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Fiorenza L.,University of New England of Australia | Benazzi S.,University of Bologna | Benazzi S.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Henry A.G.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | And 8 more authors.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2015

Neanderthals have been commonly depicted as top predators who met their nutritional needs by focusing entirely on meat. This information mostly derives from faunal assemblage analyses and stable isotope studies: methods that tend to underestimate plant consumption and overestimate the intake of animal proteins. Several studies in fact demonstrate that there is a physiological limit to the amount of animal proteins that can be consumed: exceeding these values causes protein toxicity that can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women and newborns. Consequently, to avoid food poisoning from meat-based diets, Neanderthals must have incorporated alternative food sources in their daily diets, including plant materials as well. © 2014 American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Source

Rodriguez-Gomez G.,National Research Center sobre la Evolucion Humana | Mateos A.,National Research Center sobre la Evolucion Humana | Martin-Gonzalez J.A.,University of Burgos | Blasco R.,Gibraltar Museum | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Increasing evidence suggests that the European human settlement is older than 1.2 Ma. However, there is a fierce debate about the continuity or discontinuity of the early human settlement of Europe. In particular, evidence of human presence in the interval 0.7-0.5 Ma is scarce in comparison with evidence for the previous and later periods. Here, we present a case study in which the environmental conditions at Sierra de Atapuerca in the early Middle Pleistocene, a period without evidence of human presence, are compared with the conditions in the previous period, for which a relatively intense human occupation is documented. With this objective in mind, the available resources for a human population and the intensity of competition between secondary consumers during the two periods are compared using a mathematical model. The Gran Dolina site TD8 level, dated to 0.7-0.6 Ma, is taken as representative of the period during which Atapuerca was apparently not occupied by humans. Conditions at TD8 are compared with those of the previous period, represented by the TD6-2 level, which has yielded abundant evidence of intense human occupation. The results show that survival opportunities for a hypothetical human population were lower at TD8 than they were at TD6-2. Increased resource competition between secondary consumers arises as a possible explanation for the absence of human occupation at Atapuerca in the early Middle Pleistocene. © 2014 Rodríguez-Gómez et al. Source

Rodriguez-Vidal J.,University of Huelva | Finlayson G.,Gibraltar Museum | Finlayson C.,Gibraltar Museum | Finlayson C.,University of Toronto | And 4 more authors.
Geomorphology | Year: 2013

The Rock of Gibraltar, at the south-western extreme of the Iberian Peninsula and 21. km from the North African coast, is a 6-km long limestone peninsula which was inhabited by Neanderthals from MIS 5e until the end of MIS 3. A total of 8 sites, either with Neanderthal fossils or their Mousterian lithic technology, have been discovered on the Rock. Two, Gorham's and Vanguard Caves, are the subject of ongoing research. These caves are currently at sea level, but during MIS 3 faced an emerged coastal shelf with the shoreline as far as 5. km away at times. They hold a unique archive of fauna and flora, in the form of fossils, charcoal and pollen, helping environmental reconstruction of now-submerged shelf landscapes. In addition, geological and geomorphological features - a 300-metre dune complex, elevated aeolian deposits, raised beaches, scree, speleothems - complement the biotic picture.The work is further complemented by a study of the ecology of the species recorded at the site, using present-day observations. The species composition in this fossil record closely matches the present day fauna and vegetation of the Doñana National Park, SW Spain: a mosaic of pine groves, coastal dunes, shrubland and seasonal wetlands and currently the richest reserve in terms of biodiversity in the Iberian Peninsula, located only 100. km to the northwest from Gibraltar.All this information permits, for the first time, the quantification of the vegetation structure of the ancient coastal plain and the modelling of the spatio-temporal dynamics of the MIS 3 coastal shelf off Gibraltar. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. Source

Blain H.-A.,Institute Catala Of Paleoecologia Humana I Evolucio Social | Blain H.-A.,Rovira i Virgili University | Gleed-Owen C.P.,CGO Ecology Ltd | Lopez-Garcia J.M.,Institute Catala Of Paleoecologia Humana I Evolucio Social | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2013

Gorham's Cave is located in the British territory of Gibraltar in the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula. Recent excavations, which began in 1997, have exposed an 18 m archaeological sequence that covered the last evidence of Neanderthal occupation and the first evidence of modern human occupation in the cave. By applying the Mutual Climatic Range method on the amphibian and reptile assemblages, we propose here new quantitative data on the terrestrial climatic conditions throughout the latest Pleistocene sequence of Gorham's Cave. In comparison with current climatic data, all mean annual temperatures were about 1.6-1.8 °C lower in this region. Winters were colder and summers were similar to today. Mean annual precipitation was slightly lower, but according to the Aridity Index of Gaussen there were only four dry months during the latest Pleistocene as opposed to five dry months today during the summer. The climate was Mediterranean and semi-arid (according to the Aridity Index of Dantin-Revenga) or semi-humid (according to the Aridity Index of Martonne). The atmospheric temperature range was higher during the latest Pleistocene, mainly due to lower winter temperatures. Such data support recent bioclimatic models, which indicate that high rainfall levels may have been a significant factor in the late survival of Neanderthal populations in southern Iberia. The Solutrean levels of Gorham's Cave and climate records from cores in the Alboran Sea indicate increasing aridity from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3-2. Because Neanderthals seem to have been associated with woodland habitats, we propose that lessening rainfall may have caused the degradation of large areas of forest and may have made late surviving Neanderthal populations more vulnerable outside southern refuges like the Rock of Gibraltar. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Lopez-Garcia J.M.,Rovira i Virgili University | Cuenca-Bescos G.,University of Zaragoza | Finlayson C.,The Gibraltar Museum | Finlayson C.,University of Toronto | And 2 more authors.
Quaternary International | Year: 2011

Gorham's cave is located in the British territory of Gibraltar in the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula. The cave was discovered in 1907 and first excavated in the 1950s by John Waechter of the Institute of Archaeology in London. New excavations, which started in 1997, have exposed 18 m of human occupation in the cave, spanning the Late Pleistocene, as well as including brief Phoenician, Carthaginian and Neolithic occupations. The Late Pleistocene levels consist of two Upper Palaeolithic occupations, attributed to the Solutrean and Magdalenian technocomplexes (Level III), and which are dated, by AMS radiocarbon, to between 18,000 and 10,000 years ago. The underlying Mousterian layer (Level IV), dated by AMS radiocarbon to between 23,000 and 33,000 years ago, is separated from Level III by an archaeologically sterile layer, which spans some 4000 years.This paper presents previously unpublished palaeoenvironmental and paleoclimatic reconstructions of Gorham's cave, during these Pleistocene occupations, using the small mammal assemblage. The small mammal assemblage at Gorham's cave comprises of at least 12 species: 4 insectivores (Crocidura russula, Sorex gr. coronatus-araneus, Sorex minutus and Talpa occidentalis); 3 chiropters (Myotis myotis, Myotis nattereri and Miniopterus schreibersii); and 5 rodents (Microtus (Iberomys) cabrerae, Microtus (Terricola) duodecimcostatus, Arvicola sapidus, Apodemus sylvaticus and Eliomys quercinus). The presence of these small mammal species indicates that the landscape surrounding the Rock of Gibraltar was predominantly an open habitat, with the presence of woodland and water stream meadows, as well as the presence of larger bodies of water. These results are then compared with pollen and charcoal analysis as well as other faunal proxies, such as the herpetofauna, bird and large mammal assemblages, providing an accurate reconstruction of the climatic and environmental conditions that prevailed during the Late Pleistocene in the southernmost of the Iberian Peninsula. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source

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