ESR/U-series chronology of the Neanderthal occupation layers at Galería de las Estatuas (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)
The Galería de las Estatuas is a Mousterian site located within the Cueva Mayor-Cueva del Silo karstic system at the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). This site is characterised by an important Upper Pleistocene stratigraphic sequence in which a large number of lithic artefacts exhibiting clear Mousterian affinities and a rich assemblage of faunal remains have been found. Additionally, this site has yielded a foot phalanx of a clear Neanderthal affinities and its sediment has yielded Neanderthal mitochondrial and nuclear DNA.
Two test pits, GE-I and GE-II, have been excavated since 2008 which have been divided in 5 and 2 lithostratigraphical units, respectively. A minimum age of 45 ka cal BP for this site was obtained by radiocarbon dating in GE-II. This chronology was refined using single-grain Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL: 80–112 ka in GE-I and 70–79 ka in GE-II) and single-grain thermally transferred OSL (TT-OSL). Although in all case TT-OSL ages were systematically older than their single-grain counterparts. The detrital sequence is sealed by a flowstone whose base is dated to 53.7 ± 3.5 ka cal BP using U-series dating.
In order to better constrain the age of this site, nine herbivorous teeth were collected from the whole sedimentary sequence to be dated by the ESR/U-series dating method though only seven provided modelled ages. Six of them were collected from levels 2 to 5 of the GE-I test pit while the last tooth was taken from level 2 of the GE-II test pit. Our results, ranging between 80 and 110 ka, are in agreement with those obtained by single grain TT-OSL and suggest that the sedimentological levels containing Mousterian lithic artefacts and faunal and human remains began to be deposited during the second part of the MIS5. These results fill a temporal gap in the chronology of the Atapuerca sites for which no contemporary MIS5 date was obtained until recently.
Davinia Moreno, Ana Isabel Ortega, Christophe Falguères, Qingfeng Shao, Olivier Tombret, Asier Gómez-Olivencia, Arantza Aranburu, François Trompier, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell & Juan Luis Arsuaga (2022). ESR/U-series chronology of the Neanderthal occupation layers at Galería de las Estatuas (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). Quaternary Geochronology 72, 101342