Source Themes

The spatial patterning of Middle Palaeolithic human settlement in westernmost Iberia

Currently available data on the Pleistocene human occupation of the westernmost territories of Iberia attest to the presence of Middle Palaeolithic industries from c. 240 ka cal bp until c. 37 ka cal bp. Previous studies focusing on this time frame have suggested that Middle Palaeolithic populations were highly mobile and predominately utilised locally available raw materials, with many cave and open-air sites being located near fluvial settings. Other than these observations, no specific studies have focused on exploring the factors influencing human site location choice during that time range. Employing statistical and GIS approaches, this paper provides an initial assessment of spatial patterning in human settlement during the Middle Palaeolithic of westernmost Iberia. Results show that site locations are biased towards lower elevations and riverine settings and suggest that distance to rivers might have impacted the diversity and specific types of lithic raw materials used at each site. These results help to shed light on the particularities of Neanderthal adaptations in a region regarded as a refugium during periods of unfavourable climate during the Middle Palaeolithic.

Late Glacial and Early Holocene human demographic responses to climatic and environmental change in Atlantic Iberia

Successive generations of hunter–gatherers of the Late Glacial and Early Holocene in Iberia had to contend with rapidly changing environments and climatic conditions. This constrained their economic resources and capacity for demographic growth. The Atlantic façade of Iberia was occupied throughout these times and witnessed very significant environmental transformations. Archaeology offers a perspective on how past human population ecologies changed in response to this scenario. Archaeological radiocarbon data are used here to reconstruct demographics of the region over the long term. We introduce various quantitative methods that allow us to develop palaeodemographic and spatio-temporal models of population growth and density, and compare our results to independent records of palaeoenvironmental and palaeodietary change, and growth rates derived from skeletal data. Our results demonstrate that late glacial population growth was stifled by the Younger Dryas stadial, but populations grew in size and density during the Early to Middle Holocene transition. This growth was fuelled in part by an increased dependence on marine and estuarine food sources, demonstrating how the environment was linked to demographic change via the resource base, and ultimately the carrying capacity of the environment.

The early Aurignacian dispersal of modern humans into westernmost Eurasia

Documenting the first appearance of modern humans in a given region is key to understanding the dispersal process and the replacement or assimilation of indigenous human populations such as the Neanderthals. The Iberian Peninsula was the last refuge of Neanderthal populations as modern humans advanced across Eurasia. Here we present evidence of an early Aurignacian occupation at Lapa do Picareiro in central Portugal. Diagnostic artifacts were found in a sealed stratigraphic layer dated 41.1 to 38.1 ka cal BP, documenting a modern human presence on the western margin of Iberia ∼5,000 years earlier than previously known. The data indicate a rapid modern human dispersal across southern Europe, reaching the westernmost edge where Neanderthals were thought to persist. The results support the notion of a mosaic process of modern human dispersal and replacement of indigenous Neanderthal populations.

Paleoenvironments and human adaptations during the Last Glacial Maximum in the Iberian Peninsula: A review

The Iberian Peninsula is considered one of the most well-suited regions in Europe to develop studies on the relationship between environmental changes and human adaptations across the Late Pleistocene. Due to its southwesternmost cul-de-sac position and eco-geographical diversity, Paleolithic Iberia was the stage of cyclical cultural/technological changes, linked to fluctuations in climate and environments, human demographics, and the size, extension, and type of social exchange networks. Such dynamics are particularly evident during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) timeframe, with a series of innovations emerging in the archaeological record, marking the transitions between the traditionally defined Gravettian, Proto-Solutrean, Solutrean, and Magdalenian technocomplexes. Stemming from a workshop organized in Erlangen in 2019 on “The Last Glacial Maximum in Europe - state of knowledge in Geosciences and Archaeology”, this paper presents, in the first part, an updated review on the paleoenvironments and human adaptations across four macro-regions (Northern, Inland, Mediterranean, and Western Atlantic Façade) in Iberia during the LGM; and, in a second part, a discussion on the pronounced inter-regional variability, unresolved research questions, and the most promising research topics for future studies.

