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Classic models on population dynamics in inland Iberia during Marine Isotope Stage 2 have depicted this area, dominated by the Spanish plateau, as nearly unpopulated until Magdalenian times. In recent years, some researchers have questioned these models, mainly based on new field data. Preliminary evidence coming from the Peña Capón rock shelter has been among the most promising and thought-provoking. In the framework of a project aimed at investigating human-environment interactions and population dynamics during the Late Pleistocene in central Iberia, we have conducted new geo-archeological fieldwork at Peña Capón. This is a north-westerly oriented limestone rock shelter, close to the south-eastern foothills of the Central System range, and hosting a multi-layered fluvial deposit containing Upper Palaeolithic assemblages. We present here the first results obtained from the new excavations at the site, focusing on the uppermost layers, where in situ Solutrean assemblages have been recorded. These assemblages have been radiocarbon dated between circa 24.72 and 23.67 ka cal BP and attest to the relevance of the Peña Capón rock shelter for studying population dynamics and human-environment interactions around the Last Glacial Maximum in inland Iberia.
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Human Adaptations to
the Last Glacial
Human Adaptations to
the Last Glacial
The Solutrean and its Neighbors
Edited by
Isabell Schmidt,
João Cascalheira,
Nuno Bicho
and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Human Adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum:
The Solutrean and its Neighbors
Edited by Isabell Schmidt, João Cascalheira, Nuno Bicho
and Gerd-Christian Weniger
This book first published 2019
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Copyright © 2019 by Isabell Schmidt, João Cascalheira, Nuno Bicho
and Gerd-Christian Weniger and contributors
All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without
the prior permission of the copyright owner.
ISBN (10): 1-5275-3848-6
ISBN (13): 978-1-5275-3848-1
Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German
Research Foundation) – Projektnummer 57444011 – SFB 806 "Our Way
to Europe"; University of Cologne, University of Bonn and RWTH Aachen
Introduction ................................................................................................ x
Isabell Schmidt, Nuno Bicho, João Cascalheira and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Chapter One ................................................................................................ 1
Just How Dense on the Cantabrian Landscape were Solutrean People?
Current Speculations
Lawrence Guy Straus
Chapter Two ............................................................................................. 26
Settling a No-Mans Land: An Updated Review on the Peopling
of Northern Italy during the Last Glacial Maximum
Marco Peresani
Chapter Three ........................................................................................... 44
Human Occupation of Northern Morocco at the Last Glacial Maximum
Alessandro Potì and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Chapter Four ............................................................................................. 65
The Site of Les Bossats in Ormesson (Seine-et-Marne, France):
A Vast Solutrean Campsite in the Paris Basin
Pierre Bodu, Fanny Bouché, Michèle Ballinger, Gaëlle Dumarçay,
Nejma Goutas, Jessica Lacarrière, Alexandra Legrand-Pineau,
Claire Lucas, Henri-Georges Naton and Isabelle Théry-Parisot
Chapter Five ............................................................................................. 89
The Solutrean Site from El Buxu Cave (Asturias, Spain):
A Current Vision
Jesús F. Jordá Pardo, Pilar Carral, José M. Quesada, Júlio Rojo
and Mario Menéndez
Table of Contents
Chapter Six ............................................................................................. 112
Back to 1964: New Data on the Solutrean at Cova Rosa (Asturias, Spain)
Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Julián Bécares-Pèrez, Jesús F. Jordá Pardo,
Davíd Álvarez-Alonso, Mikelo Elorza, Naroa García-Ibaibarriaga,
Sergio Martín Jarque, Rodrigo Portero Hernández, Aitziber Suárez-Bilbao,
Jesus Tapia, Antonio Tarriño and Paloma Uzquiano
Chapter Seven ......................................................................................... 133
The Site of Montlleó in the Context of the Mediterranean and Pyrenean
Josep M. Fullola, Xavier Mangado, Mathieu Langlais,
Marta Sánchez de la Torre, Pascal Foucher, Cristina San Juan
and Oriol Mercadal
Chapter Eight .......................................................................................... 148
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around the Last Glacial
Maximum: The Solutrean Sequence of Peña Capón Updated
Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño, José-Javier Alcolea-González,
Rodrigo de Balbín-Behrmann, Martin Kehl and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Chapter Nine ........................................................................................... 171
Excavations in Solutrean Levels of Ardales Cave (Málaga, Spain)
José Ramos-Muñoz, Gerd-Christian Weniger, Pedro Cantalejo,
Viviane Bolín, Martin Kehl, Maria del Mar Espejo, Yvonne Tafelmaier,
Andreas Pastoors, Salvador Domínguez-Bella, Lidia Cabello, Taylor Otto,
Diego Fernández-Sánchez, Adolfo Moreno-Márquez, Miriam Rotgänger,
Eduardo Vijande-Vila, Serafín Becceral, Trine Kellberg Nielsen,
Antonio Barrena-Tocino, Sergio Almisas-Cruz,
Juan Jesús Cantillo-Duarte, José Antonio Riquelme, Alejandro Beltrán,
Paloma Uzquiano, Pablo Ramos-García, Salvador Bailón, Juan Rofes
and Antonio Sánchez-Marco
Chapter Ten ............................................................................................ 188
Human Occupation during the Late Pleniglacial at Lapa do Picareiro
Jonathan A. Haws, Michael M. Benedetti, João M. Cascalheira,
Nuno F. Bicho, Milena C. Carvalho, Brandon K. Zinsious, Maria G. Ellis
and Lukas Friedl
Human Adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum
Chapter Eleven ....................................................................................... 214
Lithic Technology and Living Floors during the Solutrean
in Las Caldas Cave (Asturias, Spain)
Paula Ortega-Martínez, Francisco J. Vicente Santos and
M. Soledad Corchón Rodríguez
Chapter Twelve ...................................................................................... 236
Techno-Typological and Lithic Taphonomy Study of the Solutrean
of Cova de les Cendres (Alicante, Spain)
Álvaro Martínez-Alfaro, Miguel Ángel Bel, Dídac Roman
and Valentín Villaverde
Chapter Thirteen ..................................................................................... 255
The Solutrean in Las Ventanas Cave (Granada, Spain)
José Antonio Riquelme-Cantal, Lydia Calle-Román,
Victoria Aranda-Sánchez, Isabel Cánovas- Calle, Rubén Parrilla-Giráldez,
María D. Simón-Vallejo and Miguel Cortés-Sánchez
Chapter Fourteen .................................................................................... 271
Open air Upper Paleolithic Site “Campiña”: Los Álamos (Sevilla, Spain)
Beatriz Gavilán, José Juan Fernández Caro
and Miguel Ángel Fernández Graham
Chapter Fifteen ....................................................................................... 283
Solutrean Archers? The Shouldered Points from the End of the Outer-
Cantabrian Solutrean Period
Francisco Javier Munõz Ibáñez, Juan Antonio Marín de Espinosa Sánchez,
Ignacio Martín-Lerma, Belén Márquez Mora
and Noelia Sánchez-Martínez
Chapter Sixteen ...................................................................................... 302
Raw-Material Provenience of the Solutrean Diagnostics from Gruta
do Caldeirão (Tomar, Portugal)
Henrique Matias, Thierry Aubry and João Zilão
Chapter Seventeen .................................................................................. 317
Revisiting the Vasco-Cantabrian Solutrean: The Archaeofaunal Record
Emily Lena Jones
Table of Contents
Chapter Eighteen .................................................................................... 337
Firewood in the Fireplace: Fuel Use in the Solutrean of La Boja
Rock-Shelter (Murcia, Spain)
Ernestina Badal, Carmen M. Martínez-Varea, Ana Cantó,
Diego E. Angelucci, Valentín Villaverde, Josefina Zapata and João Zilhão
Chapter Nineteen .................................................................................... 353
Plants for daily Life during the Solutrean in Cova de les Cendres
(Alicante, Spain)
Carmen María Martínez-Varea, Ernestina Badal, Cristina Real,
Dídac Roman and Valentín Villaverde
Chapter Twenty ...................................................................................... 372
Fishes from Solutrean Sites of the Iberian Mediterranean Region:
Palaeogeographical, Palaeoecological and Techno-economical Data
J. Emili Aura Tortosa, R. Marlasca Marín, Adolfo Maestro
and Jesús F. Jordá Pardo
Chapter Twenty-One .............................................................................. 395
Testing the Distribution of Animal Species in Solutrean Rock Art Sites
in Iberia and its Relationship to Palaeoenvironmental Modelling
Viviane Bolin, María de Andrés-Herrero and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Chapter Twenty-Two .............................................................................. 416
The Western Pyrenean (Northern Iberian Peninsula) during the Upper
Paleolithic: A Palaeoenvironmental Approach
S. Pérez-Díaz and J.A. López-Sáez
Chapter Twenty-Three ............................................................................ 433
Sergio Ripoll López and Francisco J. Muñoz Ibañez
Chapter Twenty-Four ............................................................................. 453
Malalmuerzo Cave (Granada, Spain):
A Revision of its Art and Archaeology
Lidia Cabello, Pedro Cantalejo, Maria del Mar Espejo
and Antonio F. Buendía
Human Adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum
Chapter Twenty-Five .............................................................................. 477
Martin’s Cave: A New Palaeolithic Rock Art Site at Gibraltar
María D. Simón-Vallejo, Miguel Cortés-Sánchez, Lydia Calle-Román,
Rubén Parilla-Giráldez, Clive Finlayson, Francisco Giles-Pacheco,
Geraldine Finlayson, Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal
and Aránzazu Martínez-Aguirre
Chapter Twenty-Six ................................................................................ 491
Shell Beads Production during the LGM: The Case of Vale Boi
(Southern Portugal)
Lino André, João Cascalheira, Célia Gonçalves and Nuno Bicho
Chapter Twenty-Seven ........................................................................... 509
New Solutrean Portable Art Data from the Site of Vale Boi
(Algarve, Portugal)
Maria D. Simón-Vallejo, Nuno Bicho, Miguel Cortés-Sánchez,
Rubén Parrilla-Giráldez and João Cascalheira
Research on the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in Europe reflects our
ubiquitous interest in understanding humans cultural and economic
responses to changing environmental conditions, the effects of spatio-
temporal patterns of demographic dynamics, and the resilience of social
networks… The list could become endless. The outstanding western
European archaeological and paleoclimatic record of the Solutrean
technocomplex provides insights into these processes. The present volume
follows the 3rd International Conference on the Solutrean, held in October
2017 at the University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal. The conference brought
together scientists from different countries and covering a rich range of
archaeology-related expertise and their application to the LGM record. An
eclectic range of topics was presented and discussed across several
thematic symposia, including reports on recent site/context discoveries,
paleoenvironmental studies, technological analysis, and investigations on
art and ornaments.
We noticed, however, that the role of the LGM as one of the main focus
of Western European prehistoric research has been, over recent years,
somehow obfuscated by an exponential investment in other equally
fascinating topics, such as the Neanderthals-Anatomically Modern Humans
transition. In reality, however, it is rather clear that the rich cultural heritage
and distinctive paleoenvironmental settings to which the Solutrean is
associated has repetitively allowed the application, testing, and improvement
of new theories and analytical methods, often serving as steppingstones for
the construction of models applied in broader anthropological inquiries
(e.g., the role of refugia in past human adaptations). In addition, the LGM
is also in the focus of numerous climate modelling projects, so that a high-
resolution data record is available, making this time slice very attractive for
broader archaeological studies. So, the starting point for hosting the 3rd
conference on the Solutrean was a shared belief amongst the organizers and
editors of the present volume, that the focus on the Solutrean technocomplex
and LGM-related cultures merits revitalization and a broad forum for
interdisciplinary exchange and discussion.
Accordingly, the volume addresses readers with a background in
archaeology as well as related disciplines, providing an overview as well as
detailed insights into a broad array of current research topics and methods
Human Adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum
applied in LGM contexts. The book constitutes a rich source for new data
and interpretive models on human behavior.
One of the highpoints of the conference was the thematic session
organized in honor of Prof. Lawrence Guy Straus, whose seminal and
extensive work on the Solutrean adaptations in Northern Iberia has strongly
influenced all developments in LGM studies across Iberia and beyond. Prof.
Straus is now retired, but we hope that he can keep contributing for many
years with his invaluable insights on the Late Pleistocene adaptations in
Western Europe. He authored the first chapter of this book, and we
gratefully dedicate the whole volume to him and his remarkable career.
The book is subdivided into five thematic sections, PART I to V, broadly
following the structure of the conference. While PART II-V are centered on
topics related to the Solutrean, PART I focused on what we called the
Solutrean Neighbors. During the conference, general reviews but also new
data reports on the LGM human ecodynamics across different regions of
Europe and North Africa were presented. This broadening of the conference
scope was a priority for us from the beginning, intending to discuss human
adaptations to the LGM from a wider paleoanthropological perspective.
Two of the original contributions to this symposium appear published in this
book (Part I: THE SOLUTREAN AND ITS NEIGHBOURS), focusing on
the LGM occupations in Northern Italy (Chapter 2) and its environmental
and landscape settings, and Northern Morocco (Chapter 3), where
researchers discovered a very different occupation history to what is known
from Iberia.
focus on current excavations and the reinvestigation of old excavations
across Western Europe. The report from Les Bossats provides an
exceptional insight into the intra-site spatial organization of an extensively
excavated Solutrean open-air-site at the northernmost fringe of known
human LGM settlement (Chapter 4). Turning to the record from Iberia,
contributions are sorted geographically, clockwise, starting with archaeological
sites in the North of the Peninsula. An overview on multi- and
interdisciplinary results on site formation processes and archaeological and
archaeozoological finds from El Buxu, including art, is given in Chapter 5,
much of which is published in English for the first time. The rediscovery of
archaeological material from an old excavation at Cova Rosa including
finds and sediment samples – allowed deriving substantial new archaeological
as well as palaeoenvironmental information on the occupation during the
LGM (Chapter 6). The subsequent two contributions reach out into higher
elevations and position new discoveries within a larger spatial framework.
New dates and finds from Montlléo trigger a discussion of mobility and
contacts of populations across and around the Pyrenees during the LGM,
taking typological similarities and differences between adjacent regions into
account (Chapter 7). The report on ongoing excavations of an archaeological
stratigraphy in the central Meseta Plateau challenges the longstanding
model of humans avoiding the unfavorable interior of the Iberian Peninsula
during long periods of the Upper Paleolithic (Chapter 8). New stratigraphic
data and multidisciplinary results from current excavations at Ardales
provide contextual information on a typologically indifferent assemblage,
now dated to the LGM, supported by diagnostic surface finds in the cave
(Chapter 9). The Gravettian-Solutrean sequence from Lapa do Picareiro in
central Portugal is presented in Chapter 10, discussing implications for the
(supra-)regional chrono-cultural sequence of this transition.
contributions (again geographically sorted) reflect the broad spectrum of
available methods in lithic analysis. It starts with an innovative approach
combining results of spatial analysis and technological description,
conducted for Solutrean layers of Las Caldas (Chapter 11). The subsequent
chapters provide comprehensive techno-economic studies of assemblage
from sites in southern Iberian, which synthesize results from studies of raw-
material, techno-typology, reduction processes, tool-manufacture, and use;
focusing on the discussions on the regional chrono-cultural context (Chapter
12), site function and mobility networks (Chapter 13), and the value of
open-air sites for investigating human presence on the landscape (Chapter
14). Experimental data on Solutrean shouldered points from southern Iberia
is presented in Chapter 15, reconstructing a use of these implements in a
bow-and-arrow hunting technology a claim repeatedly raised for these
Solutrean point types. Finally, Chapter 16 provides an original study on
lithic raw material of sources and archaeological contexts from Portugal,
observing a tool-specific raw-material-usage behavior during the LGM. It
is a general tendency that raw-material provenience has by now become an
integral part of many studies in Iberia, this book providing numerous
references to such data.
DURING THE LGM operate at different spatial scales and use a variety of
proxies (animal, plant, and cultural remains) to understand the interaction
of humans with their biotic environment and climatic conditions. A
spatially-explicit statistical study (Chapter 17) on up-dated information
about faunal assemblage composition from northern Iberia innovatively
tests observations already made by L.G. Straus during an early stage of his
career. The following two chapters are dedicated to a still underrepresented
source of information from the archaeological record of the Late
Human Adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum
Pleistocene: charred plant remains. Using evidence from two well excavated
and comprehensively sampled sites, La Boja Rock-Shelter and Cova de les
Cendres, anthracological and carpological data are used to understand
humans’ interaction with the specific vegetation of the LGM. Chapter 18
exemplifies the rich information derived by anthracology from combustion
features; and Chapter 19 provides an exceptional case study and
demonstrates how charred remains can be used to open up insights into past
climate, landscape structure, intra-site organization and the daily life of
A large-scale overview on fish-remains along the Mediterranean coast
of Iberia (Chapter 20) shows that they are more than just another species on
the LGM menu - set into context of changing paleoshorelines and the
archaeological record, a complex picture emerges which demands further
explanation. Chapter 21 takes an innovative approach by firstly testing the
relationship between environment and archaeological faunal remains
through a species distribution model, and secondly exploring potential
relationship by adding data from artistic expressions at the respective sites.
