IPHES and ICAC join forces on research and museological projects on livestock and pastoralism

On February 9th and 23th a seminar will be carry out at Tarragona


“Transdisciplinary studies on livestock and pastoralism” is the title of the seminar that will be carry out on February 9th and 23th February at Tarragona, organized by the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) and the ICAC (Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica) with the aim of promote research lines in these areas, as well as museological projects and heritagisation.

Josep Maria Vergès, IPHES´s archaeologist and co-coordinator of the seminar along with Josep Maria Palet (ICAC) said: “We will discuss how can we work together in order to find different research groups, working on the pastoralism topics from different points of view and at different geographical areas”. “The goals are bringing together efforts and find points in common to improve the research level and get the most advantage of the available resources, among all the participants”.

Cueva El Mirador (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain), an example of pastoralism - IPHES
Cueva El Mirador (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain), an example of pastoralism – IPHES

This seminar is part of the SUMA program, which forms part of the CERCA (Catalan Research Centres) from the Catalan government, where the IPHES, the ICAC and the ICRPC (Institut Català d’Investigació en Patrimoni Cultural) participate since 2012, with the aim of enhancing synergies between them.

The seminar consists of a conference that will be carry out on February 9th at the ICAC and the seminar itself on the 23th of the same month at the IPHES.


“Transdisciplinary Studies of Pastoralism in Ancient Greece”

Led by Paul Halstead, Archaeology Professor at the University of Sheffield (UK)

Date: Monday February 9th, 2015

Location: Hall of the ICAC.

Time: 12: 00-13: 00 h

Research seminar

Transdisciplinary studies on livestock and grazing

Location: IPHES

Date: Monday February 23th, 2015

Between 7,200 and 3,100 years ago humans from Sierra de Atapuerca included in their diet domestic dog, wild cat, fox and badger

As it is recorded on the evidence of culinary processing and human tooth marks

In the continental Europe the consumption of these species was limited at that time

This finding is published on the Quaternary International journal with Patricia Martin, IPHES´s collaborator, as the primary signer


Between 7,200 and 3,100 years ago, humans that lived in the Cueva El Mirador at Atapuerca (Burgos) included in their diet domestic dog, wild cat, fox and badger. Although in the continental Europe the consumption of these species was rare at that time, 24 fossils that support the culinary processing were found in this site. The finding is published on the Quaternary International journal, with Patricia Martin, IPHES´s collaborator, as the primary signer.

Dog radius fragment with cut marks - IPHES
Dog radius fragment with cut marks – IPHES

El Mirador was used as a sheepfold cave to shelter flocks composed mainly by ovicaprines and cattle. The bases of the diet integrated these animals, however, other species such as small carnivores mentioned, were also used for consumption. The human modifications recorded include cut marks, bone breakage, signs of culinary processing and human tooth marks.

In some Mediterranean islands, as Cyprus, the consumption of some of these species is recorded as early as the Neolithic; however, it is a rare practice in continental Europe. “In El Mirador Cave, the dogs were disarticulated, defleshed and boiled”, says Patricia Martin. In this site this has been observed both in the Neolithic as in the Bronze Age levels. It occurs occasionally in various episodes, but has temporal continuity”.

The possibility that this practice was associated with sporadic moments of famine and shortage and/or with special consideration of dog meat has raised. “It’s one of the possibilities –says- Patricia Martin. However, according to ethnographic data, in some Asian cultures or between the Berbers, it is considered dog meat as a rich source of protein and/or as a delicatessen meat. It cannot be excluded that in some cases the objective was to obtain the skin of these animals”.

The consumption of other of the mentioned species at El Mirador, is more limited than the one of dogs, and mainly recorded in the Neolithic levels. Wild cats and badgers were boiled and consumed. Given the difficulty of hunting wild carnivores and the exceptional nature of their use in this site, the probability that these animals had been accidentally captured and subsequently consumed arises. “However, neither it’s possible to reject the option of being used as an extra source of food in times of shortage”, says Patricia Martin.

Martin, P., et al., “Butchered and Consumed: Small carnivores from the Holocene levels of El Mirador Cave (Serra d’Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain)”, Quaternary International (2014)

A monolith dedicated to Camp dels Ninots, first step to enhance the attraction of this 3.1 million years old site

A tour through several panels will be offered soon to explain how life and the environment were at that time

Also an area will be built within a laboratory for in situ research and the development of the Erasmus Mundus Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution classes

During the 2015 spring season the field work will restart


The recent opening of a 12 tons monolith, at the entrance of Caldes de Malavella (Girona, Spain), sculpture piece by Marc Niell, has kick-started a whole series of actions that are aimed to enhance the tourist and cultural attraction at Camp dels Ninots, a site located in this locality, where important archaeopaloentological remains reaching up to 3.1 million years old have been recovered over 11 years of continuous research under the IPHES´s direction (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), and which are also mentioned in the permanent exhibition that for some time has been visited at Cal Ferrer, a medieval building in the old Town at the Hall Square, next to the tourist office.

The mayor of Caldes de Malavella, Salvador Balliu, highlighted the interest of the city council to promote Camp dels Ninots as a cultural and tourist attraction, which will benefit the economy of the village. In this regard, he advanced that during 2015 an interior journey will be offered to the public in the site, through various interpretive panels, it will explain and reconstruct life and the environment at the place 3.1 million years ago.

Rotonda de Caldes de Malavella dedicat al Camp dels Ninots. Ninot
Monolith dedicated to Camp dels Ninots – Gerard Campeny/IPHES

Research Areas

In this regard, it may be noted that each research area that is carried out will be detailed: geology, paleontology of large and small vertebrates, paleoenvironment, excavation methods and history of the research and taphonomy of the site. These panels have been designed and made by the IPHES.

It will also implement various points along the visit with a series of real scale sculptures of the different animals found at the site, as well as leisure and resting areas. This act has a cost of about 55,000 euros paid by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the City Hall of Caldes and the IPHES. The works have been already tendered and could begin in January.

In the same vein, the City Hall is working to rehabilitate the Castell de Caldes building together with a research center around Camp dels Ninots where a practical classroom and the interpretation of hot springs could be developed. The first floor is dedicated to a work place and the logistics of the research project on the site holded by the IPHES, and will be equipped with a restoration laboratory, work areas and rooms, toilets and kitchens, for the accommodation of the research team (about 20 people) during the excavations and the processing of the recovered material during the field work. In the future Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution classes will be offered by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, thanks to the research projects with international projection that holds the IPHES.

The importance of water

The ground floor is basically designed for schools and other groups, where a simulated excavation will be included as a classroom for children, and a couple of rooms, where the importance of water in the municipality is explained through the site of Camp dels Ninots, the Roman baths and hot springs of s. XX.

The rehabilitation of the municipal building and the layout of the spaces have an approximate cost of € 260,150 payable between the Council and a grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya which has been obtained thanks to the interest of the research project.

One of the best science projects

Moreover, during the spring of 2015 fieldwork at Camp dels Ninots will restart as the Generalitat recently praised his research project as one of the best and most interesting of Catalonia and has given to the research proposal a scientific a grant of € 60,000 spread over four years.

According to the co-directors of the excavation, Bruno Gomez and Gerard Campeny, archaeologists at the IPHES, the intention for the next season is to perform a mechanical survey that reaches the base of the volcano. “It is estimated to extract 200 meters or more of sediment that will give valuable information for understanding the climate and ecosystem of the zone, and for extension, of the entire Mediterranean”, have remarked.