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Late Neanderthal subsistence strategies and cultural traditions in the northern Iberia Peninsula: Insights from Prado Vargas, Burgos, Spain
Quaternary Science Reviews. 2021, V. 254, 106795
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In order to better understand the causes and geographic patterns of Neanderthal demise it is necessary to broaden the focus of existing Neanderthal studies to include new sites from understudied regions, particularly those containing multi-level fossil and lithic records, and to improve regional-scale Neanderthal extinction frameworks using multiple dating techniques. To this end, we present an interdisciplinary study of the stratigraphy, chronology, pollen, fauna, lithic technology and human remains of the last Neanderthal level (Level N4) of Prado Vargas – a cave in northern Iberia, whose geographic location and chronology are ideal for investigating possible socio-economic and climatic influences on Neanderthal decline. Level N4 has yielded a rich Late Mousterian palimpsest indicative of repeated seasonal occupations, as well as a deciduous Neanderthal tooth, confirming the presence of children at the site. A wide range of human activities are detected in Level 4, with subsistence strategies demonstrating knowledgeable exploitation of the natural environs around the area. The site provides evidence for a distinctive recycling economy, including bone retouchers, recycling of cores, and intense (re)use of raw materials, which may reflect recurrent occupations or the particular cultural traditions of a regional group. Level N4 is dated to between 54.7 and 39.8 thousand years ago (ka) according to our new OSL and radiocarbon study. The late Neanderthal inhabitants of Prado Vargas were cold-adapted, and may have already been living in small, separate groups with marked territories and cultural traditions prior to the arrival of Homo sapiens in the Iberia Peninsula.
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