Archaeologists Seek Answers to Human Origins in the Caves of Atapuerca, Spain

Archaeologists Seek Answers to Human Origins in the Caves of Atapuerca, Spain

Dozens of archaeologists are undertaking excavation work in the caves of Atapuerca in Spain to find remnants of our ancient ancestors dating back more than a million years. It is hoped that the caves will reveal answers surrounding the prehistoric ancestors of Europeans, which could write a new chapter in the history of human evolution.

"The site covers a very long period of time, practically from when the first humans arrived in Europe, up to the present day," says Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, one of the directors of the dig.

The site, which was classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2000, has already offered up a human finger and jawbone dating back 1.2 million years – considered the remains of the oldest European ever found. Archaeologists, who have been working at the site since 1978, have also found skulls, bones and teeth belonging to Homo antecessor who lived between 850,000 and 950,000 years ago, and bits of Homo heidelbergensis, from around four hundred millenia ago. "It is the site that has yielded the most human remains in the world," says Juan Luis Arsuaga, another of the directors of the project.

However, the latest excavation project is focused on a search for human remains in the oldest parts of the site, one and a half million years old. In particular, they are hoping to find evidence of more prehistoric humans such as Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man, of which they have found tools but no human remains, leaving a gap of some hundred thousand years.

After the dig is completed at the end of this month, researchers will spend months sifting through all the fragments they have been uncovering with the aim of reconstructing details of our prehistoric ancestors and the stories of the first Europeans to have walked the planet.


    The Pit of Bones: A Death Chamber Time Capsule

    A small chamber in a deep, dark cave. Tens of thousands of bones. Animal bones and human bones. Buried under dust and dirt and bat dung.

    Welcome to an ancient chamber of horrors. This is the Pit of Bones (aka Sima de los Huesos).

    In 1997, scientists discovered this small chamber within a much larger complex cave system. They’ve found other human occupation sites within it, but The Pit of Bones was no place for the living. To date, more than 50,000 partially fossilized bones have been collected. These bones include more than 6500 belonging to an ancient hominid species, in addition to bones of over 160 individuals of an extinct species of cave bear, a panther, lynxes, canines, and small mammals.

    The Pit of Bones shows evidence for the deep-time perspective that I’ve argued for elsewhere on this site. What is found in this pit should cause everyone to reflect on their origins but young-earth creationists should find its contents most troublesome. Let’s find out why.

    Fig. 1. Drawing of the Sima del los Huesos (the pit of bones) cave. The vertical shaft. The figure is from Arsuaga et al. “Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), The Site” JHE 33 (1997): 109-127.

    Where is the Pit of Bones, and What’s in It?

    The Pit of Bones was found in a large cave system in northern Spain discovered during the cutting of a railway line through a hill. The actual chamber is at the end of a 40-foot ramp, leading up to the base of a 43-foot vertical shaft (Fig. 2), 1500 feet from any cave entrance. It is, literally, a dead end. After careful inspection, it became clear that this chamber has had only one entry—the 43-foot vertical shaft. It is highly unlikely that anything that dropped or fell down that shaft could ever come back up.

    To date, scientists have examined less than half of the fossil-bearing layers of cave sediments, but a gruesome picture has emerged. There are tens of thousands of bones in the chamber, most belonging to cave bears. But buried beneath the animal bones is a more significant discovery: more than 6500 hominid bones representing at least 28 individuals. With ongoing excavations, researchers expect that the number of the hominid Homo heidelbergensis remains found will likely double.

    The nature of these deposits points to an environment with very little disturbance over time and gradual accumulation. The hominid bones have been found in the deepest sediments that fill the pit. Most of the hominid bones are beneath the other carnivore bones, with a few hominid bones mixed with carnivore bones. The bones are embedded in layers of clay, along with many thin sheets of fragile “calcite rafts” and other cave deposits. These sheets and deposits indicate the presence of a shallow and very quiet pool of water and very slow precipitation of minerals, which have coated and buried the bones. On top of several feet of human and carnivore bones are layers of rock debris from roof falls. On top of that is another layer—several inches to several feet of bat guano. The lack of any bones in the upper sediment and rock layers, and the layer of bat guano, suggests that during this time of the chamber’s existence, the cave entrance was probably very small. Its size prohibited any larger animals from entering.

    So How Did the Bones Get into the Pit of Bones?

    Researchers have been asking themselves how the hominid bones got into the Pit of Bones. Interestingly, there have been no hominid artifacts found yet, other than a single stone axe. This tell us that the bones did not come from people living in this part of the cave.

    Here’s another puzzle: all of the animals in the pit are carnivores or omnivores. The absence of any prey species—such as any number of common deer—means this was probably not a place that carnivores brought their food to eat.

    So could the hominid bones have been dragged there by large cats and bears? That’s not likely. There are few signs of gnawed hominid bones, and the vast majority of hominid bones are found lying below the bones of the other carnivores. This suggests that the hominid bones were deposited there before—perhaps long before—the other carnivores died and deposited their bones onsite.

    Fig. 3. The Pit of Bones excavation in progress since 1997

    It appears that cave bears and other animals got into The Pit of Bones by accidental falls. One possibility is that they heard or smelled animals that had fallen in the pit, and they tried to climb down for an easy meal. Clearly, the vertical shaft was in a portion of the cave where no light would have been present—since it’s a third of a mile from any cave exit. However the animals fell in, once they were in the pit there was no way out. There are many gnaw marks on the cave-bear bones, which suggests that some animals survived their fall and chewed on the bones of past victims, until they too finally died.

    Some of the hominid bones recovered from The Pit of Bones

    But what about the 28 hominids that have been found so far? Many of those that have studied the bones in this pit think that the best explanation is that hominid remains were deposited there intentionally. There are adult male and female bones, as well as at least one juvenile. Was this a body disposal site? Or was this a site of ritualistic burial?

    The answer isn’t known for sure, but the large concentration of bones in just one layer in this pit strongly suggests that a series of accidental hominid falls is unlikely. Cave bear and other animal bones are far more numerous, but they are distributed in more sediments and over a larger area of the cave, suggesting an accumulation of accidental falls over much longer periods of time in contrast to the origin of hominid bones.

    Fig. 4. A cross section of the pit of bones showing where excavations have taken place and the contents of the layers of sediments. Figure is from Arsuaga et al “Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), The site” J. Human Evolution 1997, 33:109-127.

    Just How Much Time Would It Take for the Pit of Bones to Accumulate Bones?

    Look at Figure 4 above. If you examine this image of a cross-section of the cave, you’ll see multiple distinct layers of rock and fossils. These attest to a long history of events in this cave.

    Through observation, we can reconstruct a chronology of events, showing how the Pit of Bones formed. Below, I summarize those events, which is based on what I have gleaned from published literature:

    1) First, a large cave system formed over time in a large limestone formation. In that large cave system, a large pit formed and some sediment was deposited on its floor.
    2) Next, the cave became available for hominid and animal occupation—it was dry enough and there was a large-enough entrance at this point.
    3) At least 28 hominids, and probably many more, fell or were thrown down the 43-foot shaft to the pit below.
    4) Over several hundred thousand years, additional animals experienced accidental falls into the pit. Some survived and their movement in the cave disturbed and mixed some of the bones.
    5) Eventually, the cave system became closed to the outside, or the climate changed (e.g., an ice age), preventing animals from using the cave. During this time, deposition of cave debris such as dripstone occurred.
    6) The cave opened enough to allow a habitat for bat colonies, which resulted in several feet of bat guano at the base of the vertical shaft.
    7) Finally, the cave once again was accessible for human occupation. Modern humans occupied portions of the cave system for thousands of years, with layers of bones and other cultural debris attesting to changing technologies. Parts of the cave system were discovered in the 16 th century, with no occupation likely during the previous 2000 years.

    The order of these events seems clear and uncontroversial. But what exactly is the length of time covered by this timeline? Multiple dating techniques put this series of events as occurring over 500,000 years—beginning with the initial formation of the cave (3).

    The Pit of Bones from a Deep-Time Perspective

    Again, how did these human bones appear in the pit, underneath the animal bones, bat guano, and cave deposits? As mysterious as the exact circumstances are, the context of the cave system and the deposits in particular are not difficult to understand within a deep-time perspective. The cave likely required hundreds of thousands of years to form, and the presence of many layers of rock and sediment with different properties are consistent with changing climatic conditions over time, resulting in differential deposition. There are layers of sediments in the pit with no bones at all in them, suggesting prolonged periods in which the cave entrances were cut off to animals and humans. Much later in the pit’s existence, there was a period in which bats inhabited the cave.

