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Modern analysis of ancient foci reveals Neandertal settlement patterns

Modern analysis of ancient foci reveals Neandertal settlement patterns

Field photograph of the Neanderthal combustion structure and microscopic photograph of organic components in the black layer of the combustion structure. Credit: Leierer et al, 2019

Remains of ancient fires testify to the mobility and colonization of the Neanderthal group and indicate specific occupation episodes, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE April 24, 2019 by Lucia Leierer and colleagues from the Universidad de La Laguna, Spain.

Most Paleolithic household activities are thought to have been around fires or fires. The author of the present study chose to examine the El Salt site of the Middle Paleolithic in Spain, which contains eleven well preserved and overlapping open-pit hearth structures. Previously, it was unclear whether these outbreaks were formed during successive short-term occupations at the site or in fewer occupations and in the longer term. The authors examined the micromorphology of the different layers within the focus structures to evaluate the periods of occupation in the study unit and performed a lipid biomarker analysis and isotopic analysis in order to To obtain information on potential sources of food and fuel.

The results of the analyzes show stratified foci built on several different soils over different periods. Burnt organic matter in homes El Salt is rich in herbivore droppings and flowering plant residues. The presence of flint and bone chips, as well as coniferous charcoal collected from trees not present on the site, testifies to limited activity at the site. The authors suggest that these data indicate at least four successive occupations of Neanderthal in the short term, separated by relatively long periods of time, potentially based on the seasons.

The authors suggest that their molecular and micromorphological methods would work well at similar Paleolithic sites where fires were created. Their findings provide evidence of successive Neandertal occupations in the short term at this site and could shed light on our understanding of Neanderthal group mobility and colonization more generally.

Leierer adds: "Micromorphology combined with lipid biomarker analysis is a powerful approach for studying archaeological contexts related to anthropogenic combustion in a microstratigraphic perspective, which can provide valuable information about the timing and timing of the study. intensity of Neanderthal occupations as well as the natural setting of the site are key factors of group mobility and settlement patterns. "

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More information:
Leierer L, Jambrina-Enríquez M, Herrera-Herrera AV, Connolly R, Hernández CM, Galván B, et al. (2019) Overview of the geoarchaeological study of combustion structures on the moment, intensity and natural setting of the Neanderthal occupation: micromorphological study and biomarker of salt El, unit Xb, Alcoy, Spain . PLoS ONE 14 (4): e0214955. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214955

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Modern analysis of ancient foci reveals Neanderthal settlement patterns (April 24, 2019)
recovered on April 24, 2019
at https://phys.org/news/2019-04-modern-analysis-ancient-hearths-reveals.html

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