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Title: The oldest handaxes in Europe: fact or artefact?
Authors: Jiménez Arenas, Juan Manuel
Santonja, Manuel
Botella, Miguel
Palmqvist, Paul
Keywords: Early Pleistocene;Acheulean handaxes;Paleomagnetism;Biostratigraphy;Southeast Spain
Issue Date: Dec-2011
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Journal of Archaeological Science, 2011, 38 (12), 3340-3349
Abstract: Hominin presence is well documented in a number of Early Pleistocene and early Middle Pleistocene European localities. However, the evidence currently available indicates that Acheulean handaxes spread in the fluvial basins of Western Europe during MIS 11, ∼400 kyr ago, associated with Homo heidelbergensis, although a number of early Middle Pleistocene Acheulean assemblages have been dated from MIS 16 onwards. For this reason, the magnetostratigraphic dating in Southeast Spain of two archaeological localities, the open-air site of Solana del Zamborino (SZ) and the rock-shelter site of Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Quípar (EQ), that put back the appearance of handaxes to the Early-Middle Pleistocene limit (Scott and Gibert, 2009) is of particular interest, as the new ages suggest that H. heidelbergensis was a contemporary of H. antecessor that had the ability to produce Levallois debitage and to control fire during the Early-Middle Pleistocene transition. However, we have detected a number of errors in the interpretation of the archaeological assemblage from the first site as well as striking discrepancies with the original faunal lists published for both localities, with several large mammal species that are omitted or arbitrarily changed to make the assemblages consistent with the new ages deduced from magnetostratigraphy. For this reason, we suggest that: (1) the finding of reverse polarity in the sediments sampled for paleomagnetism in SZ may simply record one of the polarity reversals that took place during the Brunhes Chron, although the use by Scott and Gibert (2009) of a composite stratigraphic column precludes correlating these levels with a specific reversal; and (2) the fauna and tools of EQ correspond to the late Middle Pleistocene sedimentary infillings of this karst site, while the samples taken for paleomagnetism belong to a previous sedimentary cycle during the Matuyama Chron. Such interpretations would be in better agreement with the age estimates provided by biostratigraphy and also with the currently accepted chronology for the appearance of Acheulean industries in Western Europe.
ISSN: 0305-4403
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.07.020
Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Arqueología

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