Subsistence, Technology and Human Evolution

Gran Dolina - TD10

(Social, Cultural and Biological Evolution during the Early and Middle Pleistocene)

Principal investigator:  Dr. Eudald Carbonell
Researchers: Dr Isabel Cáceres, Dr Rosa Huguet, Dr Carlos Lorenzo, Dr Miquel Llorente, Dr Marina Mosquera, Dr Andreu Ollé, Dr Xosé Pedro Rodríguez, Dr Palmira Saladié and Dr Josep Maria Vergés.
Phd students: Lena Asryan, Behrouz Bagzir, Esther López, Antonella Pedergnana, Antonio Rodríguez, Souhila Roubach and Boris Santander.
Technical staff: Ma. Dolores García-Antón and Lucía López-Polín.

The research of this group aims to study human evolution on its biological, social and technological developments in the Early and Middle Pleistocene. The main areas of research are paleoanthropology, lithic technology, zooarchaeology and taphonomy and the early human cognition. Its approach is based on a strong investment in fieldwork with a systematic analysis of founded remains to work on reliable empirical data and  original experimentation as a part of testable procedures.

The group “Social, cultural and biological evolution during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene” headed by Dr. Eudald Carbonell Roura is integrated by 10 researchers, 7 predoctoral students and 3 technicians, and the following 5 topics are developed within this group:

  • 1. Lithic technology
    • To characterize the petrology of the lithic raw materials yielded from the sites under study with a GIS treatment of the sources located in the previous fieldwork
    • To analyse the lithic assemblages from the Lower and Middle Pleistocene, either from the remains yielded by our excavations or for other accessed lithic remains due to the scientific collaboration in international network
    • To develop a Use-Wear lithic analyses in order to identify technical marks, uses deformations and different alterations of taphonomical interest
    • To apply the organic residue analyses on the lithic tools surfaces
    • To use the experimental archaeology as a part of testable procedures planning different experimental programmes in cooperation with the other areas as Zooarchaeology and Taphonomy and Evolution of Early Human Cognition
    • To apply systematically 3D studies to the lithic tools, both as macroscopically as well as microscopically level
    • To apply systematically the study of lithic refitting studies in a threefold way: taphonomically, at intra site spatial analysis, and in a technological level
    • To integrate different data-set to increase the comprehension about the micro-spatial management of the archaeological sites form the Lower and Middle Pleistocene in order to frame early human occupational patterns in cooperation with the area of Zooarchaeology and Taphonomy
    • To integrate information to redefine the first big technological complexes during the Lower an Middle Pleistocene in Europe (Modes 1, 2 and 3) tackling the study of technological transitions or changes at continental and intercontinental level.
  • 2. Zooarchaeology and taphonomy
    • To study the hominins subsistence strategies during Lower and Middle Pleistocene in the different sites managed or participated by the group.
    • To study the relationships between hominins and carnivores during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene in Europe in order to assess their levels of ecological competition and the place of hominins in the trophic chain.
    • To characterize at taphonomical level (micro and macro) the environment in which were developed the hominin occupations.
    • To understand the formation and fossilisation processes of the sites under study.
    • To use the experimental archaeology to establish the relations between different processes of the archaeological material, either creating or modifying, and their taphonomical signals in order to test some hypotheses formulated from the analyses of the fossil materials.
  • 3. Evolution of Early Human cognition
    • To study the hand laterality in chimpanzees.
    • To apply the experimental hand laterality in human stone knapping to its identification in the archaeological record.
    • To study the technical and sequential gestures belonging to each Pleistocene techno-complexes.
    • Going in depth in the studies on social learning in chimpanzees and its comparison with humans.
  • 4. Paleoanthropology
    • To analyse the neanderthalisation process studying the original human fossils remains founded in the different sites managed or participated by the group (Sierra de Atapuerca, Tossal de la Font, Cova Foradà, etc.)
    • To characterize at morphological level and made paleobiological studies of the human fossil remains from Sima de los Huesos, Gran Dolina, Cova Foradà, etc.
    • To study the sexual dimorphism and body shape of these human fossil remains to understand the changes across the different evolutionary hominid lineages.
    • To study the evolution of the hominid hand anatomy.
    • To study the morphology of the internal ear and the auditory capacities of the hominid fossils.
    • To apply 3D techniques to the capture (surface scanning, CT), morphological analyses and 3D reproduction of human fossil remains.
  • 5. Preparation and conservation of archaeological material
    • To assess the efficiency, compatibility and reversibility, etc of different procedures and products used on the preservation of bone and lithic remains founded in the studied sites.
    • To fix usefulness’ criteria in the treatment according to the specific demands by the specific studies and analyses of the material recovered in order to maximize the information recovered.
    • To introduce new diagnostic techniques, treatment and documentation of the archaeological and paleontological materials.

