A View from a Cave: Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Caravaca de la Cruz, Murcia, Southeastern Spain). Reflections on Fire, Technological Diversity, Environmental Exploitation, and Palaeoanthropological Approaches.

DOI: 10.14673/HE2016121014

Published in Human Evolution – Vol. 31 – n.1-2 – 2016

Key words: Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar, Palaeolithic, Modes A-I, late Early Pleistocene, fire, environment, cognitive versatility.


Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar overlooking the Río Quípar, a Río Segura tributary, is an upland rock-shelter 75 km north of the Mediterranean coast and 110 km west of the Se-gura river-mouth. It contains undisturbed sediment 5 m deep assigned by magnetostratigraphy to >0.78 Ma (Matuyama mag-netochron). Optically stimulated sediment luminescence dating implies ≥0.5 Ma and mammalian biochronology (notably, of Arvicolid rodents) indicates >0.7-<1 Ma. Remains include an “Acheulian” limestone “hand-axe,” and small chert, limestone or quartzite artifacts, knapped on site, often by bipolar reduc-tion or repetitive centripetal flaking of small discoidal cores. Secondarily-flaked (“retouched”) artifacts include small irregu-lar chert fragments, resembling chert at an adjacent conglom-erate outcrop according to laser-ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass-spectrometry of 19 lanthanide elements, though some chert may have been obtained from up to 30 km away. Faunal remains and pollen are compatible with mild (plausibly MIS-21), damp, fluvio-lacustrine environments. Evidence of fire in a deep, sealed layer includes thermally-altered, lustreless and shattered chert, and both charred and white calcined frag-ments of bone. Taphonomical analysis and electron microscopy of bone fragments attribute discolouration to burning, not to post-depositional mineral staining. Sediment geochemistry and thin-section micromorphology have been undertaken. FTIRS, TL and ESR analysis of chert and bone imply firing tempera-tures of about 500ºC at least. Drawing on findings from Cueva Negra, the purpose of this paper is to offer an interpretation of Palaeolithic activity from the perspective of hominin cogni-tive versatility, techno-manual dexterity, and palaeoeconomic extractive behaviour in long-vanished Western European pal-aeoecological and palaeobiogeographical contexts.

Walker, M.J.
Anesin, D.
Angelucci, D.
Avilés-Fernández, A.,3.a.b. Berna, F.
Buitrago-López, A.T.,5.a.b. Carrión, J.S.
Eastham, A.
Fernández-Jiménez, S.
García-Torres, J.
Haber-Uriarte, M.
López-Jiménez, A.
López-Martínez, M.V.
Martín-Lerma, I.
Ortega-Rodrigáñez, J.
Polo-Camacho, J.L.
Rhodes, S.E.
Richter, D.
Rodríguez-Estrella, T.
Romero-Sánchez, G.
San-Nicolás-del-Toro, M.
Schwenninger, J-L.
Skinner, A.R.
Van-der-Made, J.
Zack, W.