Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 9, pp 4555–4568 | Cite as

Lithic refits as a tool to reinforce postdepositional analysis

  • Esther López-OrtegaEmail author
  • Xosé-Pedro Rodríguez-Álvarez
  • Andreu Ollé
  • Sergi Lozano
Original Paper


Studies of archaeological assemblages recovered from palimpsests encounter difficulties related not only to their nature (the preservation of the remains), but also to the formation of the accumulation itself: the evidence of the different human occupations that the accumulation contains and its temporal resolution. Layer TD10.1 of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) is a 1-m-thick palimpsest from which 48,000 faunal remains and more than 21,000 lithic artefacts have been recovered. Several interdisciplinary studies have shown that TD10.1 is not the result of an intense and long-term occupation of the cavity, but rather the consequence of several repeated occupation events. Additionally, micro-morphological analyses demonstrate that there were only minimal postdepositional disturbances of the sedimentary context containing the artefacts. This paper presents results obtained from the study of lithic refits in a sample from the TD10.1 assemblage, posing the hypothesis that the position and relative distance separating the refitted elements show that they were in fact found in primary position. While in other cases, “raw material units” have been used as a tool to distinguish activity areas and occupational episodes, in this study we use refits to learn about the possible movement—or lack thereof—of the artefacts within the area of the site due to postdepositional factors. The use of refits is proposed as a support or supplement to other kinds of analyses of the postdepositional processes that affect the formation of archaeological layers.


Lithic artefacts Refits Postdepositional processes Middle Pleistocene Gran Dolina 



We would like to acknowledge our colleagues at Atapuerca, and especially those involved in the Gran Dolina fieldwork, whose comments and opinions have been very valuable. Fieldwork at Atapuerca is supported by the Junta de Castilla y León and Fundación Atapuerca. The research has been conducted within the framework of projects CGL2015-65387-C3-1-P and HAS2012-32548 of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO-FEDER), Catalan AGAUR projects 2017SGR1040 and 2017SGR836, URV projects 2014-2016PFR-URV-B2-17, under the aegis of the CERCA Programme of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Special thanks go to F. Romagnoli and M. Vaquero for organising and kindly inviting us to the workshop “The big puzzle 30 years after: a shared, multidisciplinary, Palaeolithic perspective”, held at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and at Institut de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), both in Tarragona (Spain), in May 2017 and kindly supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation Ref.: Gr CONF-737.

Esther López-Ortega is the beneficiary of a predoctoral FPI scholarship from the MINECO (BES-2013-065048).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esther López-Ortega
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xosé-Pedro Rodríguez-Álvarez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreu Ollé
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sergi Lozano
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)TarragonaSpain
  2. 2.Àrea de PrehistòriaUniversitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)TarragonaSpain

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