Los Casares

Created at 2.12.2016


Los Casares is a limestone cave located in the Upper Tagus River basin, in an elevated area (1050 m above sea level) of the southern Spanish plateau close to the Iberian System Range. The archaeological potential of Los Casares cave is known since the late 19th century, but it was in the 1930´s when the site became famous due to the discovery of Upper Palaeolithic engravings in its walls. Later on, in the 1960´s, the archaeological excavations conducted at the site by I. Barandiarán showed a series of Pleistocene layers yielding limited but interesting assemblages of Mousterian lithic artifacts and faunal remains. In one of this layer a Neandertal metacarpal was found. Research at this site is currently developed in the framework of a Marie Curie (FP7-IEF) Project coordinated at the Neanderthal Museum by Dr. Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño and Prof. Dr. Gerd-Christian Weniger. This project is entitled ‘Testing Population Hiatuses in the Late Pleistocene of Central Iberia: a Geoarchaeological Approach’ and is aimed at investigating human-environment interactions and population dynamics in the interior lands of the Iberian Peninsula during the Late Pleistocene. It is associated to the C1 Project of the CRC 806, and it counts with the collaboration of Dr. Martin Kehl (University of Cologne) and other researchers from Spain and Germany. Up to now, two fieldwork seasons have been carried out at Los Casares cave under the direction of Dr. Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño and Dr. Javier Alcolea-González (University of Alcalá, Spain). Due to the prolonged lack of research affecting Los Casares since the 1960´s, the site lacked modern geoarchaeological, chronometric, palaeoecological and techno-economic analyses. Research was thus focused on bringing into light new data aimed at improving the information available so far. Thus, investigations were focused on deciphering site formation processes, chronology of the Middle Palaeolithic occupations, and relations between ecological changes and Neanderthals techno-economic behaviors. In order to do that, the team excavated in the Seno A, an interior chamber of the cave where the Neandertal metacarpal was found in the 1960’s. They collected a relevant inventory of archaeological objects to study techno-economic behaviors of Los Casares Neandertals and samples for chronometric dating (flowstone for U/Th and charcoal/bones for 14C), micromorphology, micromammals, charcoal and pollen analyses. Lab works have been developed in different research centers of Germany and Spain during 2015 and 2016, showing relevant results in most cases. Only partial results have been published so far, but comprehensive papers on this research are expected for the first half of 2017. These papers will discuss relevant problems such as Neandertal adaptations to the high lands of interior Iberia, or the use of the deep interior of caves by Middle Palaeolithic humans.

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