Archive for julio 2017

A new paper titled «A chrono-cultural reassessment of the levels VI–XIV from El Cuco rock-shelter: A new sequence for the Late Middle Paleolithic in the Cantabrian region (northern Iberia)» has been published in Quaternary International (Gutierrez-Zugasti et al. 2017). In this work, we propose a new chrono-cultural attribution for the lower part of El Cuco’s archeological sequence, which is now attributed to the Middle Paleolithic. This change demanded a new lecture of the entire site, which nowadays is the first site in the Bay of Biscay, atributed to neandertals, with clear evidence of marine resource consumption. Also, the new sequence is relevant to understand the end of the Middle Paleolithic in the region.

El Cuco rock-shelter is located on the north coast of Spain, in the coastal village of Castro Urdiales. In 2005 the site was excavated under the direction of P. Rasines and a sequence of 2.5 m deep, composed of 14 levels, was revealed (Muñoz et al. 2007). Initially, levels VI to XIV were attributed to the Evolved Aurignacian mostly because level XIII was dated to ca. 30,000 BP.

Recently the entire sequence has been reassessed, the new dates obtained from carbonate samples of Patella vulgata remains, have dated level X to ca. 43,000 BP, and level XIII to ca. 46.000 BP. These dates were contradictory with the attribution to the Evolved Aurignacian, and for this reason, we conducted a reanalysis of the level VII’s lithic assemblage. This analysis revealed a clearly Mousterian industry characterized by the use of Levallois technology, with a special incidence of small Levallois cores and flakes. These technological features were similar to those described at Axlor or Amalda (Rios-Garaizar et al. 2015), and are typical from the Late Mousterian of the Cantabrian Region (Rios-Garaizar 2017). Similar features have been also identified in levels VIII-XIII assemblages.



Level VII lithic assemblage (Gutierrez-Zugasti et al. 2017)


One of the most interesting conclusions of this new analysis is that shell assemblages are quite rich in levels X, XI and XII (Gutiérrez-Zugasti et al., 2013). Two of the most represented species, limpets (Patella) and sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), were brought to the site and consumed there by neandertals, representing the first clear evidence of marine resource exploitation in the Bay of Biscay. Probably, the absence of this kind of evidence in this region is due to the scarcity of caves and rock shelters with preserved Middle Paleolithic deposits located close to the current coastline. In fact, El Cuco is one of the closest sites (<500 m), and there, specifically, we find clear evidence of shellfish consume.


Gutiérrez-Zugasti, I., Cuenca-Solana, D., Rasines del Río, P., Muñoz, E., Santamaría, S., Morlote, J.M., 2013. The role of shellfish in hunter–gatherer societies during the Early Upper Palaeolithic: A view from El Cuco rockshelter, northern Spain. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32, 242–256. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2013.03.001

Gutierrez-Zugasti, I., Rios-Garaizar, J., Marín-Arroyo, A.B., Rasines, P., Maroto, J., Jones, J., Bailey, G.N., Richards, M., (2017) A chrono-cultural reassessment of the levels VI-XIV from El Cuco rock-shelter: a new sequence for the Late Middle Paleolithic in the Cantabrian Region (northern Iberia). Quatenary International. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.06.059

Muñoz, E., Rasines, P., Santamaría, S., Morlote, J.M., 2007. Estudio arqueológico del Abrigo del Cuco, in: Muñoz, E., Montes, R. (Eds.), Interveciones Arqueológicas En Castro Urdiales. Tomo III. Arqueología Y Arte Rupestre Paleolítico En Las Cavidades de El Cuco O Sobera Y La Lastrilla. Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Castro Urdiales, Concejalía de Medioambiente y Patrimonio Arqueológico., Santander, pp. 15–160.

Rios-Garaizar, J., Eixea, A., Villaverde, V., 2015. Ramification of lithic production and the search of small tools in Iberian Peninsula Middle Paleolithic. Quaternary International 361, 188–199. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.07.025

Rios-Garaizar, J., 2017. A new chronological and technological synthesis for Late Middle Paleolithic of the Eastern Cantabrian Region. Quaternary International 433, Part, 50–63. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.02.020



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A new major discovery in paleolithic rock art has been made in the Basque Country. In April two speleologist from Felix Ugarte Elkartea (FUE),  Javier Busselo and Sergio Laburu found new engravings in Aitzbitarte IV during the explorations made in the context of continuous work on rock-art made at Aitzbitarte karstic system under the direction of archaeologist Diego Garate.

The new engravings have been found in several small chambers located at the end of an almost upright conduct that starts on a side of the principal gallery of Aitzbitarte IV. The access to the place is really complicated and this explains the good state of preservation of the engravings and the associated archaeological floors.

Some of these new images are really spectacular and unique, especially two bisons modeled in clay. These figures have been created with a stone tool and the fingers, showing an incredible degree of skillfulness. This is the first time this technique is documented in the Cantabrian Region, being the closest parallels the masterpieces from Montespan, Fontanet or Tuc d’Audoubert in France. Aside from these modeled bisons, there are other conventional engravings very similar to those found in Aitzbitarte V.

Several images made with the bas-relief technique (Bison, Bison and Horse) (photos: D. Garate)
These figures were drawn with conventional engraving techniques (Bison and Vulva) (Photo: D. Garate)

Since 2012 several rock art manifestations have been discovered in Aitzbitarte caves. Aitzbitarte is a complex karstic system located near to San Sebastian, on the Spanish side of the Basque Country. Historically, Aitzbitarte is one of the first Paleolithic sites excavated in Spain. In 1892 Lersundi Count made excavations at Aitzbitarte IV site, finding numerous archeological remains, including the first skeletal remains of reindeer found in the Iberian Peninsula. Later, in the 1960’s, the cave was excavated by J. M. Barandiaran, who revealed an interesting Solutrean-Azilian sequence. Finally, during the 1990’s and the 2000’s, J. Altuna excavated Aitzbitarte III cave, which is well known by his Gravettian occupations. In 2012, we discovered several red stains and altered figures in Aitzbitarte IV. Later on, thanks to the collaboration between the archeologist’s team led by D. Garate and the speleologist from Felix Ugarte Elkartea (FUE), Gravettian and Magdalenian engravings were found in Aitzbitarte III, V, and IX, in 2015.

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