Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 779–803 | Cite as

Neanderthal and Homo sapiens subsistence strategies in the Cantabrian region of northern Spain

  • José Yravedra-Sainz de los Terreros
  • Alberto Gómez-Castanedo
  • Julia Aramendi-Picado
  • Ramón Montes-Barquín
  • Juan Sanguino-González
Original Paper


The Iberian Peninsula is key for the study of the transition from the Middle to the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, as well as for the replacement of Neanderthals by anatomically modern humans (AMH). On this subject, the most widespread misconception assumed that both human species coexisted during a certain period of time, after which Homo sapiens imposed on Neanderthals who finally got extinct. However, recent proposals based on improved dating methods, discuss this possibility, arguing that the arrival of AMH was marked by the complete absence of Homo neanderthalensis in this territory. In that way, new theories deny the possibility of coexistence and the disappearance of Neanderthals by cultural displacement. Covalejos Cave (Velo, Pielagos, Cantabria), one of the few settlements in the northern Peninsula with Final Mousterian and Early Aurignacian levels, supports this hypothesis. Nevertheless, in this paper, we try to avoid a direct discussion about this question in order to centre our analysis on identifying possible different subsistence strategies between H. neanderthalensis and anatomically modern humans in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Our zooarchaeological and taphonomic studies reflect that Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans exploited the same faunal species, pointing out that there does not seem to be significant differences in their behaviour in Covalejos Cave.


Homo neanderthalensis Anatomically modern humans Mousterian Aurignacian Subsistence Cantabrian region Northern Iberian Peninsula 



We thank the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria (MUPAC) and especially Raul Gutiérrez and Pedro Fernández Vega for their attention and help in 2007 while we conducted the study of the materials presented in this work. We also appreciate the suggestions and comments of the reviewers.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Yravedra-Sainz de los Terreros
    • 1
  • Alberto Gómez-Castanedo
    • 2
  • Julia Aramendi-Picado
    • 1
  • Ramón Montes-Barquín
    • 3
  • Juan Sanguino-González
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PrehistoryUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Historical SciencesUniversity of CantabriaSantanderSpain
  3. 3.Itinerario Cultural del Consejo de Europa Prehistoric Rock ArtMadridSpain
  4. 4.Consejería de Educación, Comunidad de MadridMadridSpain

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