The red pine is the main fuel on the peninsula since the Neanderthals

The red pine is the main fuel on the peninsula since the Neanderthals



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The analysis of the coals recovered from the homes of the Cova Gran deposit (Les Avellanes-Santa Linya, Lleida), located at an altitude of 385 meters, confirms that the mountain forests to the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula extended continuously from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast between 50,000 and 15,000 years ago, with a great predominance of mountain pines, probably red pine.

The study, published in the Review of Palaecobotany and Palynology, has also provided detailed information on the type of wood used as the preferred fuel for Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens, who inhabited the area successively during this period.

The research has been carried out by researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and the National Center for Human Evolution (CENIEH).

In all, scientists have analyzed more than 1,200 coal fragments of homes of fifteen archaeological units.

“The anthracalological analysis of a temporally wide set as that of Cova Gran, together with data from other deposits in the region, indicate a hegemonic presence of the red pine in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula and show that, despite the climatic conditions changing and extreme that occurred during this period, the forest cover of mountain conifers was continuous, ”says Ethel Allué, a researcher at IPHES and one of the authors.

Brief warm moments alternating with cold cycles

The time interval covered by the study corresponds to climatic level with two marine isotopic stages (MIS): MIS 3, (between 59,000 and 29,000 years) with relatively short warm moments that alternated with cold cycles, and MIS 2 (from 29,000 to 15,000 years), with extreme cold conditions.

"The resilience of these pines allowed them to adapt to rigorous ecological and environmental conditions, colder and drier than the current ones, and to also live in the interior plains and in the pre-Mediterranean coastline," says the researcher.

Red pine wood is practically the only fuel identified in the different chronocultural phases recognized in the Cova Gran (Middle Paleolithic, Old Upper Paleolithic, and Magdalenian).

The abundance of homes located in this pre-Pyrenean shelter and the fact that it was used by Neanderthals and modern humans indicate that the two species used it systematically as the main fuel to maintain them.

"The records of the Cova Gran de Santa Linya allow us to deepen our knowledge of the landscape of the enclave and the biogeography of an essential tree in the survival of the hunter-gatherers of the Ice Age", indicates Rafael Mora, director of CEPAP- UAB.

“The continuity in the choice of this type of firewood in the deposit had to obey the abundance of this tree in the environment - although its easy combustion and high caloric yield would favor the intentional collection - and allows us to consistently reinforce the hypothesis of the presence continued stable and resilient mountain pine forests in the territory ”, he concludes.

Nowadays, red pine is preserved in the first estivations of the northeast of the Pre-Pyrenees at altitudes above 600 meters of altitude.

The current climate regime, which began to be installed about 15,000 years ago, made it move back to higher and colder areas, while little by little other species, such as Mediterranean pines, oaks and holm oaks, settled in the lower wooded areas.

The archaeological importance of the Cova Gran de Santa Linya

The Cova Gran de Santa Linya, discovered in 2002, is a deposit of more than 2,500 square meters considered key for the study of human presence in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula.

The broad chronological spectrum it contains goes from 50,000 to 7,000 years ago, which allows us to reconstruct the way of life of human groups in the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees.

It is one of the few sites in the Mediterranean region in which moments of “transition” have been identified, such as that of the last Neanderthals and the appearance of the first modern humans or the passage from the last hunter-gatherers to the first farmer-ranchers .

The year 2016 was discovered on the walls of the shelter Upper Paleolithic engravings, which have been considered the oldest artistic representations in Catalonia, and this year the head of a deer engraved on bone has been documented at levels from the same period.

Over fifteen years, numerous material remains have been recovered, such as azagayas, needles or bone ornaments, such as a perforated deer tooth from the Magdalenian culture (Upper Palaeolithic). From the Neolithic period, different levels of herd housing have also been identified, called fumiers.

As for households, It is one of the deposits in the Iberian Peninsula with the most identified units. This fact shows the importance that fire and its management had for the daily life of the human groups that inhabited it.

Via Sinc Agency

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