Location: La Riba (Tarragona, Spain)
Cronology: Middle Pleistocene - Lower Palaeolithic
Director: Andreu Ollé and Josep Maria Vrgès
The site of La Cansaladeta (La Riba, Alt Camp) is located in a narrow passage dug out by the Francolí River in the pre-coastal range that connects the Tarragona coastal plain with the Catalan Central Depression. The archaeological deposit lies on top of a +40-45 m fluvial terrace, at the foot of a partially dismantled rock shelter.
The archaeological works initiated at the site in 1999 brought to light a rich Middle Pleistocene stratigraphic sequence containing 10 archaeological levels. The lower levels date back to the Early Middle Pleistocene, and the age of the upper ones has been placed at c. 300 ka. Although the site’s archaeological record is mainly composed of lithic artefacts, faunal remains as well as evidence of fire are also present.
The rich technological record is made up of several local raw materials, mainly chert but also hornfels, quartzite, quartz and other residual rocks. Knapping sequences seem to be autochthonous, as all the elements and size-categories of the reduction sequence are present, and refits are common. Although the techno-typological features observed along the sequence are not very diagnostic, the lower levels have yielded a significant number of Acheulean forms among the large tools, accompanied by restricted variability among the small retouched tools (mostly denticulates) and the virtual absence of prepared cores.
The faunal assemblage is modest and seems to be heavily weathered. In fact, only the levels included in the two lower sedimentary phases have provided fruitful information, especially from a biochronological point of view.
Although neither combustion areas nor structures related to fire have been documented to date, its damage has been repeatedly recorded on both lithic and faunal remains, which seems to point to its systematic use throughout the sequence.
The data provided by the ongoing excavations at the La Cansaladeta site has considerably helped in the effort to reconstruct the early human settlement of northeast Iberia. In fact, combining these data with those from El Barranc de la Boella, a site located nearby in the same Francolí basin, a new scenario can be deduced with regard to the early human presence in the region and the diffusion of the Acheulean.