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Dragged, lagged, or undisturbed: reassessing the autochthony of the hominin-bearing assemblages at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain)

Abstract

The TD6 unit of the Gran Dolina contains an assemblage of the Early Pleistocene, interpreted firstly as a home base. More recently has been proposed a transported origin of the remains according to the sedimentology. Following this model, the remains should be dragged or lagged in a predictable pattern related to their weight, density, shape, and size. Conversely, the debris generated in an undisturbed residential camp should retain spatial relations of codependence caused by the depositional process, not related to inherent variables of materials. To check if the remains were recovered in their original depositional place (aggregated) or are the product of transportation (segregated or random spatial relation), we have evaluated different variables: the spatial arrangement between osteological and lithic tools; the integrity of the bones and their structural characters (shape and tissue composition); postdepositional modifications; and the specimen size distribution. The combined results indicate that the layers that conform the TD6.2 subunit were undisturbed, while TD6.1 was affected by postdepositional processes, probably water flows, resulting in a lagged assemblage. In conclusion, TD6.2 is best interpreted as a well-preserved home base and should play a key role in studies of the behavior of the first European populations.

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Acknowledgments

We want to express our gratitude to our colleagues from the Atapuerca Research Team for the hard work that is done year after year. Raquel Pérez Martínez has provided us with all the drawings of the trench and Grand Dolina. We have had the support of Efstathia Robakis in the English edition. We want to express our gratitude to the two anonymous reviewers and editor Dr. Stephen Shennan, for their willingness and time invested in improving the manuscript.

Funding

The Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICINN-FEDER) of the Spanish Government financed the research, project no. PGC2018-093925-B-C32 and project no. FJCI-037447-I (Subprograma Juan de la Cierva) and, also, the AGAUR (project no. 2017 SGR-1040) and the URV (project no. 2018PFR-URV-B2-91). IPHES research is framed in CERCA Programme/Generalitat de Catalunya. The funding for fieldwork came from the Cultural and Tourism Council of Castilla y León and the Atapuerca Foundation. This research was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the “María de Maeztu” excellence accreditation (CEX2019-000945-M).

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Palmira Saladié: conceptualization, investigation, formal analysis, methodology, interpretation, interpretation, writing (original draft), review and editing

Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo: conceptualization, investigation, formal analysis, methodology, writing (original draft), review and editing

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo: conceptualization, methodology, and interpretation

Josep Vallverdú: conceptualization, investigation, stratigraphic description, interpretation, and review (original draft)

Marina Mosquera: investigation, formal analysis, review and funding acquisition

Andreu Ollé: investigation, formal analysis, review original draft and funding acquisition

Rosa Huguet: investigation, formal analysis, and review original draft

Isabel Cáceres: investigation, formal analysis, and review original draft

Juan Luis Arsuaga: investigation and funding acquisition

José Maria Bermúdez de Castro: investigation and funding acquisition

Eudald Carbonell: conceptualization, investigation, review original draft and funding acquisition

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Correspondence to Palmira Saladié or Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo.

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Saladié, P., Rodríguez-Hidalgo, A., Domínguez-Rodrigo, M. et al. Dragged, lagged, or undisturbed: reassessing the autochthony of the hominin-bearing assemblages at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 65 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01303-6

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Keywords

  • Spatial statistics
  • Water flows
  • Taphonomy
  • Bone integrity
  • TD6 unit