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Posts Tagged ‘open-air site’

Archaeological excavations at Aranbaltza, site located in the Basque Country coast, have revealed several episodes of neandertal occupations with preserved wooden remains. The fieldwork is leaded by Joseba Rios-Garaizar, archaeologist from the Spanish National Research Centre on Human Evolution (CENIEH). In 2015, the excavation revealed the presence of waterlogged sediments preserving wooden remains in an extraordinary state of preservation. The assemblage includes including two wooden tools, and one of them is a 15 cm long digging stick which has been published in PLOS ONE.

Figura Macro

Aranbaltza digging stick made. Left, actual morphology after excavation. Right, slightly deformed morphology after restoration

The detailed analysis of this tool and the OSL dating of the sediment that bears the wooden remains indicate that the objects were deposited around 90.000 years and thus, they were made by neandertals. The Micro-CT analysis and a close examination of the surface have shown that a yew trunk was cut longitudinally into two halves. One of this halves was scraped with a stone-tool, and treated with fire to harden it and to facilitate the scraping to obtain a pointed morphology. Use-wear analysis revealed that it was used for digging in search of food, flint, or simply to make holes in the ground.

figura MicroCT

Cross-section images of the internal structure obtained with Micro-CT

The preservation of wooden tools associated to neandertals is very rare because wood degrades very quickly. Only in very specific environments, like the waterlogged sediments from Aranbaltza, it has been possible to find evidence of wooden technology. As it was suggested by indirect evidence, this type of technology was relevant in neandertal daily life. In the Iberian Peninsula wooden tools associated to neandertals have been found only in the travertine from Abric Romaní (Catalonia), and in the rest of Europe only four sites (Clacton on Sea, Schöningen, Lehringen and Poggeti Vechi) have provided wooden tools associated to neandertals or pre-neandertals. Therefore, findings like the one from Aranbaltza are crucial to investigate the neandertal technology and use of wood.

The archaeological project at Aranbaltza started in 2013 to investigate the last neandertals from Western Europe, who were responsible of the Chatelperronian culture. The ongoing excavations have revealed different neandertal occupation events spanning from 100 to 44.000 years. This makes of Aranbaltza an exceptional site to investigate neandertal evolution and behavioral variability.

Piezas US4 y 5

Stone-tools recovered from US4 (1) and US5 (3-4), the stratigraphic units that preserve wooden remains.

This archaeological project is coordinated by the CENIEH and INRAP and funded by Heritage Center of the Bizkaia Regional Government (2013-2017) and Basque Government (2014-2015). Researchers from the following institutions have participated in this publication: CENIEH, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Universidad de Burgos, INRAP, Universidad del País Vasco and Universidad de Cantabria.

Reference

Joseba Rios-Garaizar, Oriol López-Bultó, Eneko Iriarte, Carlos Pérez-Garrido, Raquel Piqué, Arantxa Aranburu, María José Iriarte-Chiapusso, Illuminada Ortega-Cordellat, Laurence Bourguignon, Diego Garate, Iñaki Libano (2018), A Middle Palaeolithic wooden digging stick from Aranbaltza III, Spain. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195044

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