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New excavations prove Ebro River acted as a barrier to the cultural and population flows during the Palaeolithic

Picture of the excavations.

Picture of the excavations.

13/02/2018

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Excavations in three archaeological sites in the basin of the Mula River (Murcia) showed how Neanderthals lived in the south of the peninsula about 3,000 years more than in other areas of the continent due the “barrier” effect of the Ebro Depression which, under certain climate conditions, slowed down the arrival of new populations and cultures. The study, published in the journal Heliyon, with the ICREA researcher –from the UB- João Zilhão as its first signer, supports the hypothesis that states the expansion of modern humans was an uneven and punctuated process.

In particular, researchers worked on three sites: Cueva Antón, with remains dating from 37,000 to 80,000 years ago, and La Boja and Finca Doña Martina, from 12,000 to 50,000 years ago. These sites belong to the Upper Palaeolithic and the Middle Palaeolithic, and have remains which were made by Neanderthal populations, belonging to the Mousterian culture, and made by modern human populations, belonging to the Aurignacian culture. The dates of the findings suggest the transition from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Upper Palaeolithic, and the process associated with the spreading of modern humans and their absorbing of the last Neanderthals- have a lag of about 3,000 years compared to the rest of Europe, where it took place between 40,000 and 42,000 ago. The same offset is seen in Andalusia and Portugal, where the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic took place later. João Zilhão, researcher of the Seminar on Prehistoric Studies of the University of Barcelona (SERP-UB) led by Josep Maria Fullola, says the three sites are certainly important because its remains are quite recent, and during a time period which was prolonged enough, to define the moment of change between these periods of the Palaeolithic. Moreover, the sites are located in an area where remains of this historical period had not been found before.
 
João Zilhão concludes that this study contributes to show how human evolution was a complex and diversified process, with communities that lived isolated during long periods of time.
 
Article Reference:
João Zilhão, Daniela Anesin, Thierry Aubry, Ernestina Badal, Dan Cabanes, Martin Kehl, Nicole Klasen, Armando Lucena, Ignacio Martín-Lerma, Susana Martínez, Davide Susini, Peter Steier, Eva Maria Wild, Diego E. Angelucci, Valentín Villaverde, Josefina Zapata. «Precise dating of the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Murcia (Spain) supports late Neandertal persistence in Iberia»Heliyon https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2017.e00435 
 
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