The last chapter of Part IV takes a closer look on paleo-environmental
proxies (Chapter 22). The final Part V of the book is on RESEARCH ON
present evidence for rock art, including new data and interdisciplinary
approaches to its analysis and documentation: A comprehensive overview
is provided on the dense panels at Cueva de Ambrosio, a site also known
for its rich Solutrean stratigraphy (Chapter 23). At Malamuerzo Cave, also
known for numerous paintings, reported excavations demonstrate the
sealing of newly discovered motifs by Magdalenian deposits, providing an
ante-quem date for this artistic expression (Chapter 24). Potential evidence
of Solutrean art from Gibraltar is presented and discussed in the light of
local, site-specific conditions, e.g., accessibility of the cave, and within its
regional context of archaeological evidence (Chapter 25). Finally, Chapters
26 and 27 presents, respectively, results from an analysis of a newly
discovered set of perforated shells from a Proto-Solutrean context and two
Solutrean engraved slabs at the site of Vale Boi, southern Portugal.
We would like to express our gratitude to all people who assisted during the
physical realization of the book: Nina Avci, Tom Noack, and Lutz
Hermsdorf-Knauth for their input to the formal editing process; Dr. Jayson
Orton and Geneviev de Waal for their outstandingly thorough and vigilant
work on the English language; and Dr. Werner Schuck for providing full
support on any matter of the accounting.
We thank all colleagues who contributed to the conference, making it an
inspiring and successful event through presentations, posters, and discussions.
Last but not least we would like to acknowledge the scientific committee
and the essential work of the reviewers, who have provided their long-
standing expertise on the archaeological and environmental record of the
Last Glacial Maximum.
Classic models on population dynamics in inland Iberia during Marine
Isotope Stage 2 have depicted this area, dominated by the Spanish plateau,
as nearly unpopulated until Magdalenian times. In recent years, some
researchers have questioned these models, mainly based on new field data.
Preliminary evidence coming from the Peña Capón rock shelter has been
among the most promising and thought-provoking. In the framework of a
project aimed at investigating human-environment interactions and
population dynamics during the Late Pleistocene in central Iberia, we have
conducted new geo-archeological fieldwork at Peña Capón. This is a
north-westerly oriented limestone rock shelter, close to the south-eastern
foothills of the Central System range, and hosting a multi-layered fluvial
deposit containing Upper Palaeolithic assemblages. We present here the
first results obtained from the new excavations at the site, focusing on the
uppermost layers, where in situ Solutrean assemblages have been
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
recorded. These assemblages have been radiocarbon dated between circa
24.72 and 23.67 ka cal BP and attest to the relevance of the Peña Capón
rock shelter for studying population dynamics and human-environment
interactions around the Last Glacial Maximum in inland Iberia.
Keywords: Solutrean, inland Iberia, Peña Capón
The Iberian Peninsula plays a central role concerning population dynamics
in Southwest Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). For some
time, Iberia has been widely considered as an ecological refugium for
plants, animals and humans during the harshest periods of the last glacial
cycle, and especially during the LGM, roughly corresponding to the
Solutrean technocomplex (Straus, 2015). However, the inland territories of
the peninsula, consisting of a large plateau (the Meseta) of around 400,000
square kilometres and divided in two by the Central System range (Fig. 1),
have been traditionally considered as a ‘no-man’s land’ where no
significant cultural developments took place during the cold stages of the
last glaciation.
This idea was first put forth by Breuil and Obermaier (1913: 15),
especially for most of the Upper Palaeolithic, prior to the Magdalenian.
Since then, other scholars have insisted that the harsh environmental and
climatic conditions of these continental and upland regions were the main
factors behind the lack of permanent settlements during the LGM (see
Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015 and Delibes and Díez, 2006, and references
therein). As discussed in previous works (Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015), the
more refined version of this interpretation was proposed by Straus et al.
(2000) and can be termed the “crossing-area model”. This model proposes
a limited human settlement of interior Iberia during the LGM, always
constrained to occasional uses or ephemeral occupations, as reflected by
single-layered and low-density sites. These sites would not reflect the
actual settlement of these territories, but just the passage of humans across
these “less favoured areas” (Straus et al., 2000: 562, see also Straus,
Recent reviews based on the available database of archaeological and
chronometric data for the last glaciation (Schmidt et al., 2012 and Straus,
2015), as well as on palaeoclimatic simulations (Burke et al., 2017), have
roughly supported this picture, describing the Iberian interior as a risky
area for human settlement during the LGM (but see Banks et al., 2008;
Tallavaara et al., 2015 for inconsistencies in modelling palaeoclimates and
Chapter Eight
habitat suitability for the Iberian interior). In recent years however, a
growing body of evidence (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013, 2017 and Aubry
et al., 2015) suggests that the crossing-area model could be biased as a
result of the poor quantity and quality of data available for the Iberian
interior. In fact, a relevant number of researchers have claimed that the
few existing archaeological records of the Iberian interior for the Late
Pleistocene could be compromised by (1) a historical lack of research
projects focused in the inland regions compared to the coastal areas, and
(2) the difficulties of locating open-air Palaeolithic sites, potentially far
more common than cave archives in the Meseta (Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;
Alcolea-González and Balbín-Behrmann, 2013; Arsuaga et al., 2017;
Aubry et al., 2015; Cacho et al., 2010; and Zilhão et al., 2010).
The Peña Capón rock shelter
Among the evidence suggesting that the human settlement of the Iberian
interior could be more complex than previously thought, the Peña Capón
rock shelter can be considered a key site. Peña Capón is a north-westerly
oriented limestone rock shelter located in the northern part of the Spanish
Southern Meseta, close to the south-eastern foothills of the Central System
range. Situated at an altitude of 861m above sea level, it lies within the
Upper Tagus basin (Sorbe River valley, close to Tamajón village,
Guadalajara province) (Fig. 1). Peña Capón was discovered in 1970 and
excavated in 1972 (and not 1970, as previously published), but results
were never published, and it was only in the late 1990s that the
archaeological assemblages, diaries and photos from the excavation were
gathered and analyzed in a preliminary paper on the site by Alcolea-
González et al. (1997). Since this first publication, in which a preliminary
archaeological sequence was presented, the relevance of this site was
evident: in no other location on the whole Iberian plateau have Solutrean
and pre-Solutrean assemblages been described within a multi-layered
sequence (see Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015). However, those assemblages,
including lithic and faunal remains, were recovered in a poorly-recorded
excavation lacking any stratigraphic, chronometric or palaeo-
environmental data, besides a few photographs and oral records (Alcolea-
González et al., 1997). Therefore, the position that many researchers
adopted where the relevance of Peña Capón was concerned, was one of
caution until more robust evidence was presented (e.g. Delibes and Díez,
2006: 16; Mosquera et al., 2007: 151 and Cacho et al., 2010: 117).
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Figure 1: A: Location of Peña Capón in the Iberian Peninsula. B: Middle & Upper
Palaeolithic sites of the Sorbe and Jarama River valleys. 1) Jarama II & Jarama VI,
2) El Reno, El Cojo & Las Ovejas, 3) Enebrales & Torrejones, 4) Peña Cabra, 5)
Peña Capón. C: General view of the Peña Capón rock shelter.
The first attempt aimed at solving the methodological inconsistencies
and the lack of sound data at Peña Capón, was carried out by Alcaraz-
Castaño et al. (2013). Given that an excavation of the site had not been
possible until then due to the difficulties of accessing the site, which is
often under water due to the construction of a dam in 1982, these scholars
limited their work to an in-depth study of the lithic and faunal assemblages
and the radiocarbon dating of a single tooth per level, as preliminarily
defined according to the data of the 1972 fieldwork. This confirmed that
an occupation sequence around the time of the LGM was indeed present at
Chapter Eight
Peña Capón, and that this included at least Upper Solutrean (Level I),
Middle Solutrean (Level II) and Proto-Solutrean assemblages (Level III),
as well as a potential Gravettian assemblage (Level IV; Note that in prior
publications layers from the 1972 excavation were numbered in Arabic
numbers (1, 2, 3, 4). However, to make a clear distinction between them
and layers from the recent excavations, hereafter they will be referred
using Roman numbers (I, II, III, IV), see Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015: fig. 4).
