos talões lisos, e a presença reduzida de talões diedros e facetados (Meireles 1992;Cunha -Ribeiro 1999;Cura 2014; Monteiro -Rodrigues -Gomes -Cunha -Ribeiro 2016; Daura et al. 2018;Ferreira et al. 2020;. É comum a identificação de lascas fraturadas, frequentemente devido a acidentes de tipo Siret. ...
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O aumento do número de dados disponíveis para o estudo do Plistocénico Médio no território peninsular tem favorecido a compreensão das características tecnológicas e cronológicas que definem o tecno‑complexo Acheulense ibérico e a sua integração na realidade euroasiática e africana. Neste contexto, considera ‑se pertinente apresentar uma síntese atualizada que problematize o estudo deste tecno‑complexo em Portugal. Apesar de alguma indefinição cronológica, o Acheulense no território português parece desenvolver‑se durante a segunda metade do Plistocénico Médio, em correlação com a realidade observada noutras regiões da Península Ibérica. As características tecnológicas dos conjuntos assinalados também estão em correlação com as observadas noutros pontos do território peninsular. Em conjunto, o Acheulense ibérico tem fortes afinidades africanas por oposição à realidade documentada para além Pirenéus, observações que são reveladoras de diferenças regionais significativas nas dinâmicas de povoamento do continente europeu, e que reforçam a relevância da Península Ibérica para aprofundar o conhecimento destes processos.
... The widespread presence of Acheulean in the second half of the Middle Pleistocene is confirmed in sites such as Galería, Aroeira and the middle fluvial terraces of Atlantic rivers. However, these assemblages do not contain typological associations with spheroids, handaxes, picks and cleavers like those of Casablanca ( Fig. 1) (Daura et al., 2018;García-Medrano et al., 2014;Santonja and Pérez-González, 2001). ...
... The LFA of the Iberian Peninsula shows variability based on shape standardisation in large cutting tools (LCTs). Not all the assemblages with handaxes contain cleavers like in Aroeira (Daura et al., 2018). Moreover, the importance and technical use of large flakes (>100 mm) varies. ...
... The increased use of quartz in Aroeira-level B2 (52%) compared to level Xb/c (37%) may correlate to a greater degree of adaptation to this raw material. This adaptation consists of the versatile use of quartz in more complex technical operations such as the shaping of handaxes and large-sized objects (Daura et al., 2018;Marks et al., 2002). In addition to the handaxes, the production of large quartz flakes has also been discovered in Arbo (Méndez-Quintas et al., 2019) and in Puig d'en Roca (Rodríguez-Álvarez, 2016). ...
Article
The Acheulean of the Iberian Peninsula is considered a homogeneous technocomplex within the Large Flake Acheulean (LFA) of northern African origin. In this work, we describe the lithic industry of Santa Ana Cave, interpret the territorial functions of the site and search for its technological parallels. Our results place the lithic industry of Santa Ana within the LFA. This assemblage is characterised by: 1) an association of spheroids and large cutting tools (LCTs), 2) the systematic shaping of handaxes on flakes, and 3) quartz knapping. The lithic industry of Santa Ana is unique in the Iberian Peninsula within a region of broad technological variability masked by the apparent homogeneity derived from the extensive presence of handaxes and cleavers. Outside Africa, the technological features observed in the Santa Ana assemblage have only been documented at a few sites in the eastern Mediterranean, China and India. These features illustrate the homeostasis of the Acheulean technocomplex and the expansion of African groups, including northern African groups, towards the Iberian Peninsula.
... This site is located within the Almonda karst system and belongs to the Almonda archaeological cluster, which also includes the important Palaeolithic site of Gruta da Oliveira (Deschamps and Zilhao 2018;Hoffmann et al. 2013). The stratigraphic sequence spans a thickness of approximately 4 m and is divided into 3 major stratigraphic units (Daura et al. 2017;Daura et al. 2018;Marks et al. 2002a, b). The available geochronological data indicate an age range between MIS 11 and 10 (Daura et al. 2017), while micro-and macrofaunal association indicate an advanced Middle Pleistocene age (Marks et al. 2002a, b). ...
... The lithic industry comprises 1013 artefacts from the 1998-2002 fieldwork (Marks et al. 2002a, b), with an additional 393 artefacts recovered from the recent excavations conducted over a 6-m 2 area (layers X-Xb/c) (Daura et al. 2018). The raw material used includes quartzite and quartz, which are present in similar percentages throughout the studied layers, while there is limited presence of other raw materials (e.g. ...
... flint). The chaîne opératoire shows significant occurrences of knapping products (flakes and debris) with few cores, flakes tools and macro-tools (Daura et al. 2018;Marks 2005;Marks et al. 2002a, b). The latest studies indicate that the assemblage displays Acheulean features (Daura et al. 2017;Daura et al. 2018), but previous investigations have noted significant differences from the main Iberian LFA sites (Marks 2005;Marks et al. 2002a, b). ...
Article
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This article provides a synthesis of the Middle Pleistocene hominin record of West Iberia, which comprises sites displaying abundant concentrations of large flake Acheulean (LFA) assemblages, as well as isolated examples of Early Middle Palaeolithic (EMP) technology. These sites typically have age ranges spanning marine isotopic stages (MIS) 11–6, within the second half of the Middle Pleistocene, and are primarily located in fluvial environments related to the main regional river basins. The LFA sites display extensive occurrences of handaxes and cleavers on flake blanks (detached from large cores), with a large number of knapping remains, such as flakes or small-medium cores, showing simple reduction patterns. Over the identified age range of these sites, especially during the MIS 9–6 interval, we observe constant technological stability, without strong variations over time, and independent of the functionality of individual sites. These fixed technological and behavioural patterns reinforce the African affinities of the southwestern European Acheulean, in contrast to Acheulean assemblages identified in the northernmost areas of Europe.
... Several lithic artifacts have been recovered in association with the human remain, including Acheulean handaxes, together with other configured cores, flakes, or flake fragments and tested and untested cobbles (Table 1) (Daura et al., 2018). Raw-material procurement (mostly quartz and quartzite) indicates on-site knapping of immediately available sources and on-site discard of finished items, suggesting the lowlands of the Tagus and its tributaries as the mainly area frequented. ...
... Raw-material procurement (mostly quartz and quartzite) indicates on-site knapping of immediately available sources and on-site discard of finished items, suggesting the lowlands of the Tagus and its tributaries as the mainly area frequented. The use-wear analysis of lithics indicates woodworking and, probably, butchering activities (Daura et al., 2018). Related to the taphonomy of lithics, no significant post-depositional alterations have been observed; this conclusion is supported by the preservation of micro-wear traces (cf. ...