    Number 7 in the chronology above adds an additional twist to the story of this cave system. There is good evidence of periodic modern human occupation from around 2000 to 16,000 years ago —which equals about six feet of sediments on the cave floor (3). In these sediments, unlike The Pit of Bones, there are thousands of bones that include prey animals that the inhabitants ate along with thousands of tools and pieces of pottery. In the deepest sediments, there are anatomically modern humans with relatively simple hunting technology. As you move up sedimentary layers, towards the surface sediments, you find ever more sophisticated tools and pottery pieces, which evidence Bronze-Age technology and eventually even Roman period artifacts at the top.

    How Would Does The Pit of Bones Align with a Young-Earth Timeline?

    The archaeological context of the bones at the Pit of Bones site presents considerable difficulties to any young earth creationists’ timeline of history. (As part of my continuing series on the geological context of fossils and its implications for the origins debate see: The frequently overlooked geological context of human fossils Neaderthals and the Italian Supervolcano, Fossil Human Footprints Found Below Ice Age Deposits), I would just point out that this The Pit of Bones is not as complex as some of the prior sites we have explored. And yet it is still a great challenge to the YEC hypothesis.)

    Young-earth geology—which hypothesizes an Earth that’s only a bit more than 6,000 years old—makes a clear prediction regarding the bones in these two locations at the site under discussion. (Those locations are the cave entrance and The Pit of Bones.) The prediction is that both locations should contain material of nearly the same age, even if different populations of humans were found there.

    But this prediction fails badly. The site shows strong evidence against it.

    The bones in the upper portion of the cave have been dated by multiple techniques to be 2000 to 16,000 years old. While using some of the same techniques, only a few of which involve radiometric isotopes, the hominid bones from The Pit of Bones are dated to around 430,000 years of age (2). The dates for the cave-bear bones span over a hundred thousand years, which again is consistent with the other hypothesis—that the animals fell over time accidentally into the pit. Why would human bones found so close together in the same cave system date 400,000 years apart, if they were all from peoples inhabiting the caves during a singular ice age about 4,200 years ago as proposed by young earth creationists?

    This 430,000-year span make sense in light of the geological evidence in the cave. For example, as I’ve said, the cave-bear fossils in the inhabited upper portion of the cave are all found below the bones from human occupation sites, while in The Pit of Bones they are found above the human bones. This fits with other data from other sites in Europe that tell us that cave bears went extinct around 25,000 years ago and so should not be found with remains of humans that date to only 4 to 10 thousand years old.

    Fig. 5. Artistic depiction of Homo heidelbergensis hominids whose bones are found in The Pit of Bones. Photo: Javier Trueba, Madrid Scientific Films

    The human bones from the pit are also clearly not from the same people as those found in the younger portions of the cave. The hominids from the Pit of Bones has been described as Homo heidelbergensis, which is thought to be the ancestor of the Neanderthals. These earlier people do not appear to have inhabited the cave, having left no sign of their presence other than a large set of bones in a pit far from the cave opening. Furthermore, the chronological sequence of modern human remains and cultural artifacts is very similar to patterns observed in multiple other locations across Europe attesting to the reliability of the conventional timeline of modern human development.

    Ancient DNA Further Confirms Dates for the Pit of Bones

    I was originally interested in the geological context of these bones because of a bone pulled from the rocky matrix at the bottom of this pit, which yielded a tiny amount of highly degraded DNA (5). The sequence of that mitochondrial DNA from that bone was widely reported. Analysis of that sequence revealed it to be most similar to DNA extracted from a tooth and tiny bone from the Denisova cave in Siberia. At around 430,000 years old, this is the oldest human DNA yet recovered from a fossil.

    I mentioned this DNA and its sequence in my recent article, Young Earth Creationism and Ancient DNA. In 2013, one of the cave bear bones from the Pit of Bones was used to generate the whole genome sequence of a cave bear, which showed, in part, that they were genetically distinct from all bear species alive today. Not surprising since that bone was dated to approximately 300,000 years old.

    When the hominid DNA sequence was published (6), creationists heralded the DNA findings from the homo heidelbergensis bone as evidence that these bones simply represent a population of humans. For example, a few days after the sequence was published, Elizabeth Mitchell wrote (4) on the Answers in Genesis website that:

    After the global Flood of Noah’s time, about 4,350 years ago, the human gene pool, which had begun around 1,700 years earlier with Adam and Eve, was whittled down to 8 people. Their descendants eventually dispersed from the Tower of Babel. Though they were all related, once they became isolated and in some cases reduced to small groups, distinctive traits would have emerged—characteristics that we now associate with the fossils of various “archaic” (i.e. ancient and extinct) people, who were nevertheless fully human.

    Fig. 6. This is Fig. 4 from Matthias Meye et al. in Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12788
    A comparison of mitochondrial genome sequences of a hominid from Sima de los Huesos with other hominids and all living humans.
    Most notable here is the differences between the sample from the Pit of Bones and all living humans (Blue and Yellow bars). The fossils in the upper part of the cave that date younger would fall in the Asian and European group while the bones in the pit would likely all be like the Sima de los Huesos DNA sample.

    She downplays the actually differences in the DNA that were found in these bones to make the case that their bones were just from people who lived during a recent Ice Age but the DNA sequences lie outside the bounds of variation found in all living people today. (Fig. 6) The DNA was highly degraded as expected for such ancient sample. Irrespective of the lack of appreciation for the genetic differences in these hominids, what is more disconcerting is her suggestion that humans found their way to this cave in Spain less than 4,000 years ago, and that some of them found themselves buried under debris in the bottom of a pit in the back of this cave system.

    These claims seem to contradict all the archaeological, geological, chemical, and biological evidence from this site.

    The young-earth theory, in other words, doesn’t fit the evidence here.

    Conclusion: The Pit of Bones is a Serious Problem for the YEC Hypothesis

    Organizations such as Answers in Genesis claim to provide an alternative reading of the natural world, one that brings the evidence of creation in line with their specific literalist reading of Genesis. They write articles that claim that it is easy to fit bones and DNA evidence from sites like The Pit of Bones into the young-earth timeline. For example, Mitchell’s article ends with the following claim:

    Denisovans and Neanderthals and the people of Sima de los Huesos (whether they are called Homo heidelbergensis or something else) were simply humans who lived in the post-Flood world and left their fossilized remains in Ice Age sediment.

    Given The Pit of Bones site, this is what the YECs are effectively saying about its formation. At the dispersal from the Tower of Babel, 4350 years ago, a group of humans—who had distinctively different bone morphology than modern humans—traveled very quickly to Spain. There, they found a cave during the Ice Age. Somehow, 28 of them fell into a pit in the back of the cave. After that, at least 160 cave bears fell into the pit, along with many other mammals. All of these falls happened within 100 to 200 years of each other, since cave bears and all the other animals in that pit have been extinct in recorded history for the last 4,000 years.

    So how did 160 bears and many other animals manage to wander a third of a mile back into a cave and fall down a shaft in such a short period of time? How did they do this right after 28 hominids had fallen into the pit? How and why did these animals stop falling into the pit?

    On top of these tough questions, all of the remains in the pit—animal and hominid—were then covered by cave deposits themselves, the result of the slow dripping of liquids into pit. At a later time, but apparently still during the young-earth Ice Age, other anatomically modern humans then took up occupancy in the cave, after all the cave bears had fallen into the pit. They lived there long enough to produce thousands of shards of pottery and various tools. In the YEC timeline all of this activity had to occur within a 2000 year window as the last of the signs of habitation are from the Roman era.

    The evidence at the Pit of Bones is very difficult to fit into a young-earth timeline.

    Mitchell doesn’t address the facts of the cave, other than mentioning that there are human fossils found in it. I have looked and so far found no detailed descriptions of the cave and the context of these fossils in the young-earth creationist literature. To ignore the context in which they are found is scientifically troubling. But to assert that the people who left bones were “simply humans who lived in the post-Flood world and left their fossilized remains in Ice Age sediment” does little else but provide false hope to those looking for comforting answers to perceived challenges from secular science. What Ken Ham and other YEC organizations provide are not real answers to hard questions, but shallow answers to complex problems.

    It is likely that most lay Christians will never realize that the fossils at the Pit of Bones provide no support either genetically or geologically for a young-earth hypothesis. However, given that this highly selective reporting of the facts is the normative approach in the creation literature, many Christians will eventually find themselves staring at some piece of data that Answers in Genesis has ill-equipped them to address.

    There is no doubt that hominid fossils such as those found at the Pit of Bones pose difficult questions for Christians who wish take the Scriptures seriously. That they pose challenges, though, doesn’t require that Christians simply accept ad-hoc answers.

