Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 1287–1303 | Cite as

Multi-purpose fossils? The reappraisal of an Elephas antiquus molar from El Pirulejo (Magdalenian; Córdoba, Spain)

  • Miguel Cortés-Sánchez
  • Arturo Morales-Muñiz
  • Francisco Jiménez-Espejo
  • Marina Évora
  • María Dolores Simón-Vallejo
  • Antonio García-Alix
  • Aránzazu Martínez Aguirre
  • José Antonio Riquelme-Cantal
  • Carlos P. OdriozolaEmail author
  • Rubén Parrilla Giráldez
  • Diego J. Álvarez-Lao
Original Paper


Fossil gathering by humans has been rarely documented in the Iberian Peninsula. In the present paper, a multidisciplinary approach has been taken to analyze a straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus) molar retrieved in a Magdalenian deposit at the rock shelter of El Pirulejo in southern Spain. The taphonomical analyses revealed a multifarious use of a tooth that had not only been worked into an anvil-sort-of-tool but also used as a core and partly tainted with a composite pigment. The dating and geochemical analyses further evidenced that the molar derived from an animal that had lived in a rather arid landscape with a temperature range between 12.3 and 14.3 °C coincident with a cold episode within marine isotope stage (MIS) 6.6 and probably fed on herbaceous plants. These analyses evidence the potential fossils from archaeological sites bear for addressing a wide range of issues that include both the cultural and paleoenvironmental realms.


Tooth Taphonomy U/Th dating Isotopes Iberian Peninsula Upper Paleolithic Fossil gathering 



This study has been sponsored by Projects HAR2013-44269-P, HAR 2014-55722-P, and HAR2012-34620 of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competividad, by Grant 19438/PI/14 of the Programa Seneca 2014 and by Special Action (2014) of the V- Plan Propio de Investigación from the University of Seville. Isotopic and elemental analyses were processed at the Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra. The paper constitutes a contribution of Research Group HUM-949 (Tellus. Prehistoria y Arqueología en el sur de Iberia) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Archeology and the Evolution of Human Behavior. A.G.-A. was also supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship within the 7th Framework Program for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (European Commission: ref. PIEF-GA-2013- 623027). Sergio Ros Montoya (University of Granada) originally identified the elephant molar from El Pirulejo, and Dick Mol (Natuurhistorisch Museum, Rotterdam) is gratefully acknowledged from providing data on E. antiquus.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Cortés-Sánchez
    • 1
  • Arturo Morales-Muñiz
    • 2
  • Francisco Jiménez-Espejo
    • 3
  • Marina Évora
    • 4
  • María Dolores Simón-Vallejo
    • 5
    • 6
  • Antonio García-Alix
    • 7
  • Aránzazu Martínez Aguirre
    • 8
  • José Antonio Riquelme-Cantal
    • 9
  • Carlos P. Odriozola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rubén Parrilla Giráldez
    • 6
  • Diego J. Álvarez-Lao
    • 10
  1. 1.Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología. Facultad de Geografía e HistoriaUniversidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratorio de Zooarqueología, Departamento de BiologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)YokosukaJapan
  4. 4.ICArEHB - Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human BehaviourFCHS da Universidade do AlgarveFaroPortugal
  5. 5.Museo Arqueológico de FrigilianaFrigilianaSpain
  6. 6.HUM949. Tellus. Prehistoria y Arqueología en el sur de Iberia Universidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  7. 7.University of Glasgow Geographical and Earth SciencesGlasgowUK
  8. 8.Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería AgrónomaUniversidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  9. 9.Departamento de Geografía y Ciencias del TerritorioUniversidad de CórdobaCórdobaSpain
  10. 10.Departamento de GeologíaUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

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