New paper published in Quaternary Geochronology

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.

Full reference:

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

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