    1. National Geographic summary of 17 skulls from Sima de los Huesos: Bonanza of Skulls in ‘Pit of Bones’ Changes View of Neanderthals

    2. J. L. Arsuaga et al. 2014. Neandertal roots: Cranial and chronological evidence from Sima de los HuesosScience 20 June 2014: 344 (6190), 1358-1363. [DOI:10.1126/science.1253958] Abstract Full Text Full Text (PDF) Supplementary Materials

    3. Carretero, José Miguel, Ana Isabel Ortega, Laura Juez, Alfredo Pérez-González, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Raquel Pérez-Martínez, and Maria Cruz Ortega. “A Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene archaeological sequence of Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain).” Munibe (Antropologia-Arkeologia) 59 (2008): 67-80.

    4. Sima de los Huesos Reveals Surprising Genetic Connections. In: News to Know by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchellon December 16, 2013 Answers in Genesis.com https://answersingenesis.org/human-evolution/hominids/sima-de-los-huesos-reveals-surprising-genetic-connections/

    5. Dabney, et al. 2013. Complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a Middle Pleistocene cave bear reconstructed from ultrashort DNA fragments PNAS 2013 published ahead of print September 9, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1314445110

    6. Meyer, Matthias, Qiaomei Fu, Ayinuer Aximu-Petri, Isabelle Glocke, Birgit Nickel, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, Ignacio Martínez et al. “A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos.” Nature (2013).


    Archaeologists Seek Answers to Human Origins in the Caves of Atapuerca, Spain - History

    TEST 2 PREPARATION MATERIALS

    KEY TERMS

    linear multilinear teleological population
    evolution gene punctuated equilibrium mutation*
    chromosome mutagen variation gamete
    gene flow* random genetic drift* founder effect* bottleneck effect*
    natural selection* directional selection* normalizing selection* diversifying selection*
    taxonomy* taxa / taxon Linnaean system inclusive
    exclusive binomial name type specimen primates
    anthropoid* hominoid* hominid* prosimian*
    ancestral trait* homiothermy heterodontism pentadactyly
    derived trait* stereoscopic vision olfaction prehensile*
    omnivorous* dental formula prenatal opposable
    arboreal*
    insectivore tree shrew New World monkey Old World monkey
    nonhuman primate
    extinct extant bipedalism ilium
    femur foramen magnum occipital condyle monogamy
    polygamy scavenge terrestrial* home base
    division of labor tool manufacture tool use power grip
    precision grip material culture primary tool secondary tool
    manual dexterity osteodontokeratic* butcher marks cut marks
    bone marrow disarticulation [not on test] hypervitaminosis A brain complexity
    brain size neocortex [not on test] cortex convolution
    heat dissipation [not on test] cranial capacity* cubic centimeters (cc)* abstract communication*
    speech language [not on test] brain lateralization larynx
    hyoid bone endocast hypoglossal canal quadrupedal

    • Stephen Jay Gould
    • Niles Eldridge
    • Carolus Linnaeus
    • G. Elliott Smith and F. Wood-Jones
    • Matt Cartmill
    • Elaine Morgan
    • Charles Darwin
    • C.O. Lovejoy
    • Nancy Tanner
    • Paul Shipman
    • A. Sinclair
    • Pete Wheeler
    • Raymond Dart
    • date of the oldest (first) primate
    • date of New World-Old World monkey divergence
    • dates for earliest skeletal and trace fossil evidence of bipedalism
    • date for oldest stone tools
    • date for oldest use of animals [never mind - not on test]
    • percentage of meat in human diet today
    • date when human brain size reached the range for humans today
    • Laetoli, Tanzania
    • Sterkfontein, South Africa
    • Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
    • Gona, Ethiopia
    • basic tenets of modern evolutionary theory
    • four forces of evolution
    • how each force of evolution affects variation between and within populations and evolution in general
    • factors affecting gene flow effects on a population
    • Tristan da Cunha example of random genetic drift
    • three types of natural selection
    • basis of Linnaean taxonomic system
    • seven levels of the Linnaean taxonomic system (in order)
    • how binomial names are written
    • guidelines for selecting a good type specimen
    • humans are primates, anthropoids, hominoids, and hominids
    • two suborders of primates
    • list of ancestral primate traits
    • list of derived primate traits: sensory, locomotor, dental/dietary, social, reproductive, habitat
    • two theories for explaining derived primate traits: arboreal theory, visual predation theory
    • epoch during which the first primates evolved and what the earliest primates looked like
    • epoch during which the first monkey-ape ancestor evolved
    • epoch during which the New World and Old World monkeys split
    • epoch during which the first ape ancestor evolved
    • savanna hypothesis, savanna-woodland hypothesis, aquatic ape hypothesis
    • anatomical changes associated with bipedalism
    • advantages of bipedalism
    • earliest skeletal and trace fossil evidence of bipedalism
    • explanations for why bipedalism developed
    • changes required for successful terrestrial living
    • significance of tool use
    • "preadaptations" for tool use
    • stages of tool use
    • significance of meat use
    • evidence for meat use
    • changes in human brain complexity and size over time
    • anatomical changes and evidence associated with speech
      The Linnaean taxonomic system

        a. is based on genetic similarities and differences among organisms.
        b. has seven primary levels or taxa.
        c. was outlined in the book The Origin of Species.
        d. places humans in an order different from other primates.
        e. All of these are correct.

        a. are heterodontic.
        b. have nails on their digits.
        c. are homiothermic.
        d. have short periods of prenatal development.
        e. are terrestrial.

        a. humans developed bipedalism due to habitat loss.
        b. grasping hands/feet evolved to facilitate locomotion in trees.
        c. the insectivorous diet of primates selected for stereoscopic vision and prehensibility.
        d. brain lateralization, as evidenced by endocasts, developed as early as 1 million years ago.
        e. the earliest tools were made of bone, teeth, and antler/horn.

        a. Paleocene, prosimians
        b. Oligocene, apes
        c. Eocene, basal anthropoids
        d. Oligocene, true anthropoids
        e. Paleocene, hominoids

        a. There are three forces of evolution.
        b. Evolution is defined as the appearance of new species over time.
        c. Evolutionary change is linear and teleological.
        d. Evolutionary change may occur gradually or be punctuated.
        e. All new, novel forms of variation arise by random genetic drift.

      Click here to view answers to the practice questions.

      By type of question: 30 multiple choice, 12 true false, 8 fill in

      By topic: 11 on Modern Evolutionary Theory, 17 on Primate Taxonomy and Traits, 2 on Nonhuman Primate Evolution, 20 on Human Derived Traits (5 on bipedalism, 2 on terrestrial, 4 on tool use, 4 on meat use, 3 on brain, 2 on abstract communication/speech)

      You need to understand all of the key terms in order to answer questions, but pay particular attention to the terms with a star next to them as you will be asked specifically about those definitions.

      Know the three types of natural selection either by definition or by the frequency distribution graphs I put on the board.

      Know how the four forces of evolution affect evolutionary change (the second row on the handout).

      There is nothing specifically from the book that was not covered in class.

      TEST 3 PREPARATION MATERIALS

      australopithecine subfamily hominid Pliocene Epoch
      Pleistocene Epoch Australopithecus Paranthropus Ardipithecus
      provisional gracile robust savanna
      divergent brain case cranium / cranium prognathism / prognathic
      adaptive radiation foramen magnum cranial capacity osteodontokeratic
      sagittal crest brow ridge postcranial

      the Leakey's: Louis, Mary,
      Richard, Meave
      Donald Johanson Raymond Dart Robert Broom
      Berhane Asfaw Tim White

      • Australopithecus (Ardipithecus) ramidus - provisional
      • Australopithecus anamensis- provisional
      • Australopithecus bahrelghazali- provisional
      • Australopithecus afarensis- gracile
      • Australopithecus africanus- gracile
      • Australopithecus garhi - gracile
      • Paranthropus robustus- robust
      • Paranthropus boisei- robust
      • Paranthropus aethiopicus- robust
      • you don't need to know time ranges for each species - know the ranges for each group instead (below)
      • time ranges for each group of australopithecine
        • provisional 4.4 - 3.0 mya
        • gracile 4.0 - 2.5 mya
        • robust 2.6 - 1.0 mya
        • provisional 450 cc
        • gracile 430 - 450 cc
        • robust 410 - 530 cc

        SITES AND SIGNIFICANT FINDS

        • 13 statements that summarize the australopithecines
        • physical differences between gracile and robust australopithecines
        • why Lucy is significant
        • why the Taung Child is significant
        • australopithecine cultural developments - what species may have had material culture and what types of artifacts
        • australopithecine distributions
          • east Africa: A. ramidus, A. anamensis, A. afarensis, A. garhi, P. boisei, P. aethiopicus
          • South Africa: A. africanus, P. robustus
          • Chad: A. bahrelghazali
          • Be able to identify these famous fossils and their species:
            • Lucy, page 241, A. afarensis
            • Zinj, page 227, P. boisei
            • Black skull, page 237, P. aethiopicus
            • Laetoli footprints, page 250, A. afarensis
            • Taung child, page 201, A. africanus

              The site of Kromdraai, South Africa is significant because


            ANTH 003 Final Exam Terms

            significance:
            -the name was applied in 1758 by the father of modern biological classification , Carolus Linnaeus
            -During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, they evolved in Africa.