These lines of research share the same general empirical framework based on the different fieldwork projects led or specifically participated by their members, both in Spain and abroad:

In Spain

  • The archaeo-paleontological complex of the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain), noticeably: Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería and the Sima de los Huesos (the entire group’ members except Miquel Llorente).
  • The sites of the Calerizo de Cáceres (Cáceres, Spain): Cueva de Santa Ana y Cueva de Maltravieso (E. Carbonell, A. Ollé, A. Rodríguez, P. Saladié and J.M. Vergès).
  • The sites of the Guadix-Baza Basin (Granada, Spain): Fuente Nueva 3 and Barranco León (E. Carbonell, C. Lorenzo and J.M. Vergès).
  • The sites included in the project “Projecte Francolí, Gaià, Siurana i rieres del camp de Tarragona”, Tarragona (Spain): specifiucally Barranc de la Boella and la Cansaladeta) (E. Carbonell, I. Cáceres, M. Esteban, R. Huguet, E. López, L. López-Polín, M. Mosquera, A. Ollé, X.P. Rodríguez, S. Roubach, P. Saladié and J.M. Vergès).
  • The sites of Calveros de la Higuera at Pinilla del Valle (Madrid, Spain) (R. Huguet).
  • The site of Cova de dalt del Tossal de la Font (Castelló, Spain) (E. Carbonell, I. Cáceres, L. López-Polín, C. Lorenzo, A. Ollé and P. Saladié).
  • The sites of Monforte de Lemos and Cova Eirós (Lugo, Spain) (X.P. Rodríguez).
  • The site of El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) (R. Huguet).
  • The site of Cova Foradà (Valencia, Spain) (C. Lorenzo).

Outside Spain

  • The sites included in the projects about the first dispersals and the evolution of human settlement at the Maghreb during the Pliocene and Pleistocene (Algeria, Morocco) developed in cooperation with IPHES (I. Cáceres, C. Lorenzo, A. Ollé, J.M. Vergès and S. Roubach).
  • The Plio Pleistocene sites of East Africa (Ethiopia and Eritrea) included in the projects leaded by IPHES and CENIEH (E. Carbonell and I. Cáceres).
  • The site of Azokh (Nagorno-Karabakh) (L. Asryan, I. Cáceres i A. Ollé).
  • The British sites included in the projects leaded by the National History Museum and the British Museum (Happisburgh, Pakefield, Boxgrove and Gough's Cave) (I. Cáceres, M. Mosquera, A. Ollé, A. Rodríguez, P. Saladié and J.M. Vergès).
  • The Sicilian prehistoric sites included in the research project co-leaded by IPHES with the Univ. degli Studi di Palermo. (A. Ollé and J.M. Vergès).
  • The Lower and Middle Pleistocene sites from France included in the project leaded by Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris (Pont de Lavaud, Lunery, La Noira, Payre, Orgnac) (E. Carbonell, A. Ollé,  A. Pedergnana and X.P. Rodríguez).
  • The Palaeolithic sites of Khorramabad Valley (Iran) (B. Bazgir and A. Ollé).
  • The Lower Pleistocene site of Zoukoudian and of the Nihewan Valley (China), in cooperation with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of Beijing (L. Asryan, E. Carbonell, M. Mosquera, A. Ollé and X.P. Rodríguez).