While zoo-archaeological and taphonomic studies have been reported for
levels II and III, including stable isotope analyses on the teeth of
herbivores (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013; Yravedra et al., 2016), analyses
of lithic assemblages have only been thoroughly published for the Proto-
Solutrean level (III) (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013; see also Alcolea-
González et al., 1997). In this chapter we present new evidence gathered at
the new archaeological excavations and analyses conducted at Peña Capón
during the season of 2015, including the first results on the stratigraphy,
radiocarbonn dating and archaeological composition of the Solutrean
New fieldwork: objectives, archaeological
excavation and analysis
As outlined above, it has long been our contention that the currently
known archaeological record from the Iberian interior most likely does not
reflect the actual human settlement during the last glaciation. While not
denying the probable existence of large unpopulated areas in the upland
regions of the Meseta during the cold and arid periods of Marine Isotope
Stages 3 and 2, we hypothesize (1) that the Late Pleistocene human
settlement of the interior of Iberia was more stable than previously
thought, even around the LGM, and (2) that this settlement responded to
their own cultural and ecological contexts, and was not necessarily
subsidiary to those of the coastal areas, as traditionally assumed. Although
the data exposed at Peña Capón to date, together with other evidence in
the Manzanares River valley (Madrid) and the Upper Tagus basin,
including examples of pre-Magdalenian rock art (see Alcaraz-Castaño,
2015), sufficed to conclude the presence of human occupations during
several periods of MIS 2 (Straus, 2015), the nature, function and
ecological context of these occupations was not clear. Thus Alcaraz-
Castaño (2015) proposed a number of hypothetical questions that should
be addressed, namely: (1) Were the Solutrean occupations of Central
Iberia related to relatively favourable episodes within the otherwise harsh
conditions of the LGM? (2) Were they favoured due to the existence of
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
ecological refugia, or (3) do they just reflect the adaptability of Upper
Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers to harsh environments?
Yravedra et al. (2016) proposed the first hints for solving these
questions. They conducted stable isotope analyses on the teeth of
herbivores from Peña Capón, originating from levels II (Solutrean) and III
(Proto-Solutrean), as defined for the 1972 assemblages. Results suggested
that climatic conditions for both layers were temperate, and therefore that
human presence at Peña Capón was either restricted to relatively warm
intervals around the time of the LGM, or reflected the presence of an
ecological refuge in the region. However, these results were presented as
preliminary since they were still based on the assemblages and
stratigraphy described after the 1972 excavation.
It is against this background that we devised a research project aimed
at studying population dynamics and human-environment interactions in
inland Iberia during the Late Pleistocene. The re-study of the Peña Capón
sequence being one of our main targets, we were finally able to conduct
new fieldwork at the site during the autumn of 2015. Our main aims were:
(1) documenting site formation processes, including a detailed and
updated chronostratigraphic description of the deposit, and (2) establishing
both a chronometric and palaeo-ecological framework for the occupation
Fieldwork was based on the excavation of six square metres at a
central location in the rock shelter, potentially very close to the area
excavated in 1972. Within stratigraphic units we developed artificial layers
of 3cm thick, until we reached a maximum depth of c. 40cm in five of the
squares, while in square 2B we conducted a test-pit up to a depth of c.
80cm (Fig. 2a). Site formation and post-depositional processes affecting
the deposit have been investigated by means of micromorphological and
taphonomic analysis. The chronological framework of the recorded
sequence has been addressed by the radiocarbon dating of several bone
and charcoal samples, while for the purpose of studying the environmental
and climatic settings, we took samples for palynological, anthracological,
micromammal and sedimentological analyses. Finally, the study of
human-environment interactions, and techno-economic and social
behaviours of hunter-gatherers occupying Peña Capón, have included zoo-
archaeological analyses, techno-economic studies of lithic assemblages,
intra-site spatial analyses, and the study of the patterns of raw material
catchment and mobility. In this chapter we present the first results of
chrono-stratigraphy, site formation processes and the archaeological
composition of the Solutrean layers at Peña Capón.
Chapter Eight
Figure 2: A: General view of the excavated area at Peña Capón after the 2015
season. B: Stratigraphic sequence documented so far.
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Stratigraphy and site formation processes: first results
The archaeological deposit recorded at Peña Capón was formed by fine
fluvial sediments, including silt and fine sand particles, where up to six
sedimentological units (levels 1 to 6) were identified at the macroscopic
level, besides two surface disturbed layers (R0 and R1). In general terms,
the sequence follows the same structure deduced from the 1972
excavation, with an alternation of reddish brown and dark grey layers (see
Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013: fig. 1). However, while in the old excavation
the archaeological levels were thought to correspond only with the dark
layers, being the brown sterile ones, during 2015 we recorded
archaeological assemblages in every single sedimentological unit.
Therefore, the archaeological sequence assumed up to know, dominated
by four occupation phases and separated by periods where the rock shelter
was abandoned, must be discarded. On the contrary, the new excavations
have shown a continuous record of human occupation throughout the
stratigraphic sequence. Although the richest assemblages are found in the
dark layers, dominated by charcoal and anthropogenic input (see below),
the light ones also contain lithic and faunal remains, thus reflecting human
presence, albeit probably of a shorter duration (Fig. 2b).
In order to study sediment composition, processes of sediment
accumulation and post-depositional alteration at Peña Capón, a
micromorphological study was conducted. Five sediment blocks were
extracted from the western profile of square 2B, covering levels R0 to R1
and 1 to 5 as defined in the field (Fig. 2b). All blocks were reinforced with
gypsum bandages to avoid collapse during extraction and transport. The
blocks were air-dried and impregnated with polyester resin within a
vacuum. After hardening, eighteen uncovered thin sections (80mm x
60mm and approximately 25µm thick) were prepared by Th. Beckmann,
Schwülper-Lagesbüttel, Germany. Further details on the preparation
procedures are described in Beckmann (1997). The thin sections were
analysed at different magnifications, using flatbed scans, at a resolution of
1200dpi (> 20x), and a polarizing microscope (20x to 500x). Microscopic
inspection was conducted under plane-polarized light (PPL), crossed
polarizers (XPL) and oblique incident light (OIL). The description of thin
sections followed the guidelines of Stoops (2003). Here we present the
first description of micromorphological characteristics, while detailed
information will be presented elsewhere.
The thin sections generally show a mixture of natural and
anthropogenic sediment components. Mineral constituents of the large size
fraction (> 2mm in diameter) mostly consist of subangular dolomite rock
Chapter Eight
fragments derived from the cave wall. Sub-rounded to rounded quartzite
and fine siltstone gravel also occur, probably originating from the channel
and floodplain of the Sorbe River or its tributaries. Some chert, rock
crystal and a few quartzite fragments have angular shapes, representing
byproduct created during the production of lithic tools. Inorganic residues
of a biological origin comprise bone fragments, which are well preserved
but often have infillings or coatings of secondary calcite. Among the plant
remains, pieces of charcoal, mostly with well-preserved cell structures, as
well as a few root fragments, are present. Phytolites, or dung particles,
were not found. Very few fragments of carnivore coprolite were identified.
The fine mineral grains consist of quartz, calcite or limestone fragments,
and mica. Granulometric composition is dominated by coarse silt and fine
sand particles. Sub-microscopic particles, being smaller than about 5µm in
diameter and generally defined as micromass, are very few. Except for the
topmost layer (R0), which shows a slightly higher degree of sorting, the
granulometric composition of all layers is quite similar and best described
as poorly-sorted loamy sand, with varying amounts of coarse particles.
The grain size mode lies in the coarse silt to fine sand fraction.