            -brain case shape-short, rounded, tall
            -brow ridge-high forehead
            -nose-smaller nose
            -chin-protruding chin

            -Modern humans can generally be characterized by the lighter build of their skeletons compared to earlier humans.

            Modern humans have very large brains, which vary in size from population to population and between males and females, but the average size is approximately 1300 cubic centimeters. Housing this big brain involved the reorganization of the skull into what is thought of as "modern" -- a thin-walled, high vaulted skull with a flat and near vertical forehead.

            significance:
            -In 1908 near Heidelberg, Germany, a workman found the type specimen of H. heidelbergensis in the Rösch sandpit just north of the village of Mauer. This mandible was nearly complete except for the missing premolars and first two left molars it is heavily built and lacks a chin.

            significance:
            500, 000 ya H. heidelbergensis
            Earlier are H. antecessor

            -Believed to be the possible common ancestor of Neandertals and Homo sapiens. These remains, from Gran Dolina, are the subject of debate as some researchers believe that the juvenile they came from belonged not to Homo erectus but to a new species of hominid, Homo antecessor.
            -first came to light in the 1990s, is known almost entirely from one cave in northern Spain's Atapuerca Mountains. While working at the Gran Dolina site from 1994 to 1996, a team of Spanish researchers found 80 fossils belonging to six hominid individuals that lived roughly 800,000 years ago. The hominids' teeth were primitive like those of Homo erectus, but aspects of the hominid's face—particularly the shape of the nasal region and the presence of a facial depression above the canine tooth called the canine fossa—were modern, resembling features of modern people. The unique mix of modern and primitive traits led the researchers to deem the fossils a new species

            significance:
            -term comes from the original name (Lake Rudolf) for the Lake Turkana in northern Kenya
            -fossils possess large brain volumes (750-800ml) but also very large, australopithecine-size molar teeth and muscles
            -larger braincase, longer face, and larger molar and premolar teeth

            There is only one really good fossil of this Homo rudolfensis: KNM-ER 1470, from Koobi Fora in the Lake Turkana basin, Kenya. It has one really critical feature: a braincase size of 775 cubic centimeters, which is considerably above the upper end of H. habilis braincase size. At least one other braincase from the same region also shows such a large cranial capacity.

            significance:
            -stone tools made by this species date to between about 190,000 and 50,000 years old. H. floresiensis individuals stood approximately 3 feet 6 inches tall, had tiny brains, large teeth for their small size, shrugged-forward shoulders, no chins, receding foreheads, and relatively large feet due to their short legs. Despite their small body and brain size, H. floresiensis made and used stone tools, hunted small elephants and large rodents, coped with predators such as giant Komodo dragons, and may have used fire.

            significance:
            -A trove of bones hidden deep within a South African cave represents a new species of human ancestor

            -appears very primitive in some respects—it had a tiny brain, for instance, and apelike shoulders for climbing. But in other ways it looks remarkably like modern humans.

            significance:
            -strange distribution-southeast asia--not continuous with southeast Asia but it's there
            -"ghost" species, an entire branch unknown

            -scientists sequenced a sliver of a fossil pinky bone from Denisova cave in Siberia (a cave which has also been inhabited by Neanderthals and modern humans) and found genetic evidence of a new kind of human, related but not identical to neandertals

            significance:
            -Has a mix of human and Neanderthal traits genetic analysis suggests the individual had a close Neanderthal ancestor 4-6 generations back.

            -In 2015 genetics research revealed that the fossil had a recent Neanderthal ancestor, with an estimated 5-11% Neanderthal autosomal DNA. The specimen's 12th chromosome was also 50% Neanderthal.

            -Important because it's the first early European found to have such a close Neandertal ancestor

            -Reveals that early modern humans interbred with Neandertals when they first came to Europe.

            significance:
            The Neandertal record begins in eastern Europe, at the Krapina site in Croatia, dating to 130,000 yBP (Figure 11.17). The record ends with fossils from Vindija, Croatia, dating to 32,000 yBP.

            Measurement of stable isotopes of both nitrogen and carbon in the bones of Neandertals—from Scladina Cave (Belgium), Vindija Cave, and Marillac (France)—indicates that Neandertals ate lots of meat, at or nearly at the level of carnivores living at the same time and place (Figure 11.29). The chemical signature of diet, then, is a powerful indicator of Neandertals' effectiveness in acquiring and consuming animal protein. That is, it shows that Neandertals were successful hunters.

            The earliest modern H. sapiens were present as early as 32,000 yBP at Mladecˇ (Czech Republic). The latest archaic H. sapiens, the Neandertals, survived until at least 28,000 yBP at Vindija (Croatia). The overlap in dates between Neandertals and early modern humans indicates that the two groups coexisted in eastern Europe for at least 4,000 years.

            So far, only the Neandertal from Vindija has yielded enough nuclear DNA to provide a picture of the Neandertal genome. Interestingly, the structures of Neandertal and modern DNA overlap somewhat. Because nuclear DNA better represents the total genome, these findings indicate the strong possibility of gene flow between Neandertals and early modern humans.

            significance:
            -80% complete skeleton
            -The skeleton dates to about 1.6 mya, placing it on the boundary between the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. In contrast to Australopithecus and H. habilis, the Nariokotome hominid has several quintessentially modern anatomical features. One of the most striking modern characteristics is the relatively short arms and long legs. That is, the H. erectus body plan is much more like that of a living human in its ratio of arm length to leg length. This change in limb proportions in H. erectus signals the beginning of a major alteration in the pattern of bipedal locomotion: H. erectus became completely committed to terrestrial life by adopting a fully modern stride. Life in the trees became a thing of the past.
            Features of the pelvic bones and overall size indicate that the Nariokotome individual was likely a young adolescent male. He was quite tall, about 166 cm (66 in). Had he survived to adulthood, he would have grown to nearly 2 m (a little over 6 ft) in height. This change in height in comparison with H. habilis and the australopithecines indicates an enormous body size increase in this taxon (Fig-
            ure 10.9). In addition, the Nariokotome boy's cranial capacity was about 900 cc.

            Researchers have debated the exact age of "Nariokotome Boy," also known as "Turkana Boy," but he was likely around 11 years old. Discovered in 1984, this Homo erectus fossil is one of the most complete hominid skeletons ever found.

            significance:
            Ethiopians produced a hydroelectric dam → starving Lake Turkana → possible desertification
            Turkana people won't be able to use the lake
            Active oil resources
            Oil price dropped and it was abandoned
            Human evolution → the lower the lakes are, the more fossils to be found

            significance:
            this cave was excavated in the 1920s-40s, revealing the remains of Homo erectus.
            The site yielding the most impressive H. erectus remains in East Asia. After being discovered in the 1920s, the cave was excavated into the early 1940s. Deposits dating to 600,000-400,000 yBP contained, in fragments, the bones and teeth of 40-50 individuals, as well as many stone tools and food remains. Tragically, the entire collection of priceless bones was lost during World War II, late in 1941. Fortunately, shortly before the loss, the eminent German anatomist and anthropologist Franz Weidenreich (1873-1948) had thoroughly studied the bones and teeth, written detailed scientific reports, and made cast replicas, drawings, and photographs (Figure 10.18). This record has allowed scientists to continue studying the Zhoukoudian remains.
            Excavations at Zhoukoudian revealed evidence for controlled fire use, including burned animal bones, burned stone tools, burned plants, charcoal, ash, ostrich egg shells, and hackberry seeds. The presence of burned plant and animal remains indicates that in addition to constructing fire to stay warm in a very cold climate, Homo erectus used fire to cook food. Prior to using fire, hominids ate both plants
            and animals raw. But cooking these foods made them easier to chew and, as a result, made their predecessors' very powerful jaws and large teeth less necessary.

            significance:
            -Israel, This site offered evidence for the first indication of modern humans outside of Africa, about 100,000 yrs old.

