In the site La Boella, different species that have not appeared before were recently found: turtle, saber-tooth cat and abundant hyena coprolites

This year the excavation was focused on the area known as La Mina, where it is expected that in future campaigns more than a million years fossils may appear

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The excavation works have been carried out during October in the gully of La Boella in La Canonja (Tarragona), under the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) direction, which succeeded increasing the list of new species found at the site, as is the case of the skeletal elements of turtle, saber-tooth cat and the abundant hyena coprolites. Also the remains of lithic industry, with an age over a million years have been found, are of great importance to explain the origin of the earliest human populations in Eurasia. These findings have taken place in La Mina, the nearly 25 square meters area where this year an excavation has focused.

The documental field work at the site of La Mina offers the opportunity to characterize the paleoecology of analogous streambeds of the Francoli basin, a nearby million years environments. “Until now, the most systematic knowledge came from the archaeological excavations in the Cala 1 of El Forn, located about 200 meters below La Mina, this year we started a systematic study in this site, where we have allready caved a test pit years before”.

Differences

“Despite is the least explored -specified Josep Vallverdú, the excavations Director-, its analysis is very important because of the significant geological, paleontological and archaeological differences from other sites of the Boella, as the Forn and the Cala 1. It has the most significant faunal list. The 10 identified taxa conforms the largest list of all of those obtained in other areas of the ravine La Boella where we have intervened”.

The same archaeologist said: “The intervention in La Mina is preliminary in the sense that it is not yet known its potential, therefore, we can still find oldest archaeological levels. The site is affected by the moisture of the stream and the paleontological remains are difficult to recover. Thanks to La Canonja council this problem is about to be solved, as it is intended to do everything possible to protect all the intervention areas”.

Lithic industry

In respect to the lithic industry, “this year we have found a few remains of flint flakes, which increase the set of stone tools that we already had. However, are of great interest, as there are very few sites in Europe with about a million years with well-preserved lithic sets”,  says Josep Vallverdú.

The archaeological work was carried out by a research team from the IPHES, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (MNCN – CSIC), History students and from the Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution degree, both taught at the Rovira i Virgili University of Tarragona (URV). Also some students from the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) participated. In the latter case they are from Anthropology and Human Evolution degree, taught along with the URV and that has the IPHES researchers as teachers.

Vallverdú noted that the objective of the IPHES is “to continue the survey started in La Mina to find deeper layers, where paleontological and prehistoric industry could be the oldest in the gully of La Boella, over a million years”.

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What do teeth hide?

Contributions of the IPHES to the international congress ICAZ

It is one of the most prestigious events in the Natural and Social Sciences field, this time in Argentina thousands of scientists  gather from all around the world.

An IPHES collaborator won one of the awards with his doctoral thesis prepared at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona.

video Florent Rivals – web ICAZen catalàen castellano

In recent years the study of dental remains discovered at the archaeological sites has become an important issue to obtain knowledge that allows us to understand past societies. This potential is related to the application of new methods or improving the existing ones to provide a better understanding of human paleoecology, subsistence and social behavior.

With this objective the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoeoclogia Humana i Evolució Social) has organized the session: “Written stories on teeth”, under the XII International Congress ICAZ 2014 (International Council for Archaeozoology) held between the 22th and 27th September 2014 in San Rafael (Mendoza, Argentina). Archaeologists that study the relationship between hominids and animals over the time and all around the world have met there. This meeting is one of the most prestigious scientific events in the Natural and Social Sciences field worldwide, and was the  first to be developed in the southern hemisphere.

The objective of this session, coordinated by the IPHES members Florent Rivals and Edgard Camarós along with Carlos Sánchez, a doctoral student at the URV, have shared the latest advances in the methods to analyze the evidence related to teeth in the archaeological record, from the point of view of the palaeoecology and zooarchaeology. There have been provided 9 oral presentations and 6 posters about a chronological period from Neanderthals to medieval times.

Among the issues discussed we find the stable isotopes, analysis of dental cement, microwear, the microstructure of enamel, dental calculus, the teeth marks on bones, or even teeth ornaments. Priority was given to research that combine different methodologies and disciplines applied to large mammals and clear archaeological implications.

The study of animal teeth is very interesting because it provides very valuable information of their behavior (diet, seasonality, mobility) and its relationship to human groups (use of animal materials, taming, etc.).

In this context, Edgard Camarós presented a poster on the evolution of the interaction between hominids and carnivores during Palaeolithic in the region of  the Swabian Alb (Germany) from related studies of teeth and bites. This work was done in the frame work of a six-month academic stay at the University of Tübingen where he analyzed arqueopaleontological remains of the HohleFels, Geissenklösterle and Vogelherd deposits.

Carlos Sánchez Hernández, who last year finished the Erasmus Mundus Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution at the University Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, in his oral communication, highlighted the potential of the tooth wear observation (micro and macro-scales ) to establish seasonal patterns in human occupations. He has also won one of the two awards given by the ICAZ to the best thesis project entitled “Neanderthal Paleoecology in the Middle Palaeolithic of northern Spain: a set of dental micro-wear and cement-timing analysis”, which prepares the URV directed by Florent Rivals.

Meanwhile, Paloma Fernández Díaz-Maroto, also Ex-student of the aforementioned masters, collaborator IPHES and now makes his doctoral thesis in Chile, won another award for his poster entitled Carnivores of Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) A study of zooarchaeological and taphonomical TD6-3 lower Pleistocene. This research analyzes the interaction between hominids and carnivores; highlights the alternating occupations of the two agents who used the cave. The poster is signed also for Palmira Saladié, Antonio Rodríguez, Eudald Carbonell, Isabel Cáceres and Rosa Huguet, personal researcher IPHES.

The contributions of the meeting will be shortly published in a special issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports, published by the organizers of the session.