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Objectives The aim of this work is to describe the taphonomic signatures of the Aroeira 3 cranium, with a specific focus on cranial breakage, comparing the cranium with other Middle and Upper Pleistocene hominin fossils in order to approximate the cause of death and the biological agencies and geologic processes involved in the taphonomic record of this specimen. Aroeira‐3 was recovered from Acheulean layer X of Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal), dated to 390–436 ka. Materials and methods Taphonomic analyses noted surface modifications employing standard methods. The cranial breakage pattern of Aroeira 3 was analyzed to assess the presence/absence of perimortem (fresh bone) and postmortem (dry bone) fractures and the possible causes of perimortem skull bone fractures. Results Aroeira 3 presents substantial bone loss of the left supraorbital arch and the outer cranial table of the frontal squama. Most of the fractures present features consistent with postmortem injuries. The fracture to the posterior region of the parietal bone, however, displays features more usually present in perimortem bone fractures. No evidence of anthropogenic activity or of carnivore modification has been identified. None of the expected features of interpersonal conflict are observed. Finally, the bone loss in the frontal squama and the supraorbital arch could be attributed to different agencies, and a traumatic event cannot be totally ruled out as origin of the bone alteration. Discussion Cannibalism, secondary treatment of the corpse and accumulation induced by carnivores can all be discarded, making an accident the most plausible explanation for the cranial fracture.
... Lithics. Among the lithics, we identified eight items presenting a colour that might result from thermal alteration (Fig. 7) 50 . To assess whether such was indeed the case, we analysed the magnetic properties of two (samples ID #104-105; the first presents an intense reddish colour at one end) (Supplementary Table S5). ...
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The site of Gruta da Aroeira (Torres Novas, Portugal), with evidence of human occupancy dating to ca. 400 ka (Marine Isotope Stage 11), is one of the very few Middle Pleistocene localities to have provided a fossil hominin cranium associated with Acheulean bifaces in a cave context. The multianalytic study reported here of the by-products of burning recorded in layer X suggests the presence of anthropogenic fires at the site, among the oldest such evidence in south-western Europe. The burnt material consists of bone, charcoal and, possibly, quartzite cobbles. These finds were made in a small area of the cave and in two separate occupation horizons. Our results add to our still-limited knowledge about the controlled use of fire in the Lower Palaeolithic and contribute to ongoing debates on the behavioural complexity of the Acheulean of Europe.
... Three stratigraphic units have been identified at the Aroeira site, and the cranium was found in Unit 2 encased in very hard breccia. In addition, several hundred stone tools were recovered from this same unit (Daura et al., 2018), along with fragmentary and some burnt faunal remains. The age of the cranium was estimated relying on several radiometric dating techniques and likely falls between 389 and 436 ka, making Aroeira 3 one of the best dated crania from the European Middle Pleistocene and approximately contemporaneous with the Atapuerca (SH) sample (Daura et al., 2017). ...
Article
The discovery of a partial cranium at the site of Aroeira (Portugal) dating to 389-436 ka augments the current sample of Middle Pleistocene European crania and makes this specimen penecontemporaneous with the fossils from the geographically close Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH) and Arago sites. A recent study of the cranium documented a unique combination of primitive and derived features. The Aroeira 3 cranium preserves the right temporal bone, including the petrosal portion. Virtual reconstruction of the bony labyrinth from μCT scans provides an opportunity to examine its morphology. A series of standard linear and angular measures of the semicircular canals and cochlea in Aroeira 3 were compared with other fossil hominins and recent humans. Our analysis has revealed the absence of derived Neandertal features in Aroeira 3. In particular, the specimen lacks both the derived canal proportions and the low position of the posterior canal, two of the most diagnostic features of the Neandertal bony labyrinth, and Aroeira 3 is more primitive in these features than the Atapuerca (SH) sample. One potentially derived feature (low shape index of the cochlear basal turn) is shared between Aroeira 3 and the Atapuerca (SH) hominins, but is absent in Neandertals. The results of our study provide new insights into Middle Pleistocene population dynamics close to the origin of the Neandertal clade. In particular, the contrasting inner ear morphology between Aroeira 3 and the Atapuerca (SH) hominins suggests a degree of demographic isolation, despite the close geographic proximity and similar age of these two sites.
... layer X-Xb/c) most likely dates to 390e436 ka (Fig. 1). In association with the human cranium, Acheulean handaxes (Daura et al., 2018) and faunal remains (mostly cervids, with both Dama sp. and Cervus sp., and equids) have been recovered (Daura et al., 2017). A preliminary study of the small mammals (insectivores, bats and rodents) (Appendix A1) recovered during the 1997e1999 campaigns, unfortunately with an uncertain stratigraphical context, was undertaken by E. Pem an (Marks et al., 2002). ...
Article
The recent publication of a human cranium, dating to ca. 436–390 ka, from Gruta da Aroeira provides an important input to the debate about human evolution during the Middle Pleistocene in Europe and the origin of the Neanderthals. This cranium, chronologically located to Marine Isotope Stage 11c (MIS 11c), appears in association with Acheulean lithic tools and several faunal remains, among which cervids and equids are predominant. The small vertebrate assemblage associated with the Aroeira-3 cranium suggests an environment and a climate related to an open-woodland landscape and relatively mild and humid conditions, probably in connection with the end of MIS 11c. Moreover, comparison with other Middle Pleistocene Iberian sites with human remains suggests that these hominins lived in open forest areas during mild climatic substages.
... In central Portugal, evidence from the Aroeira cave indicates that the Mousterian was not yet established by ca. 280 ka (Daura et al., 2018;Hoffmann et al., 2013) or by ca. 201 ka (Cunha et al., 2017b). ...
Article
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This is a book especially dedicated to the general public and to students of Archaeology, History, Anthropology, Geology Heritage and other related fields explaining the archaeological investigation in the Neanderthal site Cobrinhos, and how it relates with human evolution, paleoenvironment, and the history of research about Neanderthals in Portugal and the region of Vila Velha de Ródão.
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The Miño River is one of the main Atlantic basins of Iberia and preserves extensive Pleistocene deposits. However, there is presently limited information concerning the first human occupation history of this region. Existing research undertaken across the region has identified a significant number of Large Flake Acheulean (LFA) sites with African affinities. These sites are associated with former fluvial environments and are now preserved as a sequence of fluvial terraces along the Miño River, located between relative elevations of + 40 m and + 20 m, and dated to between Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 9 and 6. The chronological range and observed technological patterns are similar to those recognised in other areas of South western Europe, particularly the central Iberian Peninsula and Aquitanian region (France) during the second half of the Middle Pleistocene.
