Archaeologists have found a hunting camp of the Spanish Neanderthals

Archaeologists have found a hunting camp of the Spanish Neanderthals
Archaeologists have found a hunting camp of the Spanish Neanderthals
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Spanish archaeologists have discovered a Neanderthal hunting camp near Madrid, which was used seasonally for hunting animals more than 70 thousand years ago. Analysis of faunal remains showed that ancient people preferred to hunt the largest local ungulates in the vicinity of the camp, after which they butchered their carcasses and transferred them to the main camps. The article was published in the journal Quaternary Science Review.

The territory of modern Spain, especially its coastal regions, served as one of the centers of residence of the Neanderthals. Paleoanthropological and paleogenetic studies have shown that the local population existed already 430 thousand years ago. Such conclusions, in particular, were made after studying 17 skulls discovered in the Cima de los Huesos ("Pit of Bones") cave. Apparently, Spain was one of the last refugia inhabited by Neanderthals, who died out about 39-41 thousand years ago.

In 2002, in the suburbs of Madrid in the Pinilla del Valle area, archaeologists discovered the Navalmaillo rock shelter. It is located in a mountainous area in the upper reaches of the Lozoya River. The site covers an area of ​​300-400 square meters, of which about 80 square meters have been excavated. Scientists have found evidence of stone tool making, traces of shallow hearths, and faunal remains with traces of human activity in Navalmaillo.

Parking location

Abel Moclan, together with colleagues from the Spanish National Research Center for Human Evolution, explored the rock shelter of Navalmaillo, where the largest set of faunal materials (more than 13 thousand samples) was found in the interior of the Iberian Peninsula. For this site, two thermoluminescent dates were made: 71685 ± 5082 years ago and 77230 ± 6016 years ago.

Most of the stone tools found at the site (about 78 percent) were made from quartz collected in the vicinity. Overall, about 97 percent of all instruments were made from materials collected locally. Wear studies have shown that the tools were used universally, for example, for cutting meat and processing wood.

In total, archaeologists analyzed 13,270 faunal remains collected during the 2002–2019 excavations, with more than 80 percent of the bones being less than 40 millimeters long. As a result of the study, scientists were able to identify the remains of 21 different animal species, most of which (77, 79 percent) were adult ungulates: steppe rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus), real bull (Bos), wild horse (Equus ferus), European donkey (Equus hydruntinus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), fallow deer (Dama dama), European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica), as well as indeterminate members of the goat subfamily (Caprinae). Among the carnivores whose remains were found by archaeologists were the brown bear (Ursus arctos), the Barbary lion (Panthera leo), the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the common lynx (Lynx lynx), the common fox (Vulpes vulpes) and wood ferret (Mustela putorius).

Faunal remains

Despite the large number of species represented, archaeologists found traces of human activity only on the bones of four taxa, which, in terms of body size, belonged to the largest and medium-sized animals. Apparently, the Neanderthals mined them near the camp, after which they butchered them in a refuge: from skinning and gutting to breaking long bones, which contained bone marrow.

Scientists noted that, apparently, the Neanderthals in the Pinilla del Valle area had a particular preference for hunting cattle. Among medium-sized animals, reindeer, especially red deer, dominated. In addition, the researchers found clear evidence of cutting at least eight horse carcasses. Carnivores, apparently, mainly hunted smaller animals, harvesting whatever remained after the departure of the Neanderthals.

Archaeologists have concluded that the Navalmaillo site was used as a hunting camp. In their opinion, the animals killed nearby were butchered by Neanderthals in this rocky shelter, after which parts of the carcasses were transported to another place. Such camps were apparently used for a short period at certain times of the year, when there was a lot of prey in the vicinity. Given the site's height above sea level (1108 meters), archaeologists believe that Neanderthals came here during warm seasons.

Earlier on N + 1 talked about other studies of Neanderthal populations living in Spain. So, scientists have discovered in the Ardales cave drawings left by these archaic people between 45 and 65 thousand years ago. In addition, paleobotanists have found that climate change has forced Iberian Neanderthals to populate forests.

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