As observed in the field, the main layers show differences in
groundmass colour, from light grey, through reddish-brown to dark grey
which, according to thin section study, is mainly related to varying content
of charcoal and bone, as well as to layer-specific or local enrichments with
secondary calcite. The comparatively well-sorted fine sand of the
uppermost layer (R0) is composed of detrital calcite or dolomite grains,
quartz and little mica. It is rich in primary carbonate and contains many
fresh plant remains such as roots or twigs, but little charcoal. Horizontal
lamination suggests sub-aqueous deposition, or at least reworking (Fig. 3a,
b). This layer may represent a comparatively fresh, or unweathered,
deposit at Peña Capón, which originated from detrital accumulation by
roof spall, and/or colluvial or fluvial processes. Layer R1 comprises the
lower part of recently reworked sediment and consists of poorly-sorted
loamy fine sand with less calcite or dolomite sand grains, quartz, mica,
charcoal, bone and dolomite rock fragments. It is layered and has a clear
lower boundary. A high degree of compaction, probably by trampling, is
indicated by a moderately-developed platy microstructure (Rentzel et al.,
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Chapter Eight
Figure 3 (previous page): Flatbed scans (1200 dpi) of selected thin sections from
the upper layers of the sequence at Peña Capón. A: Layer R0 consists of
comparatively well sorted sandy deposits with abundant fresh plant materials
(arrow). Dashed line is the lower boundary towards R1 (thin section PNCP 1.1) B:
Same as A, but captured with two polarisation foils in crossed position (XPL). R1
contains nodules of secondary carbonate (arrow). C: Layer 1 with few small pieces
of charcoal (arrow) and abundant biogenic pores (thin section PNCP 2.2). D: Same
as C but captured under XPL. E: Thin section PNCP 3.2 from layer 2a. Light
coloured groundmass with many bone fragments (arrowas)and comparatively few
pieces of charcoal. F: Same as E, but captured under XPL. Note hypocoatings of
secondary carbonate indicated by high birefringence around biogenic pores.
Carbonate nodules are also present. G: Contact between layer 2b (top) and layer 3
(bottom). Layer 2b shows high concentration of charcoal and few bone (thin
section PNCP 4:2). H: Same as G but captured under XPL. Note strong
accumulation of secondary carbonate on top of limestone fragment.
Layer 1 represents the first archaeological unit. Thin sections show a
homogenous light orange brown groundmass of poorly-sorted loamy sand
with little fine gravel and few small pieces of charcoal and bone. The light
colour suggests a low organic carbon content. Layer 1 has many biogenic
pores (Fig. 3c, d), including many fine, and a few larger, root channels, as
well as chambers, the latter produced by soil-dwelling mesofauna. The
whole layer shows a low degree of compaction. Further differentiation into
sublayers is not clearly indicated. If we assume that weathering of the
dolomitic rocks of the shelter and river catchment mainly delivers fine
detrital grains of carbonate, the scarcity of these grains in the groundmass
suggests that pronounced carbonate leaching took place after deposition.
Significant accumulation of secondary carbonate is indicated by micritic
hypocoatings, nodules, as well as infillings found in all thin sections from
this layer. It shows a clear lower boundary.
Layer 2 has a greyish groundmass and contains more large fragments
of bone and charcoal as well as several chert fragments, clearly identified
as artefacts (Angelucci, 2010). Rock crystal also occurs. Furthermore, it
differs from layer 1 by having a subdivision into five sublayers, each 2 to
8cm thick, that are mainly distinguished from each other by the amount of
charcoal and bone fragments present (Fig. 3e vs. g), as well as by the
degree of compaction. Some fragments of limestone and quartzite
experienced heating, as indicated by a reddish appearance in reflected
light. Calcitic pedofeatures as mentioned above occur throughout, and
locally the groundmass shows diffuse enrichment in micrite (Fig. 3f, g).
Layer 2 has a clear lower boundary (Fig. 3g, h).
Layer 3 has a light-colored groundmass and contains few charcoal,
bone, or chert fragments. The uppermost part is strongly enriched with
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
secondary calcite, which mainly occurs as diffuse impregnation (Fig. 3g,
h). In the lower part, the content of charcoal increases. As in the layers
above, many calcite hypocoatings and nodules and heavily calcified bone,
are found. The lower boundary of layer 3 is gradual.
The uppermost part of layer 4, about 5cm thick, is very similar to the
directly overlying part of layer 3. The lower part (~6cm thick) has a lighter
colour and is heavily enriched with secondary calcite. In its central part,
oblique incident light elicits a reddish colour from a 1cm-sized patch of
the groundmass. This reddish patch probably represents burned soil. Layer
4 has a clear lower boundary with the charcoal of layer 5. Due to technical
reasons, thin sections cover only the uppermost 3cm of this layer. It shows
many similarities with other dark-colored layers such as those in layer 2.
In summary, sediments below layer R0 share many common features,
while a variation between different layers is mainly related to the content
of burned components and bone. Primary post-depositional processes are
the dissolution of primary carbonate grains and the precipitation of
secondary carbonate. Very localized, a few fragments of carnivore
coprolite and phosphatic rims on limestone fragments suggest the input,
and limited mobilisation, of phosphates. Although most layers have a
channel microstructure testifying to intensive rooting and burrowing
activity by soil mesofauna such as springtails or mites (Kooistra and
Pulleman, 2010), the degree of bioturbation is moderate and sediment
boundaries between the main layers, and within layer 2, are still well
preserved. Micromorphological features related to frost, such as platy or
lenticular microstructure, banded fabric, silt cappings or vertically-
oriented and elongated coarse grains (Van Vliet Lanoë, 2010), were not
Overall, the studied deposit shows a continuous sedimentological
sequence where up to five well-preserved archaeological units can be
delimited (plus level 6, which so far has not been included in the
micromorphological analysis) according to the relative presence of
charcoal and other anthropogenic remains. Furthermore, within level 2, a
number of different sublayers were detected at the microscopic level, thus
attesting to a palimpsest of human occupation periodically deposited
through time. At the macroscopic level, only two sublayers could be
identified in level 2 (sublayers 2a and 2b) (Fig. 2b).
Radiocarbon dating the Solutrean sequence: first results
As described below, typical Solutrean lithic assemblages are found in
levels 1, 2a and 2b of the Peña Capón sequence. Within the entire six
Chapter Eight
square meter area, only levels 1 and 2a have been excavated, while 2b, and
all other stratigraphic units up to and including layer 6, have so far only
been recorded in the test pit conducted in square 2B (Fig. 2). From level 1,
two charcoal fragments (PCP Charcoal 16-1 and PCP Charcoal 16-2) were
selected for radiocarbon dating, while from level 2a we selected two
charcoal fragments (PCP Charcoal 16-3 and PCP Charcoal 16-4) and two
cut-marked bones (PCP Bone 16-1 and PCP Bone 16-2). To date, no
samples have been dated from level 2b. Furthermore, we also selected a
cut-marked bone from the Solutrean layer (II), as defined in the 1972
excavations. All these samples were submitted to the Cologne AMS
Centre at the University of Cologne.
Charcoal samples were first identified to taxon and then AAA (Acid-
Alkali-Acid extraction) processed according to sample preparation as
described by Rethemeyer et al. (2013). Bone samples were processed and
prepared through collagen extraction, also as described by Rethemeyer et
al. (2013). Dating results are presented in Table 1 in conventional
radiocarbon years, and as calibrated ages BP using OxCal 4.3 (Bronk
Ramsey and Lee, 2013) and IntCal13 (Reimer et al., 2013). This table
includes a previously-published date from level II of the 1972 excavation
(Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013).
Besides COL4211.1.1, which yielded a modern age, all other dated
samples provided radiocarbon dates well within the range of the Solutrean,
with an age between 24.37 and 23.77 ka cal BP for the base of level 1 and
an age between 24.72 and 23.75 ka cal BP for level 2a. Furthermore, if we
consider the two radiocarbon measurements available for the Solutrean
layer (II) of the 1972 excavations, their age ranges from 24.38 to 23.67 ka
cal BP, which also fits the picture. Overall, current radiocarbon data
suggest that the Solutrean occupations, registered at the uppermost layers
of the Peña Capón rock shelter, occurred between c. 24.72 and 23.67 ka
cal BP. This supports the previous interpretation that the sedimentological
sequence was deposited in a relatively short period of time, and thus under
high sedimentation rates (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2013). However, given
that dates for level 1 and 2a are roughly contemporary, further research is
needed to reject any contamination or post-depositional issue (although
this has not been shown by micromorphology thus far).
On the other hand, the new chronometric evidence does not support the
suggestion that the Solutrean settlement of Peña Capón could fall within
Greenland Interstadial 2 (Yravedra et al., 2016), a warm interval that
began at 23.3 ± 0.3 ka BP (Wolff et al., 2010) or 23.0 ± 0.6 (Rasmussen et
al., 2014), hence after the Solutrean occupation at Peña Capón. If we want
to correlate the radiocarbon dates for these human occupations with the
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Table 1: Radiocarbon dates obtained for the Solutrean levels of Peña Capón.
