Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition at Cuevas de Los Casares?
The last week of September 2014, three members of the C1-Project flew to Madrid to support a Spanish team of archaeologists in Los Casares Cave. The cavity lies in the Alto Tajo Natural Park, in Guadalajara Province, ca. 1.5 hours away from Madrid and is well-known throughout the country, not only for its beautiful Upper Palaeolithic engravings of horses, deers and anthropomorphic figures, but also because it contains one of the scarce evidences of Neanderthal occupation in the interior part of the Iberian Peninsula. This occupation was documented by a Spanish archaeologist who carried out an excavation during the 1960s that produced various Mousterian artefacts from two different areas of the cave. Strangely, apart from rock art, no findings from Upper Palaeolithic groups have been found in this cave so far.
The Spanish archaeologists Dr. Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño and Prof. Javier Alcolea want to re-evaluate this prior excavation and look for Upper Palaeolithic layers. For this reason, Martin Kehl from the University of Cologne took sediment samples for micromorphological analysis and U-Th dating. Generally, it is assumed that during the Upper Pleistocene the interior part of the Iberian Peninsula was uninhabited because of the extreme climatic and environmental conditions. The importance of Los Casares lies in its location in this region that has not yielded many Mousterian sites yet, maybe because there is a lack of research.
This project can support the C1-Project of CRC-806 by providing a clear documented stratigraphy of this area and clarify the Neanderthal settlement in this inner part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Photo: Javier Alcolea
Excavation within the cave.
Photo: Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño