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Title: The “Sima del Elefante” Cave site at Atapuerca (Spain)
Authors: Rosas, Antonio
Huguet Pàmies, Rosa
Pérez-González, Alfredo
Carbonell, Eudald
Bermúdez de Castro, José María
Vallverdú Poch, Josep
Made, Jan van der
Allué, Ethel
García García, Nuria
Martínez-Pérez, R.
Rodríguez, Jesús
Sala, Robert
Saladié Ballesté, Palmira
Benito-Calvo, Alfonso
Martínez-Maza‬, ‪Cayetana
Bastir, Markus
Sánchez Marco, Antonio
Parés, Josep María
Keywords: Early Pleistocene;Middle Pleistocene;Human occupation;Mediterranean ecosystem;Paleoecology;Site formation
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Citation: Estudios Geológicos, 2006, 62 (1), 327-348
Abstract: The “Sima del Elefante” (TE site) (Atapuerca, Spain) is a major cave infill with a stratigraphic succession 25 m thick and 15 m wide, wealthy in animal bones and evidences of human occupation at different Pleistocene ages. TE site is under systematic excavation since 1996, and the inferior and superior levels are being dug up independently. The exposed section has been divided into 21 lito-stratigraphic units defined by major unconformities. Concerning the cave history, at least three main infill phases have been identified. The lower phase (TE8-TE14) is dated to Early Pleistocene (between 1.1 and 1.4 million years ago) on the basis of inverse paleomagnetics and belonging to the later Early Pleistocene on the basis of biochronology. The TE lower phase is providing a rich faunal assemblage, and shows evidence of human occupation. A set of stone tools of flint, and possibly, calcareous, is being found at these levels. Hence, the lower part of the TE section documents early presence of hominids in Europe and constituted an important element in the understanding of human dispersions out-of-Africa. The middle phase (TE15-TE19) dated to Middle Pleistocene and it is further sud-divided into a basal part (TE15-TE17), still largely unexplored, but no vertebrate fossil record is present at this levels. Units TE18, and mainly TE19 unit, date to late Middle Pleistocene, and contain an abundant record of large mammals as well as stone tools included in calcareous breccias. The TE19 G level contains abundant pieces of charcoal, though verification of its antropic character is pending. Finally, the third and last sedimentary phase (TE20 and TE21) date to Last Pleistocene and it defined the final infilling of the cavity and soil formation. The chronological intervals represented in the fertile levels of the Sima del Elefante enlarge the temporal and biostratigraphic local succession at the Atapuerca Hill complex. The lower phase was deposited in a time previous to the lower levels from Gran Dolina site (TD4), whereas the TE upper levels possibly correspond to a moment later than the sedimentation of Galería GIII/GIV, and Gran Dolina TD10/TD11. In addition, the structural features of the TE site together with its sedimentary and arqueo-paleontological record allow the eventual exploration of problems that remain unresolved in other Atapuerca cave sites.
ISSN: 0367-0449
DOI: 10.3989/egeol.0662129
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Paleobiología

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