Layer Sample ID Lab-ID F14C C14 BP δ13C
Age cal BP
yield (%)
Charcoal 16-1 COL4210.1.1 0,083 20008 ± 112 -24,8 922 24371 - 23770 - - -
1 Charcoal 16-2 COL4211.1.1 1,154 Modern -25,4 998 - - - -
2a Charcoal 16-3 COL4212.1.1 0,080 20278 ± 107 -30,4 996 24724 -24030 - -
2a Charcoal 16-4 COL4213.1.1 0,082 20107 ± 111 -24,6 992 24464 - 23891 - - -
2a Bone 16-1 COL4214.1.1 0,083 19987 ± 110 -17,9 996 24346 - 23745 5,0 2,7 5,0
2a Bone 16-2 COL4215.1.1 0,080 20261 ± 111 -21,8 1000 24688 - 23997 4,1 2,7 14,0
II Bone 16-5 COL4223.1.1 0,083 20024 ± 108 -15,2 999 24380 - 23800 4,6 2,8 6,0
II Tooth B-5 Beta-246880 - 19930 ± 110 -20.2 - 24285
23671 - - -
Chapter Eight
Greenland ice-core records, according to most current estimates
(Rasmussen et al., 2014; Sánchez-Goñi and Harrison, 2010) they fall
within the end of GS-3 (27.5 23.3 ka cal BP), but probably not within
the Heinrich Stadial 2 (26.5 – 24.3 ka cal BP). However, until the results
of the palaeo-environmental analyses, being conducted at the site, are
available, we must remain cautious concerning the climatic and
environmental framework of the Solutrean settlement at Peña Capón. This
is especially relevant considering the many cases showing that correlating
climatic conditions registered in the Greenland ice-cores and deep-sea
drilling, to inland continental regions, can be problematic (Beghin et al.,
2016; González-Sampériz et al., 2010; Jennerjahn et al., 2004; Wolf et al.,
Archaeological composition of the Solutrean levels
Since the excavation of the site is still in progress, the study of
archaeological artefacts and structures is not complete. However, available
data suffices to ascertain the Solutrean character of levels 1, 2a and 2b. In
all these levels, together with typical Upper Palaeolithic artefacts
(including a high presence of endscrapers) we have recorded a large
number of bifacial Solutrean foliates, including laurel leaf points (Fig. 4).
Although it is not our intention to make a sharp correlation between any of
these levels and level II of the 1972 excavation, which shows similar
chronometric dates, the techno-typological similarities between the two
contexts are sound. Both are dominated by artefacts made on a high
variety of flints and, to a lesser extent, quartzites and quartz (including
rock crystal), and in both there is a high presence of foliate artefacts (see
Alcolea-González et al., 1997). According to the classic typology-based
chronological framework of the Iberian Solutrean, these assemblages
should be placed in the Middle or Upper Solutrean (e.g. Banks et al.,
2009, and references therein, but see also Cascalheira and Bicho, 2015).
Since artefacts thought to appear exclusively in Upper Solutrean contexts,
such as shouldered points, have only been recorded as surface finds at
Peña Capón, both for the 1972 and 2015 excavations (see Alcolea-
González et al., 1997: fig. 8; Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015: fig. 4), it is not yet
clear if level 1 is indeed an Upper Solutrean layer. Another possibility is
that such a layer was entirely disturbed, at least within the excavated areas.
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Figure 4: Solutrean points. 1: Level 1. 2-3: Level 2a. 4: Level 2b. 5-6: Level II.
Concerning the function of the site, and its relevance to the
understanding of settlement patterns and population dynamics during MIS
2 in Central Iberia, data obtained from the new excavations support
previous claims on the significance of the Peña Capón archaeological
sequence. Although techno-economic and spatial analyses are still in
progress, the presence of recurrent human occupations spanning not only
the Solutrean, but also the Proto-Solutrean and probably the Gravettian
(Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015), is not proof of an ephemeral or occasional use of
the rock shelter, but points rather to a more complex and stable use of the
site through time. Furthermore, although no other Solutrean sites have
been found thus far in this area of central Iberia, in the nearby rock art
sites of El Reno and El Cojo caves (both 9km from Peña Capón) (Fig. 1b),
and also in Los Casares cave (76km away), several examples of arguably
Chapter Eight
pre-Magdalenian depictions, probably of Solutrean age based on stylistic
grounds, have been described (Alcolea-González and Balbín-Behrmann,
2013). This strongly suggests that the Peña Capón assemblage was not the
product of an isolated occasional visit to this region during MIS 2, but
rather that it was part of an organized settlement during Solutrean times,
established perhaps throughout the upper Tagus basin. A field survey
project that has very recently commenced, aimed at locating new sites and
raw material sources in this region, will hopefully shed more light on this
Moreover, if we accept that “archaeological sites with long sequences
of human occupation may work as a proxy for the approximate location of
long-term eco-cultural refugia” (Cascalheira and Bicho, 2017: 18; see also
Schmidt et al., 2012), Peña Capón is a strong candidate to represent one of
those refugia. The upcoming results from the ongoing palaeo-ecological
analyses will provide insights to test this hypothesis, which has
nonetheless been preliminarily supported by results of stable isotope
analyses on faunal remains (Yravedra et al., 2016).
The internal composition of the archaeological levels that have been
extensively excavated so far (though limited to six square metres) also
provides some preliminary insights on the function of Peña Capon during
Solutrean times. In level 1, and especially in level 2a, besides evident traits
pointing to the use of the rock shelter as a hunting camp, including a high
presence of points, thinning flakes and cut-marked faunal remains with a
moderate incidence of carnivore action (Yravedra et al., 2016), there is
also a relevant component of domestic features. These include a high
presence of endscrapers, at least one fire structure, and even a large
number of ochre remains (Fig. 5). Although the only fire structure
recorded so far does not reflect prolonged or recurrent use, it does denote
inter-site spatial organization, and suggests a more prolonged settlement of
the site which is not only related to hunting and scavenging activities.
Since the potential size of the archaeological deposit at Peña Capón
exceeds at least 200 square metres, future fieldwork aimed at widening the
currently excavated area will enable us to contribute to this discussion
with more sound data.
Recurrent Human Occupations in Central Iberia around
the Last Glacial Maximum
Figure 5: Plan of level 2a at Peña Capón (artificial layer 3). A fireplace is found in
square 2B.
Discussion and perspectives
Peña Capón, for a long time considered as promising but problematic
evidence due to methodological inconsistences, has finally arisen as a key
site for investigating Solutrean and pre-Solutrean human adaptations in the
Iberian Peninsula. Results already available, and ongoing investigations at
this site, will enable us to test important hypotheses concerning human-
environment interactions and population dynamics in the interior lands of
Iberia. Although the Peña Capón sequence currently has no parallels in
inland Iberia, ongoing and future work will show whether this site was an
isolated case in the whole Spanish Meseta, or whether it was part of a
Chapter Eight
more intensive and complex settlement of the Iberian hinterland during the
pre-Magdalenian Upper Palaeolithic. In any case, currently available
evidence, including the regional pre-Magdalenian rock art and the
Solutrean cluster of the Manzanares River basin, suffices to abandon the
idea of interior Iberia as a mere crossing-area during MIS 2, and instead
serves to test the null hypothesis that some regions of the Meseta hosted
more stable human populations than traditionally thought.
This research was funded by a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship
within the FP7, under the project ‘Testing population hiatuses in the Late
Pleistocene of Central Iberia: a geo-archaeological approach’ (Grant
number 628179). It was also supported by the CRC 806 “Our Way to
Europe” funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German
Research Foundation) project number 57444011, and from the Spanish
Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness’ project Territorio,
ambiente y cultura de Neandertales y Humanos modernos en el interior de
la Península Ibérica durante el Pleistoceno Superior (HAR2017-82483-
C3-3-P) funded by the Agencia Estatal de Investigación and FEDER.
MAC currently holds a post-doc fellowship (Ayuda para la Atracción de
Talento Investigador 2016-T2/HUM-1251) awarded by the Comunidad de
Madrid. We gratefully acknowledge contributions made by the excavation
and laboratory team, and we also appreciate suggestions made by an
anonymous reviewer and the editors.
Authors Affiliations
1 Area of Prehistory, University of Alcalá, Spain;
2 Neanderthal Museum, Germany;
3 Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany.
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... Here, the Peña Capón rock shelter has shown a recurrent sequence of human occupations between at least ca. 25.5 and 24 ka cal BP, where Upper and Middle Solutrean, Proto-Solutrean, and potentially Gravettian assemblages have been recorded ( Fig. 6. 1-6) (Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2019. The fact that the oldest human occupations at this site most probably occurred during the HE2 suggests that they were developed regardless of potentially harsh climate conditions. ...
... A notable progress in this context is, for example, the recent archaeological and paleoenvironmental work in central Iberia reported above. Through the acquisition of new chronometric, paleoenvironmental, and archaeological evidence, former scenarios of a punctual human occupation in the Iberian hinterland during the LGM have been challenged (see e.g., Alcaraz-Castaño, 2015;Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2019, 2017. ...
