Ancient fire remains document the movement and settlement patterns of the Neanderthals and indicate specific occupation events. This emerges from a new study published on April 24, 2019 in PLOS ONE by Lucia Leierer and colleagues from the Universidad de La Laguna, Spain.
It is believed that most Paleolithic household activities took place around fire pits or fire. The author of the present study has decided to investigate the middle Paleolithic El Salt in Spain, which contains eleven well preserved and overlapping open firebox structures. It was unclear whether these flocks were formed during successive short-term occupations or fewer long-term occupations. The authors studied the micromorphology of the various layers in the hearth structures to determine the time of occupation within the study unit, and performed both lipid biomarker analysis and isotope analysis to obtain information about potential food and fuel.
The results of the analyzes show a stratification of fireplaces built over several periods on several different topsoils. The burnt organic matter at the El Salt hearths is rich in herbivore excrement and blooming plant remains. The presence of flint and bone chips, as well as softwood charcoal collected from trees that were absent at the site, indicate limited site activity. The authors point out that these data indicate at least four consecutive short-term Neanderthal populations, separated by relatively long periods, possibly due to seasons.
The authors hypothesize that their molecular and micromorphological methods were built at similar Paleolithic sites where fires existed would work well. Their findings provide evidence of consecutive Neanderthal occupations at this site and could more generally convey our understanding of the mobility and settlement of Neanderthal groups.
Leierer adds: "Micromorphology in combination with lipid biomarker analysis is a powerful approach to investigate anthropogenic combustion archaeological relationships from a microstratigraphic perspective, providing valuable information on the timing and intensity of Neanderthal occupations as well as the natural These are key factors in the mobility of the group and the pattern of settlement. "
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