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Multi-purpose fossils? The reappraisal of an Elephas antiquus molar from El Pirulejo (Magdalenian; Córdoba, Spain)

Abstract

Fossil gathering by humans has been rarely documented in the Iberian Peninsula. In the present paper, a multidisciplinary approach has been taken to analyze a straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus) molar retrieved in a Magdalenian deposit at the rock shelter of El Pirulejo in southern Spain. The taphonomical analyses revealed a multifarious use of a tooth that had not only been worked into an anvil-sort-of-tool but also used as a core and partly tainted with a composite pigment. The dating and geochemical analyses further evidenced that the molar derived from an animal that had lived in a rather arid landscape with a temperature range between 12.3 and 14.3 °C coincident with a cold episode within marine isotope stage (MIS) 6.6 and probably fed on herbaceous plants. These analyses evidence the potential fossils from archaeological sites bear for addressing a wide range of issues that include both the cultural and paleoenvironmental realms.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It is in this same context that one should frame the collection of cetacean remains, presumably from stranded animals rather than fossils proper, that include a carved sperm whale tooth retrieved from the Middle Magdalenian site of Las Caldas (Spain; Corchón et al. 2008) and others from the Magdalenian site of Mas d’Azil (France; Poplin 1974).

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Acknowledgments

This study has been sponsored by Projects HAR2013-44269-P, HAR 2014-55722-P, and HAR2012-34620 of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competividad, by Grant 19438/PI/14 of the Programa Seneca 2014 and by Special Action (2014) of the V- Plan Propio de Investigación from the University of Seville. Isotopic and elemental analyses were processed at the Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra. The paper constitutes a contribution of Research Group HUM-949 (Tellus. Prehistoria y Arqueología en el sur de Iberia) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Archeology and the Evolution of Human Behavior. A.G.-A. was also supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship within the 7th Framework Program for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (European Commission: ref. PIEF-GA-2013- 623027). Sergio Ros Montoya (University of Granada) originally identified the elephant molar from El Pirulejo, and Dick Mol (Natuurhistorisch Museum, Rotterdam) is gratefully acknowledged from providing data on E. antiquus.

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Correspondence to Carlos P. Odriozola.

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Cortés-Sánchez, M., Morales-Muñiz, A., Jiménez-Espejo, F. et al. Multi-purpose fossils? The reappraisal of an Elephas antiquus molar from El Pirulejo (Magdalenian; Córdoba, Spain). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 9, 1287–1303 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-016-0324-1

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Keywords

  • Tooth
  • Taphonomy
  • U/Th dating
  • Isotopes
  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Upper Paleolithic
  • Fossil gathering