            The remains of seven adults and three children were found, some of which may have been deliberate burials (Skhul 5 for example a burial with the mandible of a wild boar on the chest. The skull displays prominent ridges and jutting jaw, but the rounded braincase of modern humans. When found, it was assumed to be an advanced Neanderthal, but is today generally assumed to be a modern human, if a very robust one)

            -Earliest evidence for deliberate burial of the dead was found here, dating to about 115,000 years ago in northern Israel.
            -Suggested that it represented the origins of symbolic behavior, or at least religious beliefs and the concept of the self.

            -Performed not just by modern humans but also by Neandertals
            -the people and the evidence/actions is preceded by neandertals but then also followed by neandertals
            -could be the dating is worng
            -modern humans were coexisting
            -they were traveling through
            -modern human invasion then repelled by
            neandertals
            -their groups didn't just go away, they
            occupied the areas and interacted


            Sunday, June 27, 2010

            The Royal Ontario Museum Hosts the Terracotta Army

            TORONTO.- The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosts the Canadian premiere of The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army from June 26, 2010. Prior to its embarking on a Canadian national tour, the exhibition will be displayed in the Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall on Level B2 of the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal until January 2, 2011.

            The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army showcases one of the most significant archaeological finds in history: the 1974 discovery, in Shaanxi province in north-central China, of thousands of life-sized terracotta sculptures of Chinese warriors.


            ‘Relatives’ of Neanderthals discovered among human skulls

            A large collection of ancient fossils — including 17 complete skulls — found in a cave in Spain has yielded the oldest known ancestors of Neanderthals, scientists said Thursday, complicating the picture of how the ancient species may have evolved.

            Paleontologists pieced together the skulls using 6,500 fossil fragments from at least 28 humans dated at 430,000 years old and discovered in a cave, Sima de los Huesos (“Pit of Bones”), in Atapuerca, Spain. The fossils were discovered 30 years ago, but scientists recently conducted a new analysis of several of the skulls using techniques that became available only in recent years — and discovered that the remains were about 100,000 years younger than previously thought.

            And in a new paper published in the journal Science, paleontologists said that these ancient humans shared some key characteristics with Neanderthals — particularly their strong and prominent jaws and teeth — and that they also shared other characteristics with more primitive humans. The findings lend credence to the theory that the ancient Neanderthal species evolved gradually and that multiple species and subspecies of Neanderthals may have co-existed.

            “It is now clear that the full suite of Neanderthal characteristics did not evolve at the same pace,” paleontologist Juan-Luis Arsuaga, a professor at Complutense University in Madrid and lead author of the paper, told reporters on Thursday.

            He compared this theory of Neanderthal evolution with a premise of the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” with multiple co-existing “kingdoms” of Neanderthals battling it out and replacing other species or subspecies multiple times, rather than just one group of Neanderthals that eventually lost out to modern-day humans.

            “Hominin evolution was not a peaceful and boring process of very slow change throughout time and across an immense land,” he told reporters.

            During various periods, when thick layers of ice spread over parts of Eurasia, the different subspecies had to decide whether to migrate south or go extinct, he explained. “In those times, as in the popular saga, winter was coming. And winter came many times,” he said.

            While the scientists said they need to examine more fossils from other sites before they can speculate further, “given the present state of knowledge, we think that the ‘Game of Thrones’ scenario probably describes hominin evolution in Eurasia and Africa in the Middle Pleistocene period,” Arsuaga said.

            The Middle Pleistocene runs from 780,000 to 130,000 years ago, during which scientists believe that a group of people split off from others living in Africa and East Asia and settled in Eurasia, evolving into the Neanderthal lineage of humans.

            This discovery shows that Neanderthals may have first developed the facial and teeth characteristics related to chewing, later developing the prominent skull and larger brains that typify younger Neanderthal fossils — characteristics lacking in the Sima de los Huesos bones.

            “It seems these modifications had to do with an intensive use of the frontal teeth,” Arsuaga said. “The incisors show a great wear, as if they had been used as a third hand — typical of Neanderthals.”

            Neanderthals are believed to have co-existed with modern humans that later migrated to Eurasia and likely interbred. But reproductive incompatibility between the two species — paired with the Neanderthal tendency to live in relatively small groups — may have caused them to die out.

            Prior to the analysis of the Sima de los Huesos bones, fossils from this period did not shed much light on human evolution during Middle Pleistocene because they are few and far between.

            “What makes the Sima de los Huesos site unique is the extraordinary and unprecedented accumulation of hominin fossils there,” Arsuaga said in a news release. “Nothing quite so big has ever been discovered for any extinct hominin species, including Neanderthals.”


            New discovery fills gap in Atapuerca’s history of human evolution

            />One of the 600,000-year-old tools found in Spain's Atapuerca site. AOC/EIA

            Two sharp quartzite stones carved by a hominid 600,000 years ago have just provided the missing piece of the puzzle at the Atapuerca archeological site in Burgos, in northern Spain. While small in size, the find provides evidence of an uninterrupted human presence in the area from 1.4 million years ago to the present day.

            “Thanks to this discovery, Atapuerca is the only site that can tell the entire history of human evolution in Europe with all of its human species,” says paleoanthropologist María Martinón-Torres, director of the National Research Center on Human Evolution and a veteran at the Burgos site. “These are precisely the pieces we needed to complete the puzzle.”

            Experts had long been stumped by the sudden lack of evidence of hominids in Atapuerca spanning hundreds of thousands of years. The first human fossils found here date back 1.2 million years and belong to an unidentified primitive hominid, although there are stone tools that date back as far as 1.4 million years.

            Then, 850,000 years ago, a completely new species appeared: Homo antecessor, whose fossils and tools have been unearthed along with the remains of his carnivorous meals, both animal and human. Subsequently, there is a mysterious interim with no evidence of a human presence until the pre-Neanderthals arrived about 400,000 years ago. “What happened?” says Martinón-Torres. “Did they abandon the cave did its roof collapse? Had the humans left or did we not know how to find them?”

            />A file photo of a dig at Atapuerca in July 2007. AP

            Like H. antecessor’s artifacts, the two new tools were found at the Gran Dolina dig, in strata corresponding to between 500,000 and 600,000 years ago. Used for cutting meat, these tools build a bridge linking the H. antecessor period with that of the new hominids – the pre-Neanderthals whose remains were found in another part of the site known as the Sima de los Huesos (Pit of the Bones).

            Later, around 110,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were already fully formed as a species at Atapuerca, as evidenced by the remains of a toe and tools found in the Statues Gallery. There they remained until about 40,000 years ago, when their entire species was wiped out. Finally, Homo sapiens showed up, occupying the area from the Neolithic period, around 7,000 years ago, until the present day.

            “I don’t think there is any other site in the world where all the human species to inhabit Europe have been found: pre-Homo antecessor, Homo antecessor, pre-Neanderthals, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens,” says Martinón-Torres.


            The skulls, like Skull 17 being reconstructed here, fill a gap in scientific knowledge for human origins during the heart of the Pleistocene, some 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, the researchers said. During that time period archaic humans split from other groups living in Africa and East Asia and ultimately settled down in Eurasia where they evolved to have features that would define the Neanderthal lineage. Several hundred thousand years later, modern humans also settled in Eurasia, possibly interbreeding with Neanderthals, the researchers noted.

            To answer questions about this divergence between Neanderthals and modern humans, scientists have needed a clear image of human populations at around the time of the split-off, some 400,000 years ago. The skulls and other hominin specimens from Sima de los Huesos in Spain will help to fill that gap. Here, a reconstruction of the hominin skull 17 from the Spanish cave.


            Early Cannibalism Tied to Territorial Defense?

            The earliest known instance of cannibalism among hominids occurred roughly 800,000 years ago. The victims, mainly children, may have been eaten as part of a strategy to defend territories against neighbors, researchers report online in the Journal of Human Evolution. The new study shows how anthropologists use the behavior of modern humans and primates to make inferences about what hominids did in the past—and demonstrates the limitations of such comparisons.

            The cannibalism in question was discovered in the Gran Dolina cave site of Spain’s Atapuerca Mountains. Eudald Carbonell of the University of Rovira and Virgili in Spain and colleagues found evidence of butchering on bones belonging to Homo antecessor, a controversial species that lived in Europe as early as 1.2 million years ago. Because no other hominid species has been found in the region at the same time as the butchered bones, the victims must have been eaten by their own kind, the team concluded in 2010 in the journal Current Anthropology (PDF).

            Today, human cannibalism occurs in a variety of contexts: for nutritional value (often in times of starvation), as part of funerary rituals or during warfare. The different purposes of cannibalism can leave different patterns in the archaeological record. When humans consume other humans for purely dietary reasons, the victims are often treated just like any other prey. This is what the researchers found at Gran Dolina. Eleven individuals were butchered in a manner similar to that of deer and other mammals: Bones had cut marks in areas of muscle attachments and the skulls had signs of defleshing. Thus, H. antecessor appeared to eat its own kind for a nutritional purpose—but probably not because of a food shortage, as the team says there’s evidence of cannibalism over an extended period of time, dozens or even hundreds of years.

