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Coves del Toll-Teixoneres

Location: Moià (Barcelona)
Cronology: Middle and Late Pleistocene
Director: J. Rosell, R. Blasco and F. Rivals

The Toll and Teixoneres caves are located in the “Torrent Mal” Valley, 4 km east of the town of Moià (Bages, Barcelona), and at 760 m.a.s.l. Their coordinates are 41º 48’ 25’’ N and 2º 09’ 02’’ E. The caves were discovered as archaeological sites during the 50s of the 20th century by a local speleological team. Thereafter, several archaeological seasons were intermittently developed during the 50s and 70s, which led to a significant archaeological record from the Holocene (mainly the Bronze Age and the Neolithic) and the Pleistocene (Middle Palaeolithic). Since 2003, the IPHES started the excavation works in the caves and nowadays, our efforts are focused on digging in extension at both caves following a modern archaeological methodology. The ongoing project, entitled Home sharing: hominid-carnivore interactions at the North-East of the Iberian Peninsula, is funded by the Generalitat de Catalunya and by the Moià City Council.

The Toll Cave is a karst cave formed by Neogene limestone (Collsuspina Formation) that is approximately 2 km long. The excavation is located very close to the current entrance, in the so-called “South Gallery”. According to recent studies, the main stratigraphic sequence (>10 m thick) is composed of 14 sedimentary layers: the upper layer (Level 1) corresponds to the Holocene period, while the other 13 can be located chronologically between the Late and Middle Pleistocene. Level 4 is the first level excavated in extension by our team. Several cave bear teeth from this assemblage have provided a chronology between 57.9 and 69.8 kya (data obtained by Amino Acid Racemization in the Laboratorio de Estratigrafía Biomolecular de la Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Minas de Madrid). In this layer, several faunal remains, mainly of cave bears and other carnivores, have been recovered, showing that the cave was used mainly by cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) during hibernation or by hyenas (Crocuta crocuta spelaea) as dens. In this respect, the remains of ungulates recovered in the cave, mainly of horses (Equus ferus), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and aurochs (Bos primigenius), show abundant taphonomic evidence of these predators in the form of tooth-marks, bone breakage and digested bones. In the assemblage, a small collection of Middle Palaeolithic stone tools has also been recovered, indicating the sporadic visits of Neanderthal groups to the cave.

The other cave, Teixoneres, shows a more complex stratigraphic sequence (7-8 m thick). A stalagmitic crust (Unit I) is developed at the top of the sequence, which is dated by U/Th and ESR in 17 kya (Tissoux et al, 2006). This crust extends across all the surface of the cave, covering two lutitic deposits (Units II and III) dated to MIS 3. These layers, recently excavated extensively by our team, rest on another stalagmitic crust (Unit IV) dated by the same method between 90 and 100 kya. Under this crust, 5 sedimentary deposits can be also identified. Although bones and lithic tools can be also observed in their sections, the lower deposits remain unexplored.

Faunal record from Teixoneres Cave shows a high presence of carnivores, mainly hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) and cave bears (Ursus spelaeus). Remains of wolves (Canis lupus), lynxes (Lynx sp.), wild cats (Felis silvestris), foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and badgers (Meles meles) have been identified as well. Among the ungulate specimens, the most abundant animals are horses (Equus ferus) and red deer (Cervus elaphus), together with rhinos (Stephanorhinus hemitoechus), European ass (Equus hydruntinus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), aurochs (Bos primigenius), wild goat (Capra sp.) and wild boars (Sus scrofa).

The cave can be interpreted as a refuge/den for carnivores. This natural dynamic, however, seems to be broken by the visits of some Neanderthal groups. According to the current data, several small human groups used the entrance of the cave as a habitation place in a succession of short occupations, most probably related to their seasonal movements across the region (Rosell et al., 2010a, 2010b, Sánchez-Hernández, 2014). Human activities are focused on developing domestic activities, which include the setting up of hearths, the elaboration of lithic tools and the processing and consumption of ungulates. Recently, the catch and consumption of rabbits have also been identified (Rufà et al., 2014).

The studies that we are carrying out at both caves have as main objectives: 1) the paleoecologic reconstruction of the landscape, 2) learning about the evolution of the behaviour of the main represented carnivores (cave bears and hyenas), and 3) understanding the role played by the hominins in this type of ecological contexts. The achievement of these objectives will provide us significant data to understand several aspects of the Neanderthal lifestyle and their relationships with the environment from their origin in the MIS 9 until their disappearance at the end of the MIS 3.

Moià (Barcelona)
Middle and Late Pleistocene
J. Rosell, R. Blasco and F. Rivals