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We use stone tool refitting to assess palimpsest formation and stratigraphic integrity in the basal units of the Gruta da Oliveira archeo-stratigraphic sequence, layers 15–27, which TL and U-series dating places in late Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 or early MIS 4. As in most karst contexts, the formation of this succession involved multiple and complex phenomena, including subsidence, bioturbation, carnivore activity and runoff as agents of potential post-depositional disturbance. During phases of stabilization, such as represented by layers 15, 21 and 22, the excavated area was inhabited and refits corroborate that post-depositional displacement is negligible. Layers 23–25 and 16–19 correspond to subdivisions that slice thick geological units primarily formed of material derived from the cave’s entrance via slope dynamics. Refit links are consistent with rapid fill-up of the interstitial spaces found in the Karren-like bedrock (for layers 23–25), or left between large boulders after major roof-collapse events (for layers 16–19). Layers 26 (the “Mousterian Cone”) and 27 are a “bottom-of-hourglass” deposit underlying the main sedimentary body; the refits show that this deposit consists of material derived from layers 15–25 that gravitated through fissures open in the sedimentary column above. Layer 20, at the interface between two major stratigraphic ensembles, requires additional analysis. Throughout, we found significant vertical dispersion along the contact between sedimentary fill and cave wall. Given these findings, a preliminary analysis of technological change across the studied sequence organized the lithic assemblages into five ensembles: layer 15; layers 16–19; layer 20; layers 21–22; layers 23–25. The lower ensembles show higher percentages of flint and of the Levallois method. Uniquely at the site, the two upper ensembles feature bifaces and cleavers.
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We describe a European Acheulean site characterised by an extensive accumulation of large cutting tools (LCT). This type of Lower Paleolithic assemblage, with dense LCT accumulations, has only been found on the African continent and in the Near East until now. The identification of a site with large accumulations of LCTs favours the hypothesis of an African origin for the Acheulean of Southwest Europe. The lithic tool-bearing deposits date back to 293–205 thousand years ago. Our chronological findings confirm temporal overlap between sites with clear “African” Acheulean affinities and Early Middle Paleolithic sites found elsewhere in the region. These complex technological patterns could be consistent with the potential coexistence of different human species in south-western Europe during the Middle Pleistocene.
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En este trabajo se aborda el problema de la Transición entre el Paleolítico Medio y el Superior en la región circundante al Golfo de Bizkaia. Se plantea para ello el estudio de distintas colecciones líticas: la del nivel VII (Musteriense) de Amalda, la del nivel IX (Chatelperroniense) de Labeko Koba o la de los niveles B, D y N de Axlor (Musterienses) y la del nivel C4III de Isturitz (Protoauriñaciense). El estudio se aborda desde una perspectiva integral, teniendo en cuenta diversos aspectos como la captación de la materia prima, los sistemas de fabricación o las actividades realizadas con el utillaje. De esta manera se ha obtenido una lectura de la organización económica y social de las poblaciones del Final de Paleolítico Medio y de Inicios del Superior. Los resultados obtenidos permiten constatar como ya en el Paleolítico Medio hay una gran variabilidad de sistemas de organización del aprovisionamiento de la industria, de las actividades de subsistencia y de la articulación del territorio, que nos habla de cambios históricos en las poblaciones de neandertales del final del Paleolítico Medio. A partir del Chateleperroniense y especialmente durante el Protoauriñaciense y el Auriñaciense Antiguo, coincidiendo grosso modo con la llegada de poblaciones de humanos modernos y la desaparición de las últimas poblaciones neandertales, se documentan cambios fundamentales en los sistemas de aprovisionamiento lítico, en la gestión del territorio y en la organización social, observándose creciente complejidad que se manifiesta en el control de la producción lítica, en la estandarización del utillaje de caza y en la multiplicación de las manifestaciones simbólicas (arte y ornamentos).
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The sedimentary record in the Guadix-Baza Basin (southern Spain) has proved to be a great source of information for the Miocene through the Pleistocene periods, due to the abundant faunal remains preserved, in some cases associated with lithic tools. The Solana del Zamborino (SZ) section has been the subject of controversy ever since a magnetostratigraphic analysis resulted in an age of 750-770Kyr for Acheulean tools, a chronology significantly older than the ~600Kyr established chronology for the first Acheulean record in Europe. Although recent findings at the “Barranc de la Boella” site (north-east of the Iberian Peninsula) seem to indicate that an earlier introduction of such technique in Europe around 0.96-0.781 Ma is possible, the precise age of the classical site at SZ is still controversial. The aim of this paper is to constrain the chronology of the site by developing a longer magnetostratigraphic record. For this purpose, we carried out an exhaustive sampling in a new succession at SZ. Our results provide a ~65m magnetostratigraphic record in which 4 magnetozones of normal polarity are found. Our new magnetostratigraphic data suggest an age range between 300–480Kyr for the lithic tools, closer to the age of traditional Acheulean sites in Europe.
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Upstream of Vierzon city, the fossil fluvial system of the Cher River is composed of seven sandy alluvial formations, which include four stepped sheets deposited on the western slope of the valley and three formations stacked in the fault trough where the river is currently flowing. According to the available geochronological data (ESR on optically bleached quartz), these formations were deposited between 1 Ma and 60 ka. The Acheulian site of la Noira (Brinay, Cher) is located on the western slope, at the bottom of one of the terraces, “Les Fougères Formation”. At la Noira, the lowest Unit a, close to the valley side, is covered by the alluvial les Fougères Formation and could correspond to the transition between an interglacial and a glacial stages. Hominins collected there lacustrine millstone slabs embedded in soliflucted coarse deposits lying on the substrate (Unit a). The slab fragments they broke were shaped into handaxes or knapped to produce large flakes. Subsequently, Unit a and the associated workshops were overlain by colluvium, then partly cryoturbated before being overlapped by the thick fluvial sands of the Fougères Formation. This 6 m-thick formation at la Noira, is composed by a succession of three sand units (Units b, c, d) with unconformities covered by slope deposits or underlined by cryoturbation features and ice wedge pseudomorphs. According to ESR dates (mean weighted age: 665 ± 55 ka), deposition took place during the beginning of MIS 16.
