Archaeologists rejoin! The amazing prehistoric Altamira cave has re-opened for limited public viewing after being closed for over a decade.
The cave is located in northern Spain and contains jaw-dropping, well-preserved polychrome prehistoric cave paintings. The cave was discovered in 1868 by a hunter and contains abstract shapes and animal depictions painted some 13,000-to-35,000 years ago by cave dwellers. Altamira is located in Cantabria, Spain and is a World Heritage site managed by UNESCO.
In 2002, when experts determined that the quality of the cave paintings deteriorated due to large amounts of carbon dioxide expelled by human breath, the cave closed. UNESCO has now determined that groups of five people a week visiting for eight minutes will be allowed for a limited time. Read more.
La Braña 1, name used to baptize a 7,000 years old individual from the Mesolithic Period, whose remains were recovered at La Braña-Arintero site in Valdelugueros (León, Spain) had blue eyes and dark skin. These details are the result of a study conducted by Carles Lalueza-Fox, researcher from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Centre for GeoGenetics (Denmark). La Braña 1 represents the first recovered genome of an European hunter-gatherer. The research is published in Nature.
The Mesolithic, a period that lasted from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago (between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic), ends with the advent of agriculture and livestock farming, coming from the Middle-East. The arrival of the Neolithic, with a carbohydrate-based diet and new pathogens transmitted by domesticated animals, entailed metabolic and immunological challenges that were reflected in genetic adaptations of post-Mesolithic populations. Among these is the ability to digest lactose, which La Braña individual could not do. Read more.
A rock shelter site located above the river Segre in the Pyrenees foothills of northeastern Spain is yielding evidence of Neanderthal occupation that could post-date 40,000 years BP, according to researchers. This would place the ancient occupiers among the last Neanderthals to inhabit the area of present-day Europe, and finds at the site could provide clues to how the Neanderthals adapted to changing environmental circumstances and whether or not they coexisted with the emerging modern human populations in the region.
Called La Roca dels Bous, the rock shelter has been the subject of intense excavation and study by archaeologists and student volunteers under the joint direction of Dr. Rafael Mora Torcal of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Ma. Xavier Roda Gilabert of the Ministry of Science and Innovation of the Spanish Government, and Adrià Millán Gil of archaeoBarcelona. Read more.
Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain, and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.
Sima de los Huesos (SH), the “bone pit”, is a cave site in Northern Spain that has yielded the world’s largest assembly of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils, consisting of at least 28 skeletons, which have been excavated and pieced together over the course of more than two decades by a Spanish team of paleontologists led by Juan-Luis Arsuaga. The fossils are classified as Homo heidelbergensis but also carry traits typical of Neandertals. Until now it had not been possible to study the DNA of these unique hominins. Read more.
An international team of researchers have announced the discovery of the oldest hominin (early or archaic human) fossil ever found in Western Europe, pushing back the clock on when early humans first colonized Western Europe after their exodus from Africa.
The find, a fossil tooth (molar) uncovered through excavations at the site of Barranco León in the Orce region of southeastern Spain, was dated to about 1.4 million years ago using several combined dating techniques, including Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) in combination with paleomagnetic and biochronological data.
"While the range of dates obtained from these various methods overlaps with those published for the Sima del Elefante hominin locality (1.2 Ma), the overwhelming majority of evidence points to an older age," reports study author Dr. Isidro-Moyano and colleagues. Read more.
Atapuerca: Excavation work at an archaeological complex in northwestern Spain has unearthed a small flint knife that was made 1.4 million years ago and is the oldest evidence of the presence of hominids at the site.
A small, three-cm stone fragment with a very defined edge lends weight to the hypothesis that hominids have maintained a permanent presence in Europe for nearly 1.5 million years, Eudald Carbonell, one of the three excavation directors, said.
That would contradict the generally accepted theory that Europe was populated in waves and was devoid of hominids for long periods of time, he added. Read more.
AFP - A 16th century religious tapestry stolen from a Spanish cathedral in 1979 and sold at auction three years ago for $369,000 was returned to Spain on Wednesday by the US customs service.
In a statement, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said special agents from its Homeland Security Investigations unit seized the artifact last November from the unidentified Texas business that had bought it.
The wool and silk tapestry, depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, had been stolen in December 1979 from the Cathedral of Saint Vincent, Martyr of Roda de Isabena in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain.
After it turned up in a Brussels art fair catalog in 2010, Belgian, Spanish and US investigators established it had been acquired in 2008 by a gallery owner in Belgium along with two partners from Milan and Paris. Read more.
Neanderthals may have died out earlier than before thought, researchers say.
These findings hint that Neanderthals did not coexist with modern humans as long as previously suggested, investigators added.
Modern humans once shared the planet with now-departed human lineages, including the Neanderthals, our closest known extinct relatives. However, there has been heated debate over just how much time and interaction, or interbreeding, Neanderthals had with modern humans.
To help solve the mystery, an international team of researchers investigated 215 bones previously excavated from 11 sites in southern Iberia, in an area known as Spain today. Read more.