The Iberian Peninsula is considered one of the most well-suited regions in Europe to develop studies on the relationship between environmental changes and human adaptations across the Late Pleistocene. Due to its southwesternmost cul-de-sac position and eco-geographical diversity, Paleolithic Iberia was the stage of cyclical cultural/technological changes, linked to fluctuations in climate and environments, human demographics, and the size, extension, and type of social exchange networks. Such dynamics are particularly evident during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) timeframe, with a series of innovations emerging in the archaeological record, marking the transition between the traditionally defined Gravettian, Proto-Solutrean, Solutrean, and Magdalenian technocomplexes. Stemming from a workshop organized in Erlangen in 2019 on “The Last Glacial Maximum in Europe - state of knowledge in Geosciences and Archaeology”, this paper presents, in the first part, an updated review on the paleoenvironments and human adaptations across four macro-regions (Northern, Inland, Mediterranean, and Western Atlantic Façade) in Iberia during the LGM; and, in a second part, a discussion on the pronounced inter-regional variability, unresolved research questions, and the most promising research topics for future studies.
... This model, composed of 19 radiocarbon dates, is presented in Fig. 6 Table 1 and their associated PDFs are provided in Supplementary Fig. S22 (complete data and boundaries between levels are shown in Supplemaentary Table S5). These results confirm the high sedimentation rate of the deposit 25,26 , where few more than 2,000 years are recorded in 95 cm. This explains the overlap between some dates (both unmodeled and modeled) obtained in adjacent levels, which is hence not related to post-depositional mixing-as also shown by sedimentology and micromorphology-but to the standard deviations of radiocarbon dates. ...
... Site formation processes. The site has been previously interpreted as a result of the contribution of fluvial sedimentation and fallen blocks from the roof 26 . Fluvial origin is confirmed because of the homogeneity in grain size of the fine sediments, which suggests the lack of influence of debris flows coming from closer alluvial fans or slope deposits. ...
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As the south-westernmost region of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula stands as a key area for understanding the process of modern human dispersal into Eurasia. However, the precise timing, ecological setting and cultural context of this process remains controversial concerning its spatiotemporal distribution within the different regions of the peninsula. While traditional models assumed that the whole Iberian hinterland was avoided by modern humans due to ecological factors until the retreat of the Last Glacial Maximum, recent research has demonstrated that hunter-gatherers entered the Iberian interior at least during Solutrean times. We provide a multi-proxy geoarchaeological, chronometric and paleoecological study on human–environment interactions based on the key site of Peña Capón (Guadalajara, Spain). Results show (1) that this site hosts the oldest modern human presence recorded to date in central Iberia, associated to pre-Solutrean cultural traditions around 26,000 years ago, and (2) that this presence occurred during Heinrich Stadial 2 within harsh environmental conditions. These findings demonstrate that this area of the Iberian hinterland was recurrently occupied regardless of climate and environmental variability, thus challenging the widely accepted hypothesis that ecological risk hampered the human settlement of the Iberian interior highlands since the first arrival of modern humans to Southwest Europe.
... As a final remark, evidence of occupation of inland Iberia during the Middle-Upper Paleolithic period is increasingly growing in the areas surrounding the Cueva de los Torrejones (Alcaraz-Castaño et al. 2013, 2017b, 2019a, 2019bAlcolea González et al. 1995, 1997Sala et al. 2020) and, therefore, it is necessary to continue working in the region to expand upon the information currently available. ...
Pleistocene human remains are rare inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Most are considered Neandertals, but anthropological analyses and direct dating are rare. Recently, we published a study of a navicular from this region found in the Torrejones Cave. The results showed it differed from that of Neandertals and it was re-identified as Homo sapiens. Following the previous stratigraphic and biochronologic descriptions, we suggested that it could correspond to an Upper Paleolithic human, since the navicular was apparently recovered in the Late Pleistocene from an in situ unit. Direct radiocarbon dating from this fossil (4855-5036 cal BP), believed to be the only Paleolithic Homo sapiens from inland Iberia, as well as other hominin and faunal remains from the site, show that the human bones actually date to the Chalcolithic. The unexpectedly recent chronology for the navicular implies that there is no evidence of human fossils from the Upper Paleolithic in Torrejones Cave. Thus, any date from the Middle/Upper Paleolithic human record should be taken with caution until in-depth paleoanthropological, stratigraphical and/or direct dating studies are conducted. Extraordinary caution is recommended when human remains are recovered from apparently Paleolithic units in contexts bearing Holocene sepulchral units on the uppermost levels and/or some evidence of bioturbation.
... is much lower in the inland than along the coast, indicating that only the coastal areas of the Iberian Peninsula provided Klein et al. Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx-xxx stable conditions for viable populations, a long-standing and intensively debated pattern (see Alcaraz-Castaño et al., 2019). suggests that changing climate conditions have increased the probability of hunter-gatherer settlements in the inland in intermittent phases. ...
Archaeological records indicate that many regions in Europe were unoccupied by hunter-gatherers during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), probably due to the harsh climatic conditions and glacial extent. In the populated regions of southwestern Europe, a new technocomplex, the Solutrean, is known to have emerged among hunter-gatherers but did not reach the regions east of 10°E. To better understand human occupation of Europe during the LGM, Human Existence Potential (HEP) is presented, which expresses the suitability for hunter-gatherers to inhabit a region under given environmental conditions. We estimate the HEP based on archaeological site locations and reconstructed climate/environment data. By geostatistic upscaling of archaeological site distributions into Core Areas, we distinguish areas that were likely to be continuously occupied by hunter-gatherers, from areas intermittently occupied. The use of Core Areas in the model is found to better describe regions of continuous human presence, removing some of the previously observed mismatches between reconstructions and archaeological records. Using HEP, important anthropological and archaeological questions can be studied. Environmental Human Catchment (EHC) and Best Potential Path (BPP) are applied to quantify an area of HEP attraction and the lowest-cost path between two areas, respectively. With these tools, we characterize the potential connections between the Core Areas, the environmental barriers and possible social and technological interactions. A clear difference in environmental adaptation is found between the populations in western and eastern Europe, and a significant climate barrier prevented the propagation of the Solutrean to eastern Europe.
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Pyrotechnology, the ability for hominins to use fire as a tool, is considered to be one of the most important behavioural adaptations in human evolution. While several studies have focused on identifying the emergence of fire use and later Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal combustion features, far fewer have focused on modern human fire use. As a result, we currently have more data characterizing the hominin fire use prior to 50,000 years before present (BP), than we do for Upper Palaeolithic of Europe. Here we review the available data on Upper Palaeolithic fire evidence between 48,000 and 13,000 years BP to understand the evolution of modern human pyrotechnology. Our results suggest regional clustering of feature types during the Aurignacian and further demonstrate a significant change in modern human fire use, namely in terms of the intensification and structural variation between 35,000 and 28,000 years BP. This change also corresponds to the development and spread of the Gravettian technocomplex throughout Europe and may correspond to a shift in the perception of fire. Additionally, we also show a significant lack of available high-resolution data on combustion features during the height of last glacial maximum. Furthermore, we highlight the need for more research into the effects of syn- and post-depositional processes on archaeological combustion materials and a need for more standardization of descriptions in the published literature. Overall, our review shows a significant and complex developmental process for Upper Palaeolithic fire use which in many ways mirrors the behavioural evolution of modern humans seen in other archaeological mediums.
The interior of the Iberian Peninsula has orographic conditions that make this territory especially vulnerable to Quaternary climate oscillations and which actually could have made it decisive for Paleolithic human populations at critical points. For this reason, the information provided by paleon-tological sites is important for reconstructing climatic and environmental conditions during the Late Pleistocene and understanding how they influenced the species that inhabited them, including humans. Nevertheless, the archaeo-paleontological record is scarce in central Iberia for the Late Pleistocene. A central Iberian site that is key to addressing this issue is Cueva de los Torrejones, which was discovered and excavated during the nineties. Clues indicating the presence of Neandertal populations near the cave site were announced during prior field excavations, including Neandertal remains, Middle Paleolithic artifacts, and evidence of anthropic exploitation of faunal resources at the site. Here we report the new results from the recent excavations and research, including detailed studies on stratigraphy, micro-morphology, macro and microvertebrate paleontology, physical and molecular anthropology, taphonomy and zooarchaeology, and analysis of lithic and pottery remains. Our research has led to the detection of three Prehistoric chronologies recorded at the site. The oldest episode corresponds to between MIS 5 and MIS 4 in which the cave was used by carnivores. The second episode is represented by a faunal association dated to 30.0 ka cal BP and is indicative of cooler and more arid environmental conditions and, therefore, compatible with the worsening climate detected previously for MIS 3 in this area. The last episode corresponds to the Chalcolithic, directly dated to~5000 cal BP in which humans used the cavity for funerary purposes. The DNA analysis of the human remain was assigned to mtDNA haplogroup K, which was originated in the Near East and reached western Europe through the Neolithic expansion. Human occupation during the Paleolithic has been ruled out, including Paleolithic human remains and any kind of anthropic intervention on the Hermann’s tortoise and leopard as was previously proposed at the site.
