Monday, April 05, 2010

A new Lower Pleistocene archeological site in Europe (Vallparadís, Barcelona, Spain)

In this article we present the discovery of a new late Lower Pleistocene archeological site: Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain). This site provided a rich archeo-paleontological sequence dated from the upper boundary of the Jaramillo subchron to the early Middle Pleistocene. The archeological deposit of Vallparadís contained a main archeological layer with numerous lithic artifacts and a rich faunal assemblage, some of which with cut marks, that could indicate that hominins had primary access to carcasses.

Mandible of Rhinocerotidae with short and deep cut marks in the tongue side (Foto: Joan García and Kenneth Martínez / IPHES)

Electron spin resonance-uranium series (ESR-US), paleomagnetic analysis, and the biostratigraphic chronological data reinforce the proposal that hominins inhabited Europe during the late Matuyama chron. The archeological sequence provides key information on the successful adaptation of European hominins that preceded the Homo antecessor fossil population from Atapuerca and succeeded the finds from Fuente Nueva and Barranco León, in the Orce basin. Hence, Vallparadís enables us to close a major chronological gap in the early prehistory of Iberian Peninsula. According to the available data, is proposed that Mediterranean Western Europe was continuously occupied by hominids during the late Lower Pleistocene.

The most decisive factor of the European colonization was probably the carnivorous diet of these hominins rather than any cultural, ecological and even physical features. At certain times of the year, hominins must have depended on animal resources for subsistence. This would have entailed direct competition with other large European predators and scavengers of the time, as jaguars and hyenas. The Vallparadís human groups exploited a rich biological environment and adapted in a way that shows they were not selective in terms of exploitation the resources available. This broad adaptive strategy would not have required great technological developments. Therefore, is proposed that these first European hominins would have been a cohesive group of general predators that had primary access to preys and, as with large predators, occupied a position at the top of the food chain.

The authors contributed to the article as follows: K.M. and J.G. designed research; K.M., J.G., and E.C. performed research; K.M., J.G., E.C., J.A., J.-J.B., H.-A.B., F.B., I.C., M.D., C.F., M.G., and R.H. analyzed data; and K.M. and J.G. wrote the paper.

For more information:

Martínez, K., Garcia, J., Carbonell, E., Agustí, J., Bahain, J.-J., Blain, H.-A., Burjachs, F., Càceres, I., Duval, M., Falguères, Ch., Gómez, M., and Huguet, H. (2010). “A new Lower Pleistocene archeological site in Europe (Vallparadís, Barcelona, Spain)”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(13): 5762-5767.


Joan Garcia Garriga
Area of Prehistory (Rovira i Virgili University) & Catalan Institute of Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES)

Kenneth Martínez Molina
Area of Prehistory (Rovira i Virgili University) & Catalan Institute of Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES)