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Subsistence strategies of Gravettian hunter–gatherers in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula: the case of level E of Arbreda Cave (Serinyà)

  • Isaac Rufí
  • Lluís LloverasEmail author
  • Joaquim Soler
  • Narcís Soler
Original Paper
  • 28 Downloads

Abstract

The Gravettian covers a long period characterised by widely fluctuating climatic conditions that led to a diversity of subsistence strategies, which extended from the Iberian Atlantic coast to Siberia. Within this vast area, the northeast of Iberia acted as a transitional territory, between steppe–tundra in the northern regions and Iberian wooded steppe to the south. Owing to the small number of studies, subsistence during the Gravettian period in this region is not as yet well known. The Arbreda Cave site (Serinyà) preserves the largest and most detailed Palaeolithic stratigraphy of the Reclau Cave complex, providing the most accurate information about the changes that occurred from the Early Upper Pleistocene to the Holocene in the northeast Iberian Peninsula. Presented here is a detailed archaeozoological and taphonomic study of Iberian Middle Gravettian level E (c. 26–25 kyr 14C BP). Allowing for the possibility that density-mediated biases and post-burial bone attrition may have influenced the study, it appears to confirm that the rich faunal assemblage recovered at this level was primarily due to anthropogenic activities. On the contrary, the slight evidence of carnivore activity mainly consists of small prey. The archaeozoological analysis suggests selective hunting focused almost entirely on familial groups of horses and red deer among ungulates and rabbits among small prey. The taphonomic study points to extensive animal exploitation-butchery activities, marrow extraction and use of bone as fuel and raw material to make “less-elaborated” tools. Hunter–gatherer communities made seasonal use of the cave as a temporary residential camp site, preferably between spring and autumn. Upper Palaeolithic horse-dominated macrofaunal assemblages are rare in the Iberian Peninsula, being found only in the Cantabrian and Catalonia regions. In contrast to what is observed in southern Mediterranean areas, the higher percentage of horses in relation to red deer in Arbreda Cave may indicate colder conditions for this area located close to the expanse of the steppe–tundra biome.

Keywords

Zooarchaeology Taphonomy Animal resources Iberian Middle Gravettian Arbreda Cave 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Andrea Ferrer and Lluís Figueras (Museu Arqueològic Comarcal de Banyoles) for granting them access to the museum collections. We also wish to thank Dr. Camille Jéquier (Musée et château de Valangin), who shared her information on retouching tools from level E. Drs Joan Madurell-Malapeira (Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont), Julià Maroto (Universitat de Girona) and Jordi Nadal (Universitat de Barcelona) helped with a number of taxonomic identifications. Jordi Garcia and Joan Frigola took bone industry photographs. We are also grateful to Dr. Britt Starkovich, Àngel Blanco (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen) and Dr. Javier Quesada (Nat-Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona), who respectively gave us access to the macromammal reference collections of the Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie and the Laboratori de Cordats.

Funding information

I. Rufí’s research was funded by a predoctoral grant (FI-2017) from the Generalitat de Catalunya. Financial support from research projects HAR2017-86509 and HAR2016-76760-C3-3-P from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MICINN), and SGR2017-00011 and SGR2017-01688 from the Generalitat de Catalunya, is gratefully acknowledged.

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Àrea de Prehistòria, Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art, Facultat de LletresUniversitat de GironaGironaSpain
  2. 2.SERP, Departament d’Història i ArqueologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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