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The central Meseta is a high plateau located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula. Abundant evidence of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupations of the region contrasts with scarce evidence of a human presence during the early Upper Palaeolithic. On this basis, it has been suggested that climatic downturns triggered the temporary abandonment, or near abandonment, of the central Meseta during the Last Glacial period. We conducted three archaeological surveys in Guadalajara province, located in the southern part of the region, in 2009, 2010, and 2017. Survey results, interpreted in the light of a habitat suitability model, support a hypothesis of climate-driven abandonment (or near-abandonment) of the central plateau during the Last Glacial Maximum and suggest that the Tagus River Valley, which links the Spanish interior to the Atlantic seaboard, was a focus for the Palaeolithic occupation of the region at other times.
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Time and circumstances for the disappearance of Neanderthals and its relationship with the advent of Modern Humans are not yet sufficiently resolved, especially in case of the Iberian Peninsula. Reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions during the last glacial period is crucial to clarifying whether climate deteriorations or competition and contacts with Modern Humans played the pivotal role in driving Neanderthals to extinction. A high-resolution loess record from the Upper Tagus Basin in central Spain demonstrates that the Neanderthal abandonment of inner Iberian territories 42 kyr ago coincided with the evolvement of hostile environmental conditions, while archaeological evidence testifies that this desertion took place regardless of modern humans’ activities. According to stratigraphic findings and stable isotope analyses, this period corresponded to the driest environmental conditions of the last glacial apart from an even drier period linked to Heinrich Stadial 3. Our results show that during Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 4 and 2 climate deteriorations in interior Iberia temporally coincided with northern hemisphere cold periods (Heinrich stadials). Solely during the middle MIS 3, in a period surrounding 42 kyr ago, this relation seems not straightforward, which may demonstrate the complexity of terrestrial climate conditions during glacial periods.
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Micromorphologists are often interested in identifying surfaces intercalated within stratified sequences, and in analysing the activities that took place on them. This chapter illustrates the micromor-phological features deriving from trampling, poaching and traffic through a series of examples from archaeological contexts. Trampling usually takes place on dry or prevalently dry conditions, as for example in roofed spaces, on both constructed and nonconstructed floors. Poaching indicates trampling on very wet, preferentially water-saturated sediments. The chapter then presents observations on the effects of experimental trampling on different substrates, taking into consideration various circumstances (such as duration and environment), but without the negative effects of postsedimentary processes. Experimental studies represent an approach frequently employed in geoarchaeology. The chapter describes the effects of trampling in three archaeological sites with greatly varying substrates, and also presents experiments conducted under laboratory conditions.
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Here we present a new site in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain): Galería de las Estatuas (GE), which provides new information about Mousterian occupations in the Iberian Plateau. The GE was an ancient entrance to the cave system, which is currently closed and sealed by a stalagmitic crust, below which a detritic sedimentary sequence of more than 2 m is found. This has been divided into five litostratigraphic units with a rich assemblage of faunal and lithic remains of clear Mousterian affinity. Radiocarbon dates provide minimum ages and suggest occupations older than 45 ¹⁴ C ka BP. The palynological analysis detected a landscape change to increased tree coverage, which suggests that the sequence recorded a warming episode. The macromammal assemblage is composed of both ungulates (mainly red deer and equids) and carnivores. Taphonomic analysis reveals both anthropic, and to a lesser extent, carnivore activities. The GE was occupied by Neanderthals and also sporadically by carnivores. This new site broadens the information available regarding different human occupations at the Sierra de Atapuerca, which emphasizes the importance of this site-complex for understanding human evolution in Western Europe.
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The currently most widely accepted model of population dynamics in Southwest Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum depicts the Iberian Peninsula as a human refugium. However, this refugium was generally thought to be limited to the coastal areas of Iberia, while the interior lands of the Spanish plateau were explicitly excluded as areas of significant human settlement. According to what we have termed the “crossing-area model,” these inner territories supposedly had no Solutrean settlements, only ephemeral visits corresponding to the passage of hunter-gatherers en route between the more favored coastal areas. In this paper we test the validity of this model in light of new data from several sites in Central Iberia, namely from the Madrid Basin and the southeastern foothills of the Central System mountain range. We conclude that the crossing-area model does not explain the current data and therefore should be reassessed. Consequently, we propose to open up new avenues of research aimed at approaching the central region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.
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Solutrean culture has been interpreted as a response to the Last Glacial Maximum in western Europe. However, to establish a link depends on our knowledge of the impact of global climatic changes at a local level and on the differential preservation and signifi cance of the record. The identifi cation of lithic sources, technology, function, and place of discard is an effective way to mitigate some of these biases and to improve our understanding of hunter-gatherer societies. We present the results of a study of fl int materials found in several rockshelters and open-air sites preserving Upper Solutrean lithic assemblages from France and Portugal, using a Geographic Information System. The network defi ned by a leastcost algorithm is considered a proxy for social and territorial reconstruction. Our goal is to identify recurrences and differences in Solutrean raw material network and management as compared with Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic assemblages in the same areas, considering environmental changes.
The extent to which climate change has affected the course of human evolution is an enduring question. The ability to maintain spatially extensive social networks and a fluid social structure allows human foragers to “map onto” the landscape, mitigating the impact of ecological risk and conferring resilience. But what are the limits of resilience and to which environmental variables are foraging populations sensitive? We address this question by testing the impact of a suite of environmental variables, including climate variability, on the distribution of human populations in Western Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Climate variability affects the distribution of plant and animal resources unpredictably, creating an element of risk for foragers for whom mobility comes at a cost. We produce a model of habitat suitability that allows us to generate predictions about the probable distribution of human populations and discuss the implications of these predictions for the structure of human populations and their social and cultural evolution during the LGM.
It is now rather evident that, concomitant with the advent, growth and disappearance of the traditionally defined Western European Upper Paleolithic techno-complexes, a series of discrete eco-cultural niches would have existed within Iberia. Vale Boi, and its surroundings, may represent one of these niches, since its lengthy and fairly complete archaeological record clearly attests that the region was an attractive location for hunter-gatherer communities for over 10,000 years. From the first Modern Human occupations, c. 32 ka cal BP ago, a set of very specific cultural adaptive markers seem to have been developed in response to the particularities of the regional ecological background. Some of these strategies, such as intensive subsistence practices, raw-material specialized use, among others, were resilient through time and apparently impermeable to the major shifts in the techno-typological novelties brought about with the advent of each Upper Paleolithic phase. Even with the appearance of quite unique and broad-scale technologies, e.g. Solutrean, regional markers and identity have been kept, clearly showing that each level of the adaptive system seem to have operate at its own pace. This paper focus on long-term adaptive choices and on how and why hunter-gatherers inhabiting Vale Boi manage to absorb change and re-organize their system under new techno-complex cultural patterns while still retaining, efficiently, the same regional adaptive idiosyncrasies. Within the theoretical framework of Panarchy and the cross-scale resilience model we argue that cross-scale interactions between creative and conserving niche-specific behavioral adaptations were the keystone for the sustainability of hunter-gatherer cultural systems across the Late Pleistocene.
OxCal is a widely used software package for the calibration of radiocarbon dates and the statistical analysis of ¹⁴ C and other chronological information. The program aims to make statistical methods easily available to researchers and students working in a range of different disciplines. This paper will look at the recent and planned developments of the package. The recent additions to the statistical methods are primarily aimed at providing more robust models, in particular through model averaging for deposition models and through different multiphase models. The paper will look at how these new models have been implemented and explore the implications for researchers who might benefit from their use. In addition, a new approach to the evaluation of marine reservoir offsets will be presented. As the quantity and complexity of chronological data increase, it is also important to have efficient methods for the visualization of such extensive data sets and methods for the presentation of spatial and geographical data embedded within planned future versions of OxCal will also be discussed.