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The Middle Pleistocene is a crucial time period for studying human evolution in Europe, because it marks the appearance of both fossil hominins ancestral to the later Neandertals and the Acheulean technology. Nevertheless, European sites containing well-dated human remains associated with an Acheulean toolkit remain scarce. The earliest European hominin crania associated with Acheulean handaxes are at the sites of Arago, Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH), and Swanscombe, dating to 400-500 ka (Marine Isotope Stage 11-12). The Atapuerca (SH) fossils and the Swanscombe cranium belong to the Neandertal clade, whereas the Arago hominins have been attributed to an incipient stage of Neandertal evolution, to Homo heidelbergensis, or to a subspecies of Homo erectus A recently discovered cranium (Aroeira 3) from the Gruta da Aroeira (Almonda karst system, Portugal) dating to 390-436 ka provides important evidence on the earliest European Acheulean-bearing hominins. This cranium is represented by most of the right half of a calvarium (with the exception of the missing occipital bone) and a fragmentary right maxilla preserving part of the nasal floor and two fragmentary molars. The combination of traits in the Aroeira 3 cranium augments the previously documented diversity in the European Middle Pleistocene fossil record.
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The cave site of Gruta da Oliveira is located in the Almonda karst system, at the interface between the Central Limestone Massif of Portuguese Estremadura (CLM) and the adjacent Sedimentary Basin of the River Tagus (TSB). The cave presents a stratification dated to ~37-107 ka containing hearth features, Neanderthal skeletal remains, as well as fauna, microfauna and wood charcoal remains. The lithic assemblages are large and feature a diverse range of raw materials. Knappable lithic raw materials in primary, sub-primary and secondary position in the CLM and the TSB were systematically surveyed and sampled. The characterization of the geological samples was carried out at both the macro- and the microscopic scales and data were systematized under the petroarcheological and “evolutionary chain of silica” approaches. The study of the lithic assemblage from layer 14 (dated to the ~61-93 ka 95.4% probability interval by TL) indicates that the Gruta da Oliveira Neanderthals used quartzite, quartz and flint from sources located less than 30 km away in both the CLM and the TSB.
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We present the results of the study of lithic raw materials used in Upper Palaeolithic occupations preserved in caves, rockshelters and open-air sites from two different geological environments in Portugal. For the sites located in the Lusitanian Basin, flint or silcrete sources are easily available in close vicinity. The Côa Valley sites, located in the Iberian Massif, are within a geological environment where restricted fine-grained vein quartz and siliceous metamorphic rocks are available, but no flint or silcrete, even though both are present in the archaeological assemblages. Data from the two clusters of sites are compared with a third newly located site in the Lower Vouga valley, at the limit of the Iberian Massif with the Lusitanian Basin, where quartz vein raw material types are locally available and flint is about 40 kilometres distant. This study reveals prehistoric adaptations to these different geological contexts, with shorter networks for the Lusitanian basin sites contrasting with the long distance ones for the Côa Valley, and the Vouga site at an intermediary position. Finally, we propose that lithic raw material supply networks, defined by a GIS least-cost algorithm, could be used as a proxy not only for territoriality in the case of local and regional lithic raw material sources, but also to infer long-distance social networks between different Palaeolithic human groups, created and maintained to promote the access to asymmetrically distributed resources.
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The Upper Paleolithic human remains from the Solutrean and Solutrean to Magdalenian levels of the Gruta do Caldeirão, Tomar (Portugal) are described paleontolog-ically. The remains, which include maxillary and mandibular pieces, associated and isolated teeth, and small postcranial elements, derive from a series of individuals between childhood and early adulthood. The teeth are relatively large, similar to those of earlier Upper Paleolithic Europeans, and the postcranial elements derive from a relatively small and gracile individual. All are notable for their lack of pathological alterations. R E S U M O Descrevem-se paleontologicamente os restos humanos do Paleolítico Superior (Solutrense e Magdalenense) da Gruta do Caldeirão, Tomar (Portugal). Incluindo peças dos maxilares superior e inferior, dentes a elas associados e dentes isolados, e ainda alguns ele-mentos pós-cranianos de pequenas dimensões, os restos pertencem a uma série de indiví-duos de idades compreendidas entre a infância e os primeiros anos da idade adulta. Os den-tes são relativamente grandes, comparáveis aos das restantes populações europeias do Paleolítico Superior inicial, e os elementos pós-cranianos pertencem a um indivíduo relati-vamente pequeno e grácil. É de realçar a ausência, em todos estes restos, de quaisquer alte-rações patológicas.
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Dans plusieurs séries du Paléolithique moyen d’Europe occidentale, des nucléus et des bifaces présentent des plages de percussions qui ne sont pas liées à leur fonctionnement classique. Nous avons utilisé des nucléus et des bifaces expérimentaux comme outils de percussion sur différents matériaux. Les stigmates obtenus lors de la percussion sur des matières minérales présentent de fortes analogies avec ceux observés sur les pièces archéologiques. L’utilisation de celles-ci comme percuteurs ou comme retouchoirs est difficile à démontrer formellement mais cette hypothèse est la plus vraisemblable. Les caractéristiques des traces observées sont par ailleurs similaires à celles observées sur des percuteurs plus classiques. Le recyclage comme percuteurs de bifaces et de nucléus, suivi parfois de leur réutilisation selon leur vocation initiale, même si elle est observée de manière anecdotique au sein de séries du Paléolithique moyen, semble être une caractéristique récurrente indépendante des contraintes environnementales ou du contexte économique ou technique. Ce comportement semble donc relever de choix culturels revêtant un caractère assez universel.
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The oldest direct evidence of stone tool manufacture comes from Gona (Ethiopia) and dates to between 2.6 and 2.5 million years (Myr) ago 1 . At the nearby Bouri site several cut-marked bones also show stone tool use approximately 2.5 Myr ago 2 . Here we report stone-tool-inflicted marks on bones found during recent survey work in Dikika, Ethiopia, a research area close to Gona and Bouri. On the basis of low-power microscopic and environmental scanning electron microscope observations, these bones show unambiguous stone-tool cut marks for flesh removal and percussion marks for marrow access. The bones derive from the Sidi Hakoma Member of the Hadar Formation. Established 40 Ar– 39 Ar dates on the tuffs that bracket this member constrain the finds to between 3.42 and 3.24 Myrago, and stratigraphic scaling between these units and other geological evidence indicate that they are older than 3.39 Myr ago. Our discovery extends by approximately 800,000 years the antiquity of stone tools and of stone-tool-assisted consumption of ungulates by hominins; furthermore, this behaviour can now be attributed to Australopithecus afarensis.