            So why cannibalism? To find an answer, the researchers looked to chimpanzees. That’s because some aspects of H. antecessor cannibalism don’t resemble those of contemporary human cannibalism or cannibalism seen in Neanderthals or early modern humans living 100,000 years ago. For instance, nine of the 11 butchered individuals at Gran Dolina were children or adolescents compared with the largely adult victims of more recent human cannibalism.

            Young victims is a pattern seen among chimpanzees. When female chimps range alone near the boundary of their territory, males from the neighboring group may kill and eat the females’ infants. Carbonell and his colleagues suggest the best explanation for this behavior is territorial defense and expansion. Males may attack to scare off other chimps as a way to protect their resources and gain new land to roam such attacks are easiest against vulnerable females and their young, which make good meals. The team likewise concludes a similar explanation may have been the motivation behind H. antecessor cannibalism.

            Whether this is a reasonable conclusion depends on some unanswered questions. For example, the researchers assume that the cannibalism was the result of intergroup violence and aggression, but they offer no evidence that the H. antecessor cannibals came from a different group than the victims. If they were all members of the same clan, then territorial defense doesn’t seem likely. It also seems unlikely if H. antecessor‘s social structure was vastly different from chimps—in which groups of probably related males band together to actively defend a territory while females in a community often forage alone with their infants.


            "Archaeology and Word Heritage in Spain" SUMMER COURSE

            During the 7th, 8th and 9th of July 2010, the Summer Course "Archaeology and Word Heritage in Spain" was celebrated within the Summer School Program of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, which took place in San Lorenzo del Escorial (Madrid).

            Here you can find several abstracts of different lectures presented in the course:


            Alicia Castillo y Mª Ángeles Querol
            Asoociate Professor and Full Professor. Prehistory Departament, School of History and Geography.
            Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

            New perspectives in Archaeological World Heritage management

            Every research entails a social responsibility hence, the study of the Archaeological heritage within the Cultural Heritage aims to help to achieve a better understanding of ourselves, to respect ourselves and to improve our life quality.
            Cultural Heritage has been a changing concept in time, because society decides what is of value and needs to be protected at each moment in history. It is therefore a concept in constant change, which cannot be defined as something invariable. Cultural Heritage includes the material and immaterial goods, movable or sites, forming our past, and those which society decides to protect. The protection of each of them is very different.

            Archaeological Heritage is defined as the goods liable to be studied using an archaeological methodology. Thus, all cultural goods can be studied in an archaeological way. The archaeological dimension is present in most sites and places and especially so in the World Heritage sites.

            World Heritage has been chosen for the research study performed because it includes an international and social recognition, it involves various social agents, it offers a greater accessibility to basic information. In addition, the variety of goods has been studied from multiple perspectives, and it is basic to highlight also the importance of the Paris Convention applied to these goods. At the same time, Spain is the country with the greatest number of World Heritage declared sites, after Italy.

            World Heritage should be a model, both in research and in protection and management of the archaeological sites, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. A model for treating these goods does not exit, and that is what this research aims to develop.

            The model is based on Preventive Archaeology, defined as the strategies to avoid the damage of the archaeological sites, especially menaced by the construction works, and soil movements. Preventive archaeology is based on:

            - To know the territory and rank the possible archaeological sites, in order of importance. It is necessary to update the information of the archaeological letters and at the same time to study the declarations and inventories together with the selection of the most representative sites.

            - To handle this information before the urban planning is performed, so as to establish the preventive measures: reserve areas and caution areas.

            - To avoid destructive archaeological interventions (excavations).

            Spain has gone through several phases in Archaeological Management:

            1º- Lack of management, until 1933.

            2º- Findings and urgent measures phase, from 1933 to 1985, where mainly a rescue archaeology from the museums.

            3º- Preventive Archaeology first period, 1985–2000, where a safety archaeology is performed locating the sites and excavating them before the works are initiated.

            4º- Preventive Archaeology second period, 2000–2010, characterized by the prior localization of the sites, their inclusion in land and urban planning, studies before the approval of construction works, etc.

            In this new model, the role of the administration is extremely important in relation to the management system, including archaeological heritage in the land and environmental planning regulations, performing sites inventories, etc. It is also fundamental the effort being done towards the diffusion of the sites within society, so that it is better valued, known and therefore protected.


            Victor Fernández Salinas
            Member of ICOMOS Directive Committee. Associate Professor of Human Geography. Faculty of History and Geography. Universidad de Sevilla

            ICOMOS and its role regarding World Heritage declaration and treatment of goods

            It is important to highlight the International cooperation underpinning the Paris Covention of World Heritage. The speaker remembers the origin of WH, which was originated by the need to save the Abu Simbel temple, among others, when the Assuan dam was going to be constructed. With it, the process of internalization in Heritage begins: it is a great international cooperation effort.

            The centre of World Heritage located in Paris serves as a mediator between UNESCO and the state parties. Spain ratified the convention and adapted its laws, and administrative and scientific-technical regulations to fulfil their needs.

            Heritage is always a matter of reflection, and sometimes, abstract issues interest more than the concrete ones: the human values and scientific criteria underlying the good. In addition, Heritage needs to be considered as a resource, as capital.

            Regarding World Heritage, there is no difference between natural and cultural heritage. Indeed everything is cultural heritage, and society is the one who decides, values and protects. We should only use the term World Heritage and not Human Heritage, since natural heritage is not a development born as a result of human work.

            During the last century, drastic changes have taken place regarding heritage: from 19th century up until today, the heritage importance has shifted from the object to the subject, the one who assess. Indeed, heritage generates identity.

            When estimating a heritage site rather than another one, it is of great importance to value the personal experience and emotion it raises. At times, the collective values form specific local areas, have greater significance to encourage a recognition for a specific heritage good, although it might not be understood by the others.

            The three pillars of heritage social legitimization nowadays correspond to:
            a) Importance of authenticity
            b) Defence of public goods. Heritage belongs to the collectivity and its values are shared values.
            c) Development factor, both cultural and economic.

            In the Letter of Venice (1964), concept such as cultural good are stated. This letter works as the seed for what will later become ICOMOS.

            ICOMOS is a technical organization of experts. It is neither political nor administrative, and its aim is the heritage research and conservation. This organization actively participates, in collaboration with UNESCO, in the management of World Heritage in different ways:
            - counselling in file writing
            - missions and revisions of office work
            - report in the World Heritage panel Committee
            - reactive missions
            - other counselling for the World Heritage Centre

            This organization works through its international committees and national ones.

            It is necessary to think about the weaknesses of World Heritage: Does it serve any purposes? Does being in the list of World Heritage generate risks? Is this list geographically well balanced?

            The main problems affecting World Heritage sites in Spain refer to the tourist excessive exploitation, the real estate dynamics, inappropriate management of the goods, the failure to comply with the acquired compromises with UNESCO or the problems derived from incomplete or not precise file records.


            Laura de Miguel
            Art historian. Head of Department, General Sub directorate of Historic Heritage Protection. Ministry of Culture.

            The role of the State in World Heritage in Spain

            Presently, there are 186 countries, which have joined the Convention on World Heritage protection from UNESCO (Paris, November 16th, 1972). 148 of those countries have goods inscribed in the list of World Heritage. This list includes 890 goods 689 of which are cultural ones, 176 are natural ones, and 25 of them are mixed ones.

            Spain has a great quantity of goods declared as World Heritage: historic centres, monuments, natural goods, mixed goods, cultural landscapes, cultural itineraries, contemporary architecture, etc. Some of these goods are especially related to the Prehistory period and archaeology, such as the Altamira Caves, Médulas, Mérida, Atapuerca, archaeological site of Tarragona, or the rock paintings and cave art of the Iberian Peninsula.

            The Convention on Worlds Heritage regulates and manages the goods declared as such. The different organizations that intervene are:

            - World Heritage Committee, formed by 21 State parties, which meet annually. Its role is to apply the World Heritage Convention.

            - World Heritage Centre, headquarters in Paris. Its functions are the daily Management of the Convention, the organizing the Committee sessions, the technical follow up, state of conservation of the goods, diffusion, organization of seminars, etc.

            On May 18th, 1982 Spain accepts and signs the World Heritage Convention, and as a result, a new jurisdictional and administrative adaptation takes place, adopting new legal dispositions (distribution of competences among the Autonomous Regions and the State), administrative dispositions and measures for the scientific and technical research.

