Thursday, August 31, 2006

Henry de Lumley: “The Abric Romaní is the most important site of the world to reconstruct the life of the Neanderthals”

The director of the Institute of Human Paleontology (IPH) at Paris, Henry de Lumley, has declared that the Abric Romaní (Capellades, Barcelona) “is the most important site of the world to reconstruct the life of the Neanderthals”. Lumley, who has been visiting this archaeological site these days when has been discovered a tree carved by this human species 56,000 years ago, asserts that the construction of the next Museum of the Neanderthal at Capellades will be an important key to understand how was the way of life of these hominids, and will place this locality into the net of the cultural spaces of Europe about the route that these populations have traveled.

Lumley, motivated by the numerous and qualified team that works at the Abric Romaní, headed by the IPHES (Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution) and directed by Eudald Carbonell, has affirmed: “it is an exceptional site because of the special conditions which offers to the preservation of the fossils remains like the hearths and the wood tools.” This excellent preservation is determined by the abundance of calcic bicarbonate in the water of Capellades. The water that flows from the sources recovers the vegetable surface and fossilizes their external part; in this way when the woody material disappears the imprint of it remains.

The director of the IPH of Paris has noticed: “all that allows us to find out how the Neanderthals organized their camps, and reproduce, therefore, the daily scenes.” Lumley has insisted that “for the first time their system of organization can be understood.” And he has added: “there is another interesting aspect, which is that observing how they divide up the structures as the hearths, we can obtain demographical data on these populations. In the Romaní there is central fire (hearth) and many others individual, from here it could be tried to calculate how many people would occupy this space.”

Henry de Lumley has referred also to the trunk of tree located some days ago, and which has 56,000 years of antiquity: “it is an interesting discovery because for the first time we can know how was the system to carve the wood the Neanderthals used.” These groups used the wood to obtain fire, but also to make tools for the hunting, the gathering and for the domestic use.

At the same time, Lumley assures that we can conclude from the set of all these singularities of the Abric Romaní, that the Neanderthals had a complex organization, because they distributed the spaces according to its functionality: to sleep, for meeting around the fire, to cut the tools, etc.

Finally, with regard to the future construction of the Museum of the Neanderthals in Capellades, Henry de Lumley has noticed: “it will be an enclosure where no human remains will be exhibited, because in the Abric Romaní they have not been discovered yet, but will situate this archaeological site in a very important place in the network of European cultural spaces, like Tautavel (remains of 300,000 years) or Lascaux (450,000 years), both in France. Among all of them the route of the prehistoric man will be able to be followed.”

The mayor of Capellades, Angel Soteras, has assured: “the Museum of the Neanderthal will be inaugurated in the year 2009, coinciding with the first centennial of the discover of the Abric Romaní and the beginning of the first excavation.” Raül Bartroli, technician of archaeological heritage of the Town Council of Capellades has added: “the museum will be centered in showing how was the life of these populations about two central elements that give prestige and fame to the archaeological site: the hearths and the wood, as technologies that convey the social life.”

For the mayor, this museum “will revitalize a lot the village, and will have a national cultural equipment for the value of the discoveries. Every one who wants to know the Neanderthals will have to go to Capellades.” This Museum will be constructed in a new building and will be a complement of the Prehistoric Park of Capellades which includes the Abric Romaní and all the rest of archaeological sites that are part of the Capelló.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The IPHES carries out an archaeological exploration in Morocco to locate remains of two million years of antiquity

The Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), in collaboration with the University of Ujda (Morocco) and the University of Burgos (Spain) carries out explorations in the mentioned African country to locate archaeological remains of two million years which contribute to the study of the human evolution. The project is codirected by the professors Robert Sala (Universitat Rovira I Virgili at Tarragona) and Hassan Auraghe, from Ujda, and it is framed in the joint tasks that impel this two institutions to socialize the research.

Robert Sala points out: “at present we develop a research project in Algeria, but the idea is to extend our field of action to other countries of the African continent in order to obtain a regional vision of the human settlement.” In the area of the locality of Ujda have been located packets of sediment of two million years and now it is intended to find the archaeological remains inside a stratigraphy (in chronological sequence) to deepen in their knowledge.

Sala assures: “we consider that this one is a rich area of the Mediterranean, because already there have been findings in the surface, but it is still little explored”. Until now no step had been given to systematize a serious research with regard to the Quaternary in this geographical area.

After these explorations, which are useful to assure the validity of the project, we will proceed to complete this intervention with others of the same type, or directly to execute an excavation possibly the spring of 2007, according to the results that we obtain these days. In a third phase, the initiatives properly said of socialization will be carried out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Found for the first time a tree cut by Neanderthals 56,000 years ago at the Abric Romaní, Capellades, Barcelona

56,000 years ago the Neanderthals that occupied the Abric Romaní, at Capellades (Barcelona), made use of the forest mass that grew in the edge of the shelter. Remains of trees cut by these hominids have been fossilized in the level P, being the one of larger diameter of 40 centimeters; whereas the base of the trunk, of a meter of height, remains in vertical position, the branches are scattered surrounding. The Neanderthals used wood to make fire and also to make tools for the hunt, the gathering and the domestic use. These archaeological remains are the most ancient ever found at this shelter, where they have been found fossilized plants from the 40,000 to 70,000 years.

This discovery confirms the importance that had fire and plants for the Neanderthals to their domestic activities, associated to workshops of manipulation of the wood. The Abric Romaní is the most important archaeological site in the world with wood tools and hearths excavated in the last 25 years. Until the moment it has been investigated more than 300 hearths and has been located more than 100 of wood tools from 40,000 to 56,000 years.

The plant preservation at this site is caused by the abundance of calcic bicarbonate in the water at Capellades. The water that flows from the sources covers the plant surfaces that fossilize the external part of them. In this way, when the woody material disappears, its imprint remains. Constructing a mold over this negative we could obtain a positive of it that allows us to know the original form of its structure.

The excellent preservation of fossils at this site (wood, stone and bone) makes easier the approximate reconstruction of the last Neanderthals’ life before their extinction. Specifically, this discovery allows us to confirm the complexity of the Neanderthal behaviour, which has been often put in doubt by some scientists.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We make for you this virtual space with the objective to share with the maximum number of people the knowledge that we are obtaining with our research. With this blog the scientific team headed by Eudald Carbonell, director of the IPHES (Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution), professor of Prehistory at the University Rovira i Virgili at Tarragona, and codirector of the Atapuerca Project, we wish to update you of our activities, and we hope this will help you to think on our species and our commitment with the society. This is what we have been trying to do for many years with the socialization of science.

Blog maintained originally in catalan by Cinta S. Bellmunt, journalist and student of the European Master on Archaeology of the Quaternay and Human Evolution of the URV, and adapted to english with the translation of Almudena L. Benito, student of the same Master.