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Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Olle A.,Institute Catala Of Paleoecologia Humana I Evolucio Social | Olle A.,Rovira i Virgili University | Mosquera M.,Institute Catala Of Paleoecologia Humana I Evolucio Social | Mosquera M.,Rovira i Virgili University | And 22 more authors.
Quaternary International

The Sierra de Atapuerca sites offer a chronological sequence that allows the evolution of technology at a local scale during the Early and Middle Pleistocene to be reconstructed. This paper presents updated information on the main lithic assemblages recovered from the various levels of the Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería, and Sima de los Huesos sites. The ultimate goal is to look for technological features on the pieces that make up these assemblages that carry evolutionary significance. Other archaeological data will be cross- referenced with the technical features documented in these artefacts in order to better understand the peopling that took place at Atapuerca during the Pleistocene.The first peopling of Atapuerca occurred at 1.2 Ma, and is represented in level TE9 and probably at the top of level TD3-TD4 by Homo sp. and a Mode 1 technology, which is very poor in terms of diversity and energy invested in tool production. This technology is related to opportunistic subsistence strategies that focused on taking advantage of carcasses that had fallen into the cavities. A second cultural phase has been revealed in level TD6, dating to before 800 ka: a phase characterised by new subsistence and technological strategies, although still belonging to Mode 1 and carried out by Homo antecessor. In TD6, the lithic assemblage is rich and diversified. Intensive occupations with well organised subsistence strategies have been documented, including hunting activities and the earliest trace of cannibalism in prehistory. After a hiatus of approximately 300 ky without evidence of hominin presence, the occupations of Galería and TD10 correspond to a third cultural phase, ranging from between 500 ka and 300 ka. They are represented by a Mode 2 technology associated with systematic and directional carcass processing, including hunting events in TD10. Homo heidelbergensis appears instead of H. antecessor, and is extraordinarily represented at the Sima de los Huesos site in the form of an intentional accumulation of numerous individuals. Finally, TD10.1 may represent the local evolution from Mode 2 to Mode 3 assemblages.After comparing these assemblages, it is clear that several technological features have either been retained or changed over the span of the Atapuerca sequence. The following are considered to have evolutionary significance due to the technological trends described: a) raw material selection (use of local varieties of rock, with the progressive increasing selection of the most workable materials through the Middle Pleistocene); b) production sequences (coexistence of several knapping methods, with a clear increase in centripetal strategies and techniques for flake predetermination, which ultimately lead to Levallois-like methods); c) scarce and insignificant presence of choppers and chopping tools; d) tools on flakes (recorded only from the end of the Early Pleistocene, increasing in number, complexity and standardisation throughout the Middle Pleistocene); and e) large cutting tools (which appear ca 500 ka, and progressively decrease in number, standardisation and intensity of shaping throughout Gran Dolina TD10). © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source

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