A chronicle of crisis: The Late Mousterian in north Iberia (Cueva del Esquilleu, Cantabria, Spain)


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Publication Date

January 2012


During the last decades, the Cantabrian region has become one of the zones of greater interest in the study of the final Mousterian on the European scale. The particular ecological and physiographic conditions of this region provide an especially attractive picture for analyzing the advanced moments of this period. Almost all the Mousterian levels of Cantabrian sites are dated to the later part of “Würm II”, as occurs in some other European regions. Close to 35 ka BP, the Esquilleu sequence expresses a process of change in archaeological record, and probably in the subsistence strategies. This late occupation extends through the H4 cold event and the interglacial to “Würm III”, between level VIf (34.3 ka BP approx. AMS) and level IV (22.8 ka BP approx. AMS). All the archaeological evidence (non-selective and directly adjacent to the river catchment; limited technical investment with fast discoid production; mainly "points" but objectively indeterminate from a morphological point of view; lithic and even microlithic production) and their interpretation in a spatial-contextual perspective (high fragmentation of the chaîne opératoire between the river and the cave), would indicate changes in the site function within an articulated network. Archaeologically, the change in the significance of El Esquilleu intervals is evident. The raw material catchment analysis indicates a much more fuzzy relationship of the site in relation to the environment. Esquilleu would have ceased functioning as a place of integration of elements of the territory. There is no evidence of transport or territorial relationship defined between sites. Another point for reflection is that, in the Esquilleu sequence, different production methods and the archaeological evidence interpretation can be grouped easily into discrete sets. The lower interval is technically variable, probably representing the time with more functional complexity in the cave. Subsequently, the Quina, Levallois, discoid, and final intervals occur. Archaeological evidence of


Cantabrian, Late Mousterian, Levels, Iberia

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Quaternary International, Vol. 247 (2012-01-09).