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Two clearly differentiated techno-complexes can be recognised in the Iberian Peninsula during the second half of the Middle Pleistocene: the Acheulean and the Middle Palaeolithic. In this paper we present the current state of research on both technological entities, and propose that they represent two different industrial traditions. The Acheulean, a techno-complex that originated and developed in Africa, is considered to have reached Western Europe via Gibraltar, and developed only to a limited extent. In contrast, relict populations with a different technological tradition would have been present on the European continent since the late Early Pleistocene and developed a technological tradition was based on the development of chaînes operatoire of débitage. From MIS 10 on these industries had reached a high degree of complexity and diversity.
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Human evolutionary scholars have long supposed that the earliest stone tools were made by the genus Homo and that this technological development was directly linked to climate change and the spread of savannah grasslands. New fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has identified evidence of much earlier hominin technological behaviour. We report the discovery of Lomekwi 3, a 3.3-million-year-old archaeological site where in situ stone artefacts occur in spatiotemporal association with Pliocene hominin fossils in a wooded palaeoenvironment. The Lomekwi 3 knappers, with a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities. Given the implications of the Lomekwi 3 assemblage for models aiming to converge environmental change, hominin evolution and technological origins, we propose for it the name ‘Lomekwian’, which predates the Oldowan by 700,000 years and marks a new beginning to the known archaeological record.
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The Protoaurignacian culture is pivotal to the debate about the timing of the arrival of modern humans in western Europe and the demise of Neandertals. However, which group is responsible for this culture remains uncertain. We investigated dental remains associated with the Protoaurignacian. The lower deciduous incisor from Riparo Bombrini is modern human, based on its morphology. The upper deciduous incisor from Grotta di Fumane contains ancient mitochondrial DNA of a modern human type. These teeth are the oldest human remains in an Aurignacian-related archaeological context, confirming that by 41,000 calendar years before the present, modern humans bearing Protoaurignacian culture spread into southern Europe. Because the last Neandertals date to 41,030 to 39,260 calendar years before the present, we suggest that the Protoaurignacian triggered the demise of Neandertals in this area.
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This article focuses on the origins for technological variation during the Middle Pleistocene through the analysis of the lithic assemblages from Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (Atapuerca, Spain). The technological study was organized into three main levels of analysis. The first stage consisted of the technological characterization of the whole assemblage (e.g. the general composition of each sample, the exploitation and shaping methods used, and the characteristics of each item). The second stage involved the morphometric analysis of the large tools, mainly handaxes and cleavers, given the significance of these instruments in Middle Pleistocene assemblages. In this case, we combined traditional technical and metrical analyses with current morphometric methods. Lastly, taking into account the general characteristics of these sites, the third stage consisted of assessing how the different occupational strategies affected the lithic representation. These analyses allowed us to define three technological groups. The first includes unit Galería-GIIa, which corresponds to the appearance of the Acheulean in the Atapuerca caves. The second is represented by the rest of the sequence of the Galería site, mainly the upper part of the sequence (unit GIII). And the third technological corresponds to Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1. Thus, the Galería sequence shows the technological evolution of the Acheulean over a period of 250 ka. Furthermore, subunit TD10.1 represents a new occupational strategy combining traditional Acheulean tools with more evolved technical strategies.
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The archaeological record indicates that elephants must have played a significant role in early human diet and culture during Palaeolithic times in the Old World. However, the nature of interactions between early humans and elephants is still under discussion. Elephant remains are found in Palaeolithic sites, both open-air and cave sites, in Europe, Asia, the Le-vant, and Africa. In some cases elephant and mammoth remains indicate evidence for butchering and marrow extraction performed by humans. Revadim Quarry (Israel) is a Late Acheulian site where elephant remains were found in association with characteristic Lower Palaeolithic flint tools. In this paper we present results regarding the use of Palaeolithic tools in processing animal carcasses and rare identification of fat residue preserved on Lower Palaeolithic tools. Our results shed new light on the use of Palaeolithic stone tools and provide, for the first time, direct evidence (residue) of animal exploitation through the use of an Acheulian biface and a scraper. The association of an elephant rib bearing cut marks with these tools may reinforce the view suggesting the use of Palaeolithic stone tools in the consumption of large game.
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The stratigraphic and chronological positions of the Palaeolithic sites of Loreto and Notarchirico have been revised by adopting a litho-tephro-stratigraphic approach applied to the deposits of the Venosa basin, relating them to the evolution of volcanic eruptions of Mount Vulture. The Notarchirico tephra, dated to around 640 ka, is a geological marker of paramount importance in the study of ancient Southern Italia settlements and identifies the assemblage from level F at Notarchirico as one of the oldest Acheulean in Europe.
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Abstract: Geological studies developed in Portugal since the late of nineteenth century have allowed defining the main sedimentary units of the West Portuguese Meso-Cenozoic Border and their related depositional palaeoenvironments. However, despite the use of some flint layers known from this succession as stratigraphic markers and the occurrence of several forms of vein silica in paragensis with Gold and Uranium mineralisations from the Iberian Hercinian Massif, these rocks have never been systematically inventoried and studied. The study of lithic raw material sources during Prehistory has only been developed recently. These studies still lack a complete reference of the available sources and the establishment of a general characterization methodology. The mineralogical, chemical and physical evolution of flint from the original formation to its discard at the archaeological site must be taken in account, in order to evaluate the frequency of siliceous rocks collected in secondary position from detrital siliciclastic units. This paper presents the main sources of knappable siliceous rocks from Central and Northeast Portugal and three case studies addressing past foragers geographical and social issues. Resumo: Os estudos geológicos desenvolvidos em Portugal desde o último quartel do século XIX permitiram definir as principais unidades sedimentares da Orla Meso-Cenozóica Ocidental Portu-guesa e os paleoambientes deposicionais a elas associados. Todavia, apesar de alguns níveis de sílex desta sucessão serem utilizados como referência estratigráfica e de várias formas de sílica de filão estarem associadas a paragéneses com mineralizações de Urânio e Ouro do Maciço Hespéri-co, estas rochas nunca foram objecto de um inventário e estudo sistemáticos. A determinação das fontes de aprovisionamento em matérias-primas durante a Pré-história tem vindo a ser desenvol-vida apenas nos últimos anos. Estes estudos carecem ainda de um referencial completo das fontes disponíveis e do estabelecimento de uma metodologia generalizada de caracterização. É essencial ter em consideração a evolução mineralógica, química e física do sílex, desde o afloramento até ao seu abandono num solo arqueológico, para identificar e avaliar a frequência da exploração de rochas siliciosas em posição secundária, em unidades siliciclasticas.Neste artigo apresentamos as principais fontes de rochas siliciosas utilizadas para talhe em sítios arqueológicos do Centro e Nor-deste do território português e três estudos de caso, que permitem reconstituir os espaços geográ-ficos explorados e o funcionamento das sociedades do passado.
