Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Continuity of the first human occupation in the Iberian Peninsula: Closing the archaeological gap

The recent discovery of a site at Vallparadís (Terrassa), dated to the upper boundary of the Jaramillo sub-chron (0.98 Ma), allows us to close the archaeological gap of the Late Lower Pleistocene in the Iberian Peninsula—between Orce and Sima del Elefante (1.4-1.3 to 1.2 Ma), on the one hand, and TD6 (0.78 Ma), on the other—and to propose the hypothesis that Western Mediterranean Europe may have been continuously inhabited by humans from 1.4-1.2 Ma until the early Middle Pleistocene. The Iberian Peninsula was home to a stable human settlement throughout the time range in question. This hypothesis would seem to be supported by the number of sites already discovered, their chronology, their ecosystem diversity and, especially, the similar technological and adaptive characteristics they represent.

Fig. 1. Geographic location of the Lower Pleistocene archaeological sites of the Iberian Peninsula and summary of the lithostratigraphy and chronology of the Vallparadís site. IPHES

Taking into account that the lithic technology, adaptive strategies and even biological characteristics of the hominids (in the case of Atapuerca) have certain characteristics in common at Sima del Elefante, Orce, Vallparadís and TD6, we conclude that the first groups of hominids in Europe were capable of successfully withstanding the different climatic conditions that they encountered, thereby ensuring the continuity of human settlement in Europe throughout the Lower Pleistocene. They were able to do this thanks to certain adaptive strategies based on a Mode 1 technological capacity and group social cohesion. These strategies enabled them to eat meat by gaining primary access to herbivore carcasses and successfully compete with large carnivores (e.g. Panthera gombaszoegensis and Pachycrocuta brevirostris at Vallparadís). These first hominids succeeded in hoisting themselves to the top of the food chain, and in doing so guaranteed the continuity of human settlement.

For further information:

Garcia, J., Martínez, K., Carbonell, E., 2011. "Continuity of the first human occupation in the Iberian Peninsula: Closing the archaeological gap".
C.R. Palevol. 10 (4), 279-284.


Joan Garcia

Kenneth Martínez