From cave geomorphology to Palaeolithic human behaviour: speleogenesis, palaeoenvironmental changes and archaeological insight in the Atxurra-Armiña cave (northern Iberian Peninsula)

Martin Arriolabengoa, Inaki Intxaurbe, Mª Ángeles Medina-Alcaide, Olivia Rivero, Joseba Rios-Garaizar, Inaki LÍbano, Peru Bilbao, Arantza Aranburu, Hai Cheng, Richard Lawrence Edwards, Diego Garate

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Abstract

A detailed geomorphological study was performed in the Atxurra-Armiña cave system (northern Iberian Peninsula) to decode landscape evolution, palaeoenvironmental changes and human use of a cave within an Inner Archaeological Context. The results show an average incision rate of the river of <