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The Vale do Forno archaeological sites (Alpiarça, central Portugal) document the earliest human occupation in the Lower Tejo River, well established in geomorphological and environmental terms, within the Middle Pleistocene. In a staircase of six fluvial terraces, the Palaeolithic sites were found on the T4 terrace (+24 m, above river bed) which is made of a basal Lower Gravels unit (LG) and an overlying Upper Sands unit (US). Geomorphological mapping, coupled with lithostratigraphy, sedimentology and luminescence dating (quartz-OSL and K-feldspar post-IRIR290) were used in this study. The oldest artefacts found in the LG unit show crude bifacial forms that can be attributed to the Acheulian. In contrast, the US unit has archaeological sites stratigraphically documenting successive phases of an evolved Acheulian. Luminescence dating and correlation with the Marine Isotopic Stages suggest that the LG unit has a probable age of ca. 335 to 325 ka and the US unit an age of ca. 325 to 155 ka. This is in contrast to previous interpretations ascribing this terrace (and lithic industries) to the Last Interglacial and early phases of the Last Glacial. The VF3 site (Milharós), containing Micoquian (Final Acheulian) industries (with fine and elaborated bifaces), found in a stratigraphic level located between the T4 terrace deposits and a colluvium associated with Late Pleistocene aeolian sands, is younger than 155 ka but much older than 32 ka.
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The development of pyrotechnology is a hallmark of human history, providing our ancestors with warmth, security and cooked food. Evidence for fire use before 400 thousand years ago (kya) remains contentious due largely to the taphonomically fragile nature of charcoal and ash. As such, it is imperative to the study of prehistoric fire that we develop techniques and methodologies for identifying anthropogenic fire use via more robust materials. A new methodology described by Fernández-Jalvo and Avery (2015) based on small mammal taphonomy to identify high intensity fire events from the distant past is replicated herein. When we applied this method to assemblages from Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar, an upland rock-shelter in southeastern Spain, dated to between 780 kya and 980 kya, we recognized a spatial relationship between highly heat modified micromammal specimens and a previously reported delineated feature of thermally altered and carbonate rich sediment which also includes heat-fractured chert and calcined bone (the fire feature). The proportion of heavily heat-modified specimens (charred and/or calcined specimens) identified within the stratigraphic context associated with the fire feature proved statistically significant (x2 = 169.18, p < 0.001) when compared with the proportion of similarly modified specimens from overlying deposits (within other stratigraphic layers). The degree of discolouration seen on the micromammal remains within the fire feature has been linked to temperatures exceeding 600 °C (Shipman et al., 1984), and as such supports claims that the fire feature may have an anthropogenic origin. Environmental scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) of bone specimens confirms that this discolouration is due to burning rather than post-depositional mineral staining. This confirms that methodology, which represents a novel line of evidence for identifying pyrotechnical events at early Palaeolithic sites, can be used to identify potentially anthropogenic fire events from the distant past when alternative scenarios are excluded. Furthermore, studies of this type showcase the value of including detailed taphonomic studies of microfauna assemblages within multidisciplinary research projects.
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U-series dating is a precise and accurate geochronological tool which is widely applied to date secondary CaCO3 formation, for example in speleothem based palaeoclimate research. It can also be employed to provide chronological constraints for archaeological sites which have a stratigraphic relationship with speleothem formations. We present in detail our methods to conduct precise and accurate U-Th dating of calcite crusts that formed on top of cave paintings. Our protocols allow the application of U-series measurements on small, thin calcite crusts covering cave art, which can be found in many sites, while taking care not to harm the art underneath. The method provides minimum ages for the covered art and, where possible, also maximum ages by dating the flowstone layer the art is painted on. We present dating results for crusts from two locality types in Spain, a typical cave environment (La Pasiega) and a more open, rock shelter type cave (Fuente del Trucho).
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This work analyses the chronology of fluvial terrace sequences of the two most important fluvial basins from central Spain draining to the Atlantic Ocean (Upper Tagus and Duero drainage basins). Both basins evolved under similar Mediterranean climatic conditions throughout the Pleistocene and present comparable number of fluvial terraces (16–17) after excluding the higher terrace levels of the Tagus (T1–T5) entrenched in the Raña surface. These higher “rañizo terraces” was formed in response to fan-head trenching in this high alluvial piedmont (+220 m) and therefore not properly controlled by Quaternary fluvial downcutting. The study accomplishes the implementation of multiple regression analyses for terrace height-age relationships. To transform relative terrace heights above the present river thalwegs (i.e. +100 m) in numerical ages a “height-age transference function” has been developed on the basis of preliminary statistical geochronological approaches proposed for Central Spain. The resultant height-age transference function gather 73 published geochronological data for terrace sequences, featuring a 3rd Order Polynomial Function (R2 0.90). This function describes the overall trend of valley downcutting for the last c. 2.3 Ma in Central Spain and is used to assign numerical ages to terrace levels at different relative elevation.
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A unique assemblage of 28 hominin individuals, found in Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain, has recently been dated to approximately 430,000 years ago. An interesting question is how these Middle Pleistocene hominins were related to those who lived in the Late Pleistocene epoch, in particular to Neanderthals in western Eurasia and to Denisovans, a sister group of Neanderthals so far known only from southern Siberia. While the Sima de los Huesos hominins share some derived morphological features with Neanderthals, the mitochondrial genome retrieved from one individual from Sima de los Huesos is more closely related to the mitochondrial DNA of Denisovans than to that of Neanderthals. However, since the mitochondrial DNA does not reveal the full picture of relationships among populations, we have investigated DNA preservation in several individuals found at Sima de los Huesos. Here we recover nuclear DNA sequences from two specimens, which show that the Sima de los Huesos hominins were related to Neanderthals rather than to Denisovans, indicating that the population divergence between Neanderthals and Denisovans predates 430,000 years ago. A mitochondrial DNA recovered from one of the specimens shares the previously described relationship to Denisovan mitochondrial DNAs, suggesting, among other possibilities, that the mitochondrial DNA gene pool of Neanderthals turned over later in their history.
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Three textural features seem especially useful in classifying those carbonate rocks that retain their depositional texture (1) Presence or absence of carbonate mud, which differentiates muddy carbonate from grainstone; (2) abundance of grains, which allows muddy carbonates to be subdivided into mudstone, wackestone, and packstone; and (3) presence of signs of binding during deposition, which characterizes boundstone. The distinction between grain-support and mud-support differentiates packstone from wackestone—packstone is full of its particular mixture of grains, wackestone is not. Rocks retaining too little of their depositional texture to be classified are set aside as crystalline carbonates.
