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2019-12-19 17:09:08   •   ID: 2141

Lower Paleolithic from Valley of Miñor (Val Miñor), Galicia, Spain

Figure 1
This is an impressive heavy (2,6 kg) Quartzite „Chopper / Core" (ca 16 cm diameter) from Val Miñor, found during the 1950ies by the Writer and Archaeologist Pedro Diaz Alvarez, together with other Chopper / Chopping tools and simple flakes. Pedro Diaz Alvarez mainly worked in Galicia during the 1950ies.

Figure 2
At his time "archaic tools" in the North-West of the Iberian Peninsula came from open-air sites at the terraces of the Miño river, Val Miñor and from the littoral high terraces.

Nevertheless, records were not always homogeneous and did not came from stratigraphic context. Anyhow eminent reserchers such as Breuil were convinced, that these artifacts were from lower Pleistocene.

Wil Roebroeks and Thijs van Kolfschoten, during the 1990ies pleaded for a stringent and critical assessment of suggested early Pleistocene sites in Europe and concluded, that there was no evidence for a settlement of Europe by Humans prior to 500 k.a.

Figure 3
During the coming decades, this paradigm faded away, mainly because in South Europe (Italia, Iberian Peninsula) in-situ ensembles with Early to Early Middle Pleistocene Archaeological materials were detected.

One of the most important Early Paleolithic ensembles in central Span are documented at Sima del Elefante-one of the archaeo-palaeontological sites of Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain).

Figure 4
The importance of the Atapuerca complex in the context of the Early and Middle Pleistocene human occupation of Europe can hardly be overestimated.

The lower levels of at Sima del Elefante (Units TE-TE14) are an essential reference for understanding the early stages of the colonization of Europe. The TE9c level has provided stone tools (Mode 1), faunal remains, and human fossils dated to 1, 22 Ma.

Levels TD6 in the Gran Dolina cave at Atapuerca, on the other hand, represent a remarkable intense occupation, with features of a base camp, including human remains of "H. antecessor" dated dated by biostratigraphy, paleomagnetism and ESR to an age of 0,8-0,9 Ma.

By using a mass spectrometry, researchers sequenced in 2020 ancient proteins from dental enamel of H. antecessor" and found, that this hominin is not the last common ancestor to modern humans

"Ancient protein analysis provides evidence for a close relationship between Homo antecessor, us (Homo sapiens), Neanderthals, and Denisovans. Our results support the idea that Homo antecessor was a sister group to the group containing Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans," stated the leading author on the paper.

Figure 5
In Fuente Nueva 3 and Barranco León 5 (Granada) faunal remains and lithic Mode-1 artifacts with a chronology of 1,3 million were subsequently described.

It is probable, that the relationship between the Early and Middle Pleistocene human settlements was discontinous with marked technological and behavioral differences.

Until recently, we did not know even a single in-situ early Pleistocene or even early middle Pleistocene site in N/W- Spain, but fortunately intensive field work that has been performed during the last 15 years (see attached files) has changed the picture.

In Galicia, for example in the Monforte Basin Chopping Tools are mostly associated with Handaxes and the use of Quartzite is common. If Mode 1 artifacts are part of the initial settlement of N/W-Iberia or are simply part of an Acheulian remains unclear and the geological age is unclear- but new Methods (ESR / TL) may help to establish an absolute chronology.

New research took place at the Porto Maior site, located in the Miño River basin, about 50 km N/E of the find-spot of the artifact shown here. This location corresponds to a >6 m-thick fluvial terrace located 34 m above the current level of the Miño River.

Several strata ( PM 3-5) from the Middle Pleistocene, bearing Acheulian material were excavated. The most important stratum (PM4) gave abundant LCT material (the largest accumulation outside Africa).

The Bayesian model of ESR / TL data showed that the entire Porto Maior sedimentary sequence was deposited between 312.6 ± 32.6 k.a. and 18.8 ± 7.7 k.a., and that the in situ large cutting tool assemblage from level PM4 most likely accumulated during Marine Isotope Stage 7.

Some researchers suggest, that the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian from the Iberian Peninsula has strong connections to African LCT- ensembles, very different to the Acheulian in N/W-Europe.

I am not so sure- LCT Ensembles in Africa had their high times definitively earlier.

During the late Middle Pleistocene they had almost disappeared and sophisticated MSA Ensemles, for example at Jebel Irhoud were fully developed.

In so far the Archaeological record in this region has changed since the seminal work of Pedro Diaz Alvarez. While the Acheulian seems to be relatively young in geological terms, absolute dates are still missing for Mode-1 artifacts.

If they belong to the Acheulian, they may be around 300 k.a. old. If they were part of an older occupation remains unknown at the moment. In this case they could be of Early Pleistoceine origin.

Importantly the artifact, shown in this post has no similarity to the local Holocene "Asturian" see here: 1309 , but resembles the heavy duty component of the Assemblages of the Middle and High Terraces of the Garonne and Tarn valley and last but not least the Pebble tools from Terra Amata (Nice; France).