A resilient landscape at Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3; Moià, Barcelona, Spain): The Neanderthals as disrupting agent
The debate over hominid–carnivore interactions during the Pleistocene has been mainly approached from a human perspective, with the aim of contributing to the knowledge of the evolution of human cultural capabilities in the different periods. Regarding the European Middle Palaeolithic, it is most commonly concluded that Neanderthals were clearly superior to carnivores in the context of competitive relationships, with respect to both prey and the occupied space. Therefore, the presence of some human groups in the environments usually inhabited by carnivores could be perceived, from an ecological point of view, as a disturbance in the balance of the ecosystems. In order to assess the ecological impact of these human groups, the present study analyses the Unit III of Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3; Moià, Barcelona, Spain) through a comparison of palaeoecological and archaeological data. The site is located in the highlands between the two main rivers connecting the central region of Catalonia with the Mediterranean coast: the Llobregat and the Ter. Palynological and paleontological data indicate a cold landscape dominated by woodlands and some wet meadows. The high vertebrate diversity recorded in this stratigraphic unit suggests an environment marked by a balanced predator–prey dynamic, which may have been interrupted by the occasional presence of small human groups. According to the archaeological data, these human groups tended to predate the same prey as did carnivores, which may have generated a certain perturbation in the system. However, the small size of the groups and the brevity of their visits to Teixoneres Cave seem to have minimised the perturbation, allowing the environment to recover its original balance.