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The Ceprano calvarium was found 20 years ago (March 1994) in southern Latium, Italy. At that time, a compiled regional stratigraphy suggested an age for the layer were the cranium was found close to 800–900 ka. Thus, for more than a decade, the Italian specimen concurred to the denial of the so-called “short-chronology” for the earliest Europeans. In addition, the archaic features of the calvarium were put in relationship with Mode 1 techno-complexes discovered in sites scattered across the Ceprano basin, albeit Acheulean assemblages are also well known in the same area. In 2001 we approached the field with a multidisciplinary project, aimed to validate the previous geo-chronological model and improve the available paleontological and archaeological records. However, the results we obtained consistently showed that the human calvarium is more recent than previously believed, pointing to a time range close to the beginning of MIS 11, between 430 and 385 ka. Therefore, Ceprano has to be considered among the European fossil record of the Middle Pleistocene, although its peculiar morphology – a unique combination of archaic and derived features –suggests a somewhat puzzling scenario of human evolution in Europe, which could involve the occurrence of a considerable phenetic diversity during part of the Middle Pleistocene. This argument points to the time window between 1.0 and 0.5 Ma, when it is probable that a new kind of humanity emerged and diffused across Africa and Eurasia. Although controversial when viewed as a single species, this humanity may be referred to the polymorphic and widespread taxon Homo heidelbergensis. Nevertheless, in the course of the Middle Pleistocene, different lineages of archaic humans possibly belonging to Homo heidelbergensis are recognised, suggesting the identification of geographic varieties or subspecies (i.e., potential incipient species). Given such a scenario, Ceprano represents the best candidate available at present (but also the cranial remains from Gombore II, in the Melka Kunture area, Ethiopia, ca. 850 ka, should be taken into account) to describe the cranial morphology of the still largely unknown ancestral variety of the species: i.e., Homo heidelbergensis heidelbergensis.
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From the intricate ensemble of evidence related to the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transition and the presumed first spread of anatomically modern humans in Europe, the Uluzzian has attracted major attention in the past few years. Although the Uluzzian has been viewed as a supposed product of modern humans settling in Mediterranean Europe, the techno–cultural complex has been the subject of few investigations aiming to clarify its chronology, bone industry, and settlement dynamics. Further, little is known of its technological structure. This article presents the results of an extensive study of the lithic and bone technologies from assemblages recovered at Fumane Cave in the north of Italy. Results confirm that the Uluzzian is a flake-dominated industry that brings together a set of technological innovations. The Levallois is the most used method in the initial phase, which is replaced by more varied flaking procedures and an increase in bladelets and flake-blades. Sidescrapers and points also represent a Mousterian feature in the initial phase, while splintered pieces, backed knives and other Upper Palaeolithic tools increase in the later phase. Our results suggest that the Uluzzian is rooted in the Mousterian lithic technological context and cannot be viewed as a proxy for anatomically modern humans, the carriers of the abrupt cultural changes related to the Aurignacian.
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Increasing evidence suggests that bifacial technology (Acheulian, Mode 2) arrived in Europe during the early Middle Pleistocene, i.e. significantly earlier than previously proposed. In northern France and Britain, much of the age attribution for these assemblages has been based on biostratigraphy and lithostratigraphy rather than absolute dates. This study presents a systematic application of electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of sedimentary quartz and ESR/U-series dating of fossil tooth enamel to key Acheulian sites of this area. Although the age estimates have large associated uncertainties, most of the derived dates are consistent with existing age estimates. The new chronologies and the problems associated with dating material of early Middle Pleistocene age are discussed. In Britain, the earliest archaeology (cores and flakes, Mode 1) is older than Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 15, whereas localities containing Acheulian technologies span late MIS 15/MIS 13 through to MIS 9. A similar pattern is seen in northern France although age estimates from sites such as la Noira suggest the possible appearance of the Acheulian in central France as early as MIS 17. The dates presented here support the suggestion that the earliest Acheulian appeared in NW Europe during the early Middle Pleistocene, significantly after its appearance in the southern parts of the continent.
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The Early Middle Pleistocene site of Notarchirico (Basilicata, Italy) is a 7-m-thick fluvially emplaced sedimentary sequence rich in volcanic materials coming from the Monte Vulture stratovolcano. This site consists of 11 archaeological layers, some of which have yielded handaxes. One femur attributed to Homo heidelbergensis was also recovered from an upper level. We present in this study new Ar-40/Ar-39 and electron spin resonance ages that delimit the time of occupation of Notarchirico to between 670 +/- 4 ka (14 ka) and 614 +/- 4 ka (12 ka), therefore spanning mainly the glacial Marine Isotope Stage 16. Handaxes found in archaeosurface F are now securely dated to between 670 +/- 4 ka (14 ka) and 661 +/- 4 ka (14 ka) and prove that hominid populations living in southern Italy used Acheulian technology as early as the beginning of this stage. Futhermore, we placed the age of the human femur between 661 +/- 4 ka (14 ka) and 614 +/- 4 ka (12 ka). This fossil is therefore the oldest Middle Pleistocene human fossil discovered in Italy so far. Thanks to this new chronological framework, Notarchirico is now a key site in our understanding of the Early Acheulian culture in Western Europe.
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The prehistoric site of la Noira, located in the Cher Valley, a tributary of the Loire River in the center of France, has yielded a lithic assemblage composed of large bifacial tools, cores and flakes. The archaeological level, lying on the Tertiary lacustrine limestone bedrock, was covered and fossilized by a 6 m-thick fluvial sandy formation. The mean age value of ESR dates obtained on bleached fluvial quartz grains sampled in the sandy levels covering the archeological level is 665 ± 55 ka, confirming the antiquity of the archaeological assemblage. ESR dates and the technical characteristics of the assemblage suggest that it is among the oldest sites with bifacial technology in Western Europe.
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The study of wear marks on Palaeolithic quartz tools allows an understanding of how they were used. The present work reports a functional study of a sample of Mousterian quartz industry from Level F of the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid, Spain). This level, a palimpsest, preserves the remains of a Neanderthal occupation. Traceological inspection revealed the tools made at the site were very versatile.
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Cent quarante-huit restes humains ont été découverts au cours des fouilles effectuées de 1964 à 2014 dans la Caune de l’Arago à Tautavel dans les Pyrénées-Orientales. Ils ont été recueillis dans un contexte stratigraphique précis qui a permis d’individualiser 15 unités archéostratigraphiques avec présence humaine dont l’âge est compris entre 550 ka pour l’unité Q à la base et 400 ka pour l’unité C au sommet (SIO 14 à 10). Pendant cette longue période de temps, l’Homme a connu deux périodes de climat froid et sec (ensemble stratigraphique I et III) séparées par une période tempérée-humide (ensemble stratigraphique II). La majorité des restes humains a été recueillie dans les unités F et G de l’ensemble stratigraphique III du complexe moyen dans un environnement steppique, froid et venté. Les restes humains étaient mêlés individuellement au matériel archéologique et aux déchets de faune chassée et consommée. L’inventaire des restes humains met en évidence une majorité d’éléments crâniens et en particulier, la portion antérieure d’un crâne, Arago XXI, découvert le 22 juillet 1971, qui a fait connaître pour la première fois, l’aspect physique des premiers européens. L’ensemble, 5 mandibules, 123 dents sur arcade alvéolaire ou isolées, quelques fragments de squelette post-crânien : 9 éléments du membre supérieur, 19 éléments du membre inférieur, permet de repérer 30 individus décédés, soit 18 adultes et 12 enfants. L’étude de ces fossiles permet de les rapprocher des formes d’Homo erectus connues en Asie et en Afrique avec lesquels ils partagent des caractères communs. Cette constatation entraîne le questionnement de l’existence de ce groupe en Europe. Ainsi, l’apport de la collection de fossiles humains de l’Arago présente un triple intérêt, paléontologique, populationnel, comportemental. La multiplicité des restes permet d’avoir une estimation de la biodiversité et de la composition de cette petite population. L’attention est attirée par son originalité vis-à-vis de Mauer, l’ancêtre classique européen Homo heidelbergensis. Les fossiles de l’Arago présentent des caractères archaïques, non retrouvés sur la mandibule de Mauer, en particulier, la grande extension antéro-postérieure de l’arcade convexe en avant, la prédominance des dents prémolaires et de la M2, le corps mandibulaire à indice de robustesse élevé, le planum alvéolaire sub-horizontal et la ligne mylohyoïdienne saillante peu inclinée. D’autre part, le crâne n’a pas encore réduit sa face au profit du cerveau, processus qui sera mis en évidence ultérieurement. Le crâne est bas, avec un frontal à grande extension, une face très prognathe et un appareil masticateur puissant avec des crêtes temporales et un torus angularis saillants, qui lui donnent en coupe coronale, une forme pentagonale, contrairement à la convexité régulière observée sur les crânes de La Sima de los Huesos et des Néandertaliens. Une analyse comparée avec la population bien documentée découverte dans La Sima de los Huesos permet de constater un stade plus évolué chez cette dernière qui la rapproche de la forme néandertalienne sans l’éloigner de la mandibule de Mauer. En présence des fossiles humains européens, dont nous disposons, le scénario peut se résumer ainsi. Homo georgicus, une forme proche du groupe habilis-rudolfensis porteur des industries préoldowayennes et oldowayennes, est présent aux portes de l’Europe, il y a 1,8 Ma environ. À partir de 1,2–0,8 Ma, les documents, quoique fragmentaires d’Atapuerca, Elefante, Gran Dolina-TD6, pourraient être rattachés à cette lignée première. Les premiers Homo erectus porteurs des cultures à bifaces qui ont quitté le berceau africain arrivent aux portes de l’Europe, il y a environ 1,2 Ma, comme l’atteste la découverte de la calotte crânienne de Kocabaş en Anatolie, proche des fossiles de Buia en Erythrée et de Daka en Éthiopie, datés eux-mêmes de 1 Ma environ. À partir de 0,55 Ma avec l’ensemble des 148 restes humains et en particulier avec le crâne Arago XXI, nous sommes en présence d’une nouvelle forme (indépendante de Mauer) bien documentée que nous proposons de rattacher au taxon Homo erectus tautavelensis, en attribuant à cette sous-espèce une connotation géographique. Les caractéristiques morpho-fonctionnelles et culturelles d’Homo erectus tautavelensis signent la souche d’une longue lignée européenne, à l’origine de la néandertalisation.
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Keywords: European Early Acheulean Late Early Pleistocene Barranc de la Boella Butchering site Europe a b s t r a c t Since 2007, excavations at Barranc de la Boella (Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain) have revealed three localities with rich archaeo-paleontological assemblages: La Mina, El Forn and Pit 1. Palaeontology, palae-omagnetism and cosmogenic analyses have dated these localities to close to 1 Ma. The presence of Mammuthus meridionalis, Hippopotamus antiquus, Stephanorhinus cf. hundsheimensis, Mimomys savini and Victoriamys chalinei stand out in the sample of macro and micro-mammals. The lithic assemblages from the three sites are made up of percussion cobbles, choppers, chopper-cores, cores, simple flakes, and some retouched flakes: mainly denticulates and notches. In the case of the El Forn and Pit 1 localities, two large cutting tools have been recovered: a cleaver-like tool and a pick made of hard-wearing schist. The lithic assemblage of Pit 1, which includes several refitting lithic sets, is closely associated with the remains of a young-adult Mammuthus meridionalis, in a clear butchering site context. This evidence suggests that Barranc de la Boella is the oldest European Early Acheulean site, and one of the oldest butchering site on the subcontinent during the late Early Pleistocene. The study of the variability among these three localities in similar environmental conditions, together with information from other sites, are discussed in order to gain further knowledge about the appearance of the Acheulean in Europe, and its continuity or discontinuity in relation to pre-existing technologies.
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The Caune de l'Arago, located at Tautavel in the southern part of France, is one of the best documented Middle Pleistocene sites allowing a good understanding of human evolution in Europe. Since its discovery in 1829, the cave yielded more than 140 human remains associated with abundant lithic industries and thousands of faunal remains in a 10 m thick stratigraphical sequence divided in three complexes (Lumley et al., 2014). The Lower stratigraphic complex is only known from cores while the Middle and Upper ones can be divided into about 17 main archaeological levels indexed from the bottom to the top: from level Q to level A. Since 1981, a number of dates were done using practically all the methods available for dating Quaternary period up to 700 ka. U-series dates performed on the upper stalagmitic floor yielded a minimum age of 400 ka for human remains found in the underneath level G (Falguères et al., 2004). This age range confirmed the direct non-destructive gamma-ray age published more than 30 years before (Yokoyama and Nguyen, 1981). Recently, a methodological work was published on herbivorous teeth coming from different parts of the G level highlighting the difficulties to get reliable radiometric dates on a level so rich in bones and partly weathered by guano deposits or issues associated with carbonate accumulation (Han et al., 2010).