Territoriality and the organization of technology during the Last Glacial Maximum in southwestern Europe

Climate changes that occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) had significant consequences in human eco-dynamics across Europe. Among the most striking impacts are the demographic contraction of modern humans into southern refugia and the potential formation of a population bottleneck. In Iberia and southern France transformations also included the occurrence of significant technological changes, mostly marked by the emergence of a diverse set of bifacially-shaped stone projectiles. The rapid dissemination of bifacial technologies and the geographical circumscription of specific projectile morphologies within these regions have been regarded as evidence for: (1) the existence of a system of long-distance exchange and social alliance networks; (2) the organization of human groups into cultural facies with well-defined stylistic territorial boundaries. However, the degree and modes in which cultural transmission have occurred within these territories, and how it may have influenced other domains of the adaptive systems, remains largely unknown. Using southern Iberia as a case-study, this paper presents the first quantitative approach to the organization of lithic technology and its relationship to hunter-gatherers’ territorial organization during the LGM. Similarities and dissimilarities in the presence of morphological and metric data describing lithic technologies are used as a proxy to explore modes and degrees of cultural transmission. Statistical results show that similarities in technological options are dependent on the chronology and geographical distance between sites and corroborate previous arguments for the organization of LGM settlement in Southern Iberia into discrete eco-cultural facies.

Short-Term Occupations in Paleolithic Archaeology

This edited book aims to provide a new perspective on the identification and interpretation of short-term occupations in Paleolithic Archaeology.The volume includes contributions with a particular focus on the definition and identification of short-term occupations in Paleolithic contexts, aiming to improve our current knowledge on the topic, both methodologically and interpretatively. The set of chapters coming from a broad spectrum of geographies and chronologies will contribute to the debate on the definition of short-term occupations but also to a better understanding on how past hunter-gatherers communities adapted and moved in different environmental contexts across time. The in-depth examinations of short-term occupations in different chronologies and environments will shed light on an aspect of the behavioral trajectories of the human species in the management of the territory.

Human adaptations to the Last Glacial Maximum

The book assembles new insights into humanity social, cultural and economic developments during the Last Glacial Maximum in Western Europe and adjacent regions. It gathers original, up-to-date research results on the Solutrean techno-complex, reflecting four major fields of research: data from current excavations; analysis of lithic assemblages; new results from studies on climatic conditions and human-environmental interactions; and insights into artistic expressions. New methodological and analytical approaches are applied, providing significant contributions to Paleolithic research beyond the Last Glacial Maximum.

The Role of Lithic Bipolar Technology in Western Iberia’s Upper Paleolithic: the Case of Vale Boi (Southern Portugal)

Scaled or splintered pieces are one of the most common lithic artifact type in Upper Paleolithic assemblages throughout Europe, especially in its westernmost regions. Despite this, and even after one century of being identified, there is still no consensus on how to define, analyze, or interpret these tools. In western Iberia, there is a clear lack of comprehensive studies regarding this type of artifacts at a regional scale. In this paper, we present a first techno-morphological analysis of a sample of scaled pieces from the Upper Paleolithic site of Vale Boi. Our first aim was to build upon existing analytical models in order to identify function and possible reduction strategies for these artifacts. Our second goal was to critically evaluate the role of these artifacts within western Iberia’s Upper Paleolithic. Our results showed that functional identification of scaled pieces is still not clear. By comparing our data with other author’s, we found that current models could not be applied to the archeological record, as the attribute variability is too high. Furthermore, in this region, we found that higher frequencies of bipolar technology can be found related to residential sites due to both functional and cultural patterns. While we still cannot define a specific function for these artifacts (intermediate pieces or wedges for working hard raw materials or cores for the extraction of chips and small bladelets), it is clear that they had a major role in the variability and intensification of resource exploitation during the Upper Paleolithic in western Iberia.