            In addition, new roles are set to the different institutions, which should look after the Spanish World Heritage, as for example the Spanish Committee for the Cooperation with UNESCO, or the Spanish Permanent Delegation at UNESCO and the Historic Heritage Council. A new agreement between Spain and NESCO is signed.

            Inscription of a good in the World Heritage list implies the following process:

            - Inscription of the good in the Indicative List (e.g. presently on this list are the Ribeira Sacra (Lugo y Orense), the cultural space of Romanesque Art in the North of Castilla and Leon and South of Cantabria, or the Vía de la Plata).
            - A file is drawn by the local, regional and state administrations, together with the Historic Heritage Council, ICOMOS, etc.
            - An assessment of the good is performed on site by the counselling committees, which write a report to be presented at the World Heritage Committee.
            - The good is declared World Heritage and included in the list by the World Heritage Committee.

            The declaration of a good as World Heritage implies both advantages and duties and compromises. Among the advantages are the honour recognition, the UNESCO support and the greater diffusion of the good with the encouragement of tourism.

            However, compromises and duties are also stated, such as the duty to inform the changes in the good limits and the name of the good, the modification of acting criteria on the good to be protected, or the periodic information on the conservation state of the good.

            Once the good has been inscribed in the list of World Heritage, UNESCO will track the development of the good: by demanding reports every six years, by reactive monitoring (annual) and by strengthened monitoring (if there is a conflictive situation demanding an immediate action).

            If a good does not comply with the duties implied in being in the WH list, it can be moved to the list of WH in danger, or even removed completely from the list.

            There is an evident imbalance observed in the list with the goods inscribed. For example, the vast majority of goods are concentrated in the Western world (Europe) and other continents are scarcely represented (Africa). At the same time there is a supremacy of cultural goods over natural ones or mixed ones.

            In order to solve these unbalances a “Global Strategy” has been suggested. This implies four objectives: credibility, conservation, communication and training.


            Ana Julia de Miguel Cabrera
            Architect. General Subdirector of Protection and Conservation. Historic Heritage General Directorate, Madrid Autonomous Region.

            World Heritage sites in Madrid Autonomous Region and their management

            The Autonomous region of Madrid is characterized by the high population density concentrated in a rather small land surface, when compared to other Spanish regions. Madrid has three sites declared World Heritage by UNESCO: El Escorial (1984), Alcalá de Henares (1998) and the Real Sitio de Aranjuez (2001). The first and third ones are, in addition, part of National Trust, and hence of State ownership.

            Madrid Autonomous region has the competences regarding monumental Heritage transferred and they are regulated by the Law of Historical Heritage of Madrid Autonomous Region from 1998. Goods declared World Heritage must have maximum protection in the National and Regional legislation, which is the “Bien de Interés Cultural” BIC (Cultural Interest Good in Spanish acronym). The local Historic Heritage Committees actively participate in the management of world heritage.

            The three places pose many difficulties for their management, since different administration and Institutions need to be coordinated and work together. In addition, in the three cases, there is a problem of boundaries, because the borders and limits defined by Word Heritage (as cultural sites) do not coincide with the areas to be protected as BIC (Autonomous Region regulations).

            The speaker comments in detail the three sites: El Escorial, Alcalá de Henares and Aranjuez.

            In the case of El Escorial, it is highlighted that the 16th century building itself is protected, but also, the declaration includes the presence of a singular landscape, which needs to be protected as well. It is very difficult to establish and define a protection area and a buffer zone, as the regulations and protection laws of Madrid Autonomous Region, National Trust and Word Heritage are entwined.

            Another case is the situation of Alcalá de Henares, where the problem lies in the fact that the archaeological sites are not located within the protection area declared World Heritage, indeed they are outside that area. This adds a difficulty in managing this site and reinforces the need to lump together the two types of Heritage present at the same place.

            Regarding the cultural landscape of Aranjuez, once again, the definition of cultural interest good and that of World Heritage do not coincide, and a big area of the city and landscape is left aside from the historic site declared by the UNESCO.

            The speaker concludes by stressing the need of a coordination program among the different administrations when establishing the protection areas and buffer zones, as well as establishing clear competence limitations for each of the administrations.


            Rosa Ruiz Entrecanales
            Archaeologist. Coordinator of World Heritage Issues. Ávila City Council

            Ávila City Council: World Heritage treatment from the local perspective

            Ávila was declared World Heritage on December 4th, 1985, and this declaration has been recently enlarged, in July 2007.

            From the municipality the main aim is to valorize the Historic Heritage of the city. Therefore, a management plan and a tourist excellence plan have been drawn in order to achieve the city to be alive, granting its identity and preserving and protecting its Heritage.

            The protection and conservation plan of the Historic town is carried out by following:
            - the General Plan of Urban Planning (PGOU)

            - the Special Protection Plan of the Historic city of Ávila (PEPCHA) and its catalogue. This plan includes the following objectives:

            - the compelling development of the Management Plan derived from the declaration of World Heritage and which is already in the process of being finished.

            - the Tourist Excellence Plan

            All of this needs to follow the criteria of:

            - Integration of the historic town within the structure of the city, maintaining the flexibility of its uses. This comprises the need of the historic centre to be re-equipped to fulfil modern needs, and it is of great importance to improve the accessibility and parking problem within the historic town.

            - Favour conservation by protecting the most valuable elements by an individualized and detailed catalogue. At the same time, the traditional image needs to be preserved by an in depth study to define the structure. Archaeology will contribute to further increasing the knowledge by applying archaeological zoning interventions, which should later be included in the urban planning.

            - In addition, construction conditions should be established, which allow to reproduce the volume and traditional occupation of the blocks already remodelled.

            - To recover the public spaces now lost and to improve the present ones when its state jeopardizes its use.

            - To eliminate, by proposed precise and detailed actions, those harmful interventions performed which have damaged the traditional image of the place.


            Susana Mora
            Architect. Associate professor. School of Architecture.
            Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

            Archaeological Heritage and restoration in World Heritage sites in Spain

            The speaker starts her lecture establishing the theoretical framework in which the talk is going to unfold. She explains the meaning of restoration through the different time periods and later she follows a practical journey showing different examples of how restoration have been carried out in various World Heritage cities.

            The speaker talks about the restoration works performed by Spain in 1738 in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in Italy, and which raised the fruitful and never-ending debate about what to do with the ruins.

            The ruins have been an object of study Turing the last centuries (especially in the 18th, 19th and 20th Century) and have provoked excitement, fascination and at the same time it has been seen as something aesthetic which needs to be preserved to be shown publicly.

            The issue is not to reconstruct the previously existing monument but to preserve the ruin as something valuable in itself.

            The value of ruin changes through time, and the journey books, or books of travels from the 18th century reflect the importance given to the ruin, which had this great evocation power. This evocation of the ruin in many cases was of both love and hate. On the other hand, the French were also very attracted to the architectural ruins of the Greek and Roman world, and they tried to represent and preserve the spirit and not the formal particularities.

            The key element in every restoration is the scientific rigour. Ruins should be protected and together with the scientific rigour, they can be better understood and the architectural process behind them known.

            A clear distinction between live monuments and dead monuments has to be established. In the last case, the ruin should be preserved simply by consolidating it, whereas the live monuments have to be restored for its use, so that they are kept being alive.

            However, we can ask ourselves, what is to restore? and the answer is not an easy one, since in heritage conservation many different and heterogeneous vision of restoring can be found and that seems to produce a great confusion.

            Three main types of restoration can be found according to the type and time period:
            - archaeological restoration
            - the so called pictorial restoration
            - and finally the architectural restoration

            Rome has always been a reference in restoration. In Rome, remains an ruins appear alter each intervention. This poses problem for the urban landscape, but we should live with the ruins in this aesthetic approach. Ruins are evocation, but they also are invitations to study and research more about them. How was is constructed? How would they have been? Nothing should be closed beforehand. One has to live with the essence and the temporary. The ruin is not only scenery it is also the domestic, the daily routine. Respect of the past involves its knowledge.

            The speaker shows then different examples of restoration works performed in various World Heritage cities such as Rome, Segovia, Toledo or Cuenca. One needs to ask ourselves, What for? Where? How? Where are the limits? and then establish the priorities very clearly.


            Pablo Latorre González-Moro
            Architect. Fundación Caja Madrid

            Archaeology and Heritage in the restoration of the Hércules Tower

            The speaker starts defining Archaeology as a tool of a historic discipline and clarifies the difference among concepts frequently confused such as multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. The study of the monuments is always multidisciplinary: several disciplines intervene in the study and research of the monument, but in order to draw conclusions, to understand and contextualize the monument in Architecure, it is necessary to incorporate the interdisciplinarity, which refers to the relations among things. At the same time, each intervention on a monument is unique and hence, it should be transdisciplinar.

            The speaker follows the talk with the concept of irreversibility, which rules our lives. The reality we live in is irreversible and each moment reflects a material and historic reality. Time is inexorable, and it is going to change reality no matter what. Due to this fact, reversibility does not exist, it has no sense, it is a fallacy.

            Monuments are the material reflection of a historic reality, and are the best memory objects. Memory is understood as giving existence to others.

            The restoration performed on the Hércules Tower has been an illustrated restoration, a result of a thorough research study, and a deep knowledge, which has resulted in one of the best restorations ever performed.
            From the exterior, the tower is Neoclassical and nothing makes us think that it is a Roman tower in origin.
            When the first restoration works were accomplished, the tower was in absolute ruin. A helicoidal chase running through the entire tower remained. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was used as a lighthouse.
            The great historian Cornide describes and details this monument before the Neoclassical restoration. He studies the sources of the monument and suggests a scientifically justified reconstruction (what still remains, what can still be seen, what is not there any longer, what has disappeared). Later, in the 29th century, in the 50’s some other studies were carried out by Hutter revealing the possibility that it could have been a prismatic tower with a hangover ramp something which is extremely difficult to construct without something surrounding and supporting it.
            Representations of the lighthouse from the Middle Ages have remained, and among them the one from the world map of the Beato del Burgo de Osma (1086) is to be highlighted. On the other hand, during this period, the tower was related to all sorts of events, legends and myths referring to Hercules and Gerion, who are also represented in different images.
            In the 1990’s, after having studied all the documentation available and the studies performed, the restoration began.
            It is a monument with almost no openings, solid, make of stone, surrounded by a Neoclasical cover envelope, which hides the original Roman tower. The speaker comments and details the reconstruction process and with it the constructive process of the tower is revealed.
            The tower was in a terrible state, in completely abandoned and deteriorated surroundings, and the restoration was to give the tower back its full value. Probably, this has also promoted its declaration as World Heritage in 2009.


            Sebastián Rascón Marqués
            Dr. Archaeologist. Head of the Archaeology Department.
            Town Council of Alcalá de Henares

            Urban archaeological heritage in Alcalá de Henares

            The location of Alcalá de Henares is marked by the Henares river, forming on the left bank steep slopes. This area has been occupied since the Neolithic times, but especially from the Calcolithic period. It can be said that the present city is settled on the Roman world, since it has been a strategic point in the communication passages between Mérida and Zaragoza. However, the population settlement changes through time until the Medieval period. Indeed, now three main period with three main settlements can be traced:
            a) during the Late Antiquity, with the Christian time, the core is Burgo de Santiuste.
            b) during the Islamic period, in the Paz fortress, the centre is back at the hills and
            c) from the modern times, the Christian nucleus comes back into use and develops becoming the Baroque city we now know.

            Probably the main characteristic of this city is its heterogeneity and dispersion of the archaeological sites within a broad area. The ownership of many of significant archaeological sites found in Alcalá is municipal.

            Regarding the management and regulations of these sites, there is already an archaeological letter since 1974, which is being updated yearly. The subsidiary norms of 1984 state the protection of the Heritage. There is also a Consortium, composed by the city council, the General Directive of Historic Heritage and the University of Alcalá that manages the archaeological sites. In addition, there is a Historic Heritage Counsellorship since 2003 and a Department of Archaeology, from which many Archaeological projects have been promoted.

            The World Heritage declaration of Alcalá is from 1998 (which can be used as an advantage).
            The Historic Heritage web of Alcalá is based on three pillars: conservation, research and diffusion (museum).

            A very large Roman site of the city of Complutum has already been opened to the public, where it is possible to visit the Forum and the House of the Grifos, and it also includes an interpretation centre still under construction. The house of Hyppolytus, outside the wall, is open for visits since 1999. Presently, works are being done to restore the city walls and the Achibishop’s palaces (former city fortress) with an interpretation centre already open, that of Burgo de Santiuste.

            Together with the archaeological Works being carried out, a variety of educational Workshops about archaeology and Heritage to teach and train people in specialized works on the issue.


            Milagros Burón Álvarez
            Director of the Restoration and Conservation Centre of Cultural Goods.
            Junta de Castilla y León

            Atapuerca’s Management plan

            First of all, when talking about Atapuerca, it needs to be pointed out that it is a natural environment which includes a great surface that needs to be protected. It includes a great depression with more than 130 archaeological sites, although only 30 are considered as BIC (Cultural Interest Good in Spanish acronym). It is necessary to value heritage altogether and not in an isolated manner and also provide for a sustainable development to maintain the activities traditionally performed in the area.

            The management plan for Atapuerca is still in the draft shape and all the administrations involved in the Cultural Landscape have to work together, which causes many difficulties and complex agreements.

            The Management plan is based on five points:
            - Land characterization
            - Identification of values that need to be protected
            - Establishing the boundaries of the Cultural Interest Good and the buffer zones
            - Establishing the norms and regulations
            - Establishing a Committee to develop the plan.

            The philosophy of the plan is integrative and includes the natural and cultural values, the boundaries and zoning of the cultural good and its buffer zone, as well as, the different criteria to follow for the actions to take place so that it ensures a more rational and logical management. The plan is to have a normative character.

            Within the cultural values needed to protect, a classification and categorization of the archaeological goods founded has to be established, regarding the quality and quantity .

            The geographical area where Atapuerca is located has encouraged the mobility of human groups through history. It is placed on a calcaric stratum with Kars tic phenomena. It mainly comprises:
            1. Railway trench where the Gran Dolina and the Elephant abyss is found
            2. Great Cave site where the Abyss of the Bones is found.
            3. Open air sites including the Orchid Valley and the Pleistocene Terraces.

            Atapuerca’s importance stands on the findings related to the Pleistocene and the human origin. Also, this area was a corridor, a passageway for human communities all through History. For example, it is an area where the Saint Jacob pilgrimage way interlaces, and where there are important stonework quarries and traditional agricultural and fishing activities. All of this gives the historic territory a functional cohesion.

            In addition, natural values are also to be considered: flora, fauna, geology, as well as traditional agricultural and farming activities…etc., as it is a platform surrounded by river valleys.

            In order to analyze and define the boundaries of the Cultural Landscape, a study has been carried out based on geographic analysis, historical research …until a final proposal of area of influence has been drawn.

            This management plan aims to ensure the authenticity values avoiding element of distortion and ensuring the interconnection of natural, landscape and archaeological elements.


            Pilar Fatás
            Subdirector of the National Museum and Research Centre of Altamira

            Altamira cave and its museum

            Altamira is the masterpiece of the Cave Art and represents the highest development of the prehistoric rock painting together with a representation of the daily life during the Prehistory.

            After a long debate raised by the rock paintings discovered in the Altamira cave by Santaola, finally, in 1902 the paintings were recognized as authentic.

            During de 1960’s the cave undergoes a period of massive tourism reaching up to 177.000 visitants in one year. This produced, as expected, damages and injuries, as well as major degradation problems in the cave. At the same time, many changes and incorporation of different infrastructure element were added in the inside so that the visitors could see it: handrails, stairs, light system…and several consolidations of cracks and patches or spallings. This produced a major problem of instability in the paintings.

            In 1978 the Ministry of Culture decided to buy the property of the cave and to close it to the public so as to determine the damages caused to the painting during all this time. A year later, the research centre and National museum of Altamira is constructed and rigorous and constant controls and measurements are being performed. In 1982 the cave is reopened for the public but with a careful and highly controlled number of visits which are extremely restricted. In 1985, the cave is inscribed in the World Heritage list fulfilling criteria numbers 1 and 3 and is recognized internationally although only a very brief report (about 10 pages long) highlighting the value of the cave was completed.

            Later, in 1997 a new museum was constructed, which has received the favourable ICOMOS report in 2001. During 2005 and 2007 periodical reports are dawn insisting on the main weakness of the cave: its natural fragility. In 2008, an enlargement of the declaration is achieved which is now a joint Palaeolithic rock art of the Cantabrian cornice, from which Altamira is its greatest representation.

            The new Neocave is mainly a diffusion element in which a real three-dimensional reproduction of the cave has been achieved, not a virtual one. Together with it, the permanent exhibition of the Prado Museum is one of the best ones in Spain, and it has become a landmark regarding archaeological exhibitions.

            Presently, a controversy has been raised about the reopening of the cave. However, the Board of Advisors of Altamira has just declared that they have established a time for the experts to determine if the reopening is possible or not and under what conditions.


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