- Atapuerca Mountains
Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Archaeological Site of Atapuerca
State Party = ESP
Type = Cultural
Criteria = iii, v
ID = 989
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 2000
Session = 24th
Link = http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/989The Atapuerca Mountains "(
Sierrade Atapuerca" in spanish) is an ancient karstic region of Spain, near the town of the same name and Ibeas de Juarros, containing several caves, where fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominians in West Europehave been found.
Geography of the Atapuerca Mountains
BurebaPass joins the interior of the Iberian peninsula and the way to France. It connects the Mediterranean Ebrovalley and the Atlantic Duerovalley. As such, it was part of the Roman causewayand the Way of Saint Jamesand now of the N-Iand AP-1highways.
Archaeological Site of Atapuerca
The sites in this area have been found during the construction of railway cuts (Gran Dolina, Galería, Elefante) and in a cave (Sima de los Huesos). The scientifical excavation, started by
Francisco Jordá Cerdáin 1964, has found human remains from a wide range of ages ranging from early humans to the Bronze Ageand the modern man. Sites in the area have also yielded stone artefacts. It is excavated by a team led by Emiliano Aguirrefrom 1978 until 1990 and then jointly by Eudald Carbonell, José María Bermúdez de Castroand Juan Luis Arsuaga. In 2000, the Archaeological Site of Atapuerca was added to the list of World Heritage Sites.
In the 20th century , different
archaeologists, as Jesús Carballo(1910-1911), Geoffrey Clark(1971), José María Apellániz(1973-1983) and the team led by Juan Luis Arsuaga(2000-) have recovered ceramic remains from the late neolithic, Age of Bronzeand Lower Roman Empire.
Galería del Sílex (1972)
Discovered in 1972 by a local
Speleologygroup, there are intact rock paintings in this cave.
A fragment of jaw, in the seventies, and a fragment of skull, in 1995, belonging to "Homo heidelbergensis" has been recovered. There are many remains of animals, including a
lion, plants and instruments dating from about 400,000 years ago.
Trinchera Dolina (1981-)
The site of Gran Dolina is a huge cave with several levels (TD-11 to TD-1), whose excavation began in September 1981:
Mousteriantools that have been found.
* The level TD-10 could be a camp of
Homo heidelbergensis, with tools and bisonremains.
* The level TD-8, reached by first time in 1994, has provided magnificent
* In the level TD-7, a leg of a
bovid(like a mouflon) in anatomical position was recovered in 1994.
* TD6 (Aurora stratum): In 1994 and 1995,
archaeologists have found over 80 bone fragments from five or six hominids dating to between 850,000 to 780,000 years ago. About 25% of the human remains found here showed the first evidence of cannibalism. These finds are at least 250,000 years older than any other hominid yet discovered in western Europe( Dmanisiis older). It is still debated as to which species these fossils belong to, either " Homo erectus", " Homo heidelbergensis", or a new species called " Homo antecessor". Some paleoanthropologists who have studied the findings at Gran Dolina argue " Homo antecessor" may give rise to " Homo heidelbergensis", which eventually gives rise to neandertals. The erectus-like fossils were also found with retouched flake & core stone tools.
* The level TD-5 could be a den of carnivores.
* In TD-4 (dated in 780,000 BCE), during the 1991 excavation, four lithic pieces were found. Also, it retains a dozen remnants of
Ursus dolinensis, a new specie of bears.
* At lower levels (TD-1 and TD-2), there are no fossils.
Sima de los Huesos (1983-)
The most famous site in Atapuerca is the "Sima de los Huesos" (The pit of bones). This site is located at the bottom of a 13 metre (50 foot) deep
chimneyreached by scrambling through the cave system of the Cueva Mayor.
Beginning in 1997, the excavation team has located more than 5,500 human bones dated to an age of at least 350,000 years old, corresponding to the Middle
Pleistoceneand representing around 28 skeletons of the species " Homo heidelbergensis" [cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=7Q3nOqkJQwoC&pg=PA158&dq=archaic+H.+sapiens+burial+symbols&ei=2UeOR-v5FoLusgO8ycDQBQ&sig=lvsc_I14naY4alZ9csYIVkU_pBc#PPA159,M1 |title=How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from Early Primates to Modern Human|authorlink=Stanley Greenspan|last=Greenspan|first=Stanley|isbn=0306814498] , together with remains of Ursus deningeriand a bifacecalled " Excalibur". It is hypothesized that this Acheuleanaxe made of red quartzite to be some kind of ritual offering for a funeral. Ninety percent of the known Homo heidelbergensis remains has been obtained from this site. The fossil pit bones include:
*A complete cranium (Skull 5), nicknamed "
Miguelón", and fragments of other craniums, as Skull 4, nicknamed "Agamenón" and skull 6, nicknamed "Rui" (from El Cid, a local hero).
pelvis(Pelvis 1), nicknamed Elvis, in remembrance of Elvis Presley.
*Mandibles, teeth, a lot of postcranial bones (
femurs, hand and foot bones, vertebrae, ribs, etc.)
The excavators suggest that the concentration of bones in the pit may represent the practice of
burialby the inhabitants of the cave. A competing theory cites the lack of small bones in the assemblage and suggests that the remains were washed into the pit by natural agencies.
ima del Elefante (1996-)
According to José María Bermúdez de Castro, co-director of research at an archeological site in Atapuerca, findings have uncovered "anatomical evidence of the hominids that fabricated
tools more than one million years ago" which may be the earliest West European hominid: First, a tooth [cite news |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6256356.stm |title='First west Europe tooth' found |date= 2007-06-30|publisher= BBC News] in June 2007 and then, in 2008, a fragment of jawbone, [cite news |url=http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080326/full/news.2008.691.html |title='Fossil find is oldest European yet' |date= 2008-03-26|publisher= Nature News] and a proximal phalange
Cueva del Mirador (1999-)
It provides information on farmers and ranchers from the
Neolithicand Age of Bronze.
Orchids Valley (2000-2001) and Hundidero (2004–2005)
Stone tools from the Upper Paleolithic have been obtained.
Hotel California (2006)
Atapuerca is also the location of the
battle of Atapuerca(1054) between the troops of Ferdinand I of Castileand his brother García V of Navarre.
List of fossil sites"(with link directory)"
Orce, Sima de las Palomas, Sidrón Cave, Forbes' Quarryand Devil's Tower, another important arqueological sites in Iberian Peninsula, where old human remains have been found.
* [http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/atapuerca/ American Museum of Natural History-Atapuerca]
* [http://www.atapuerca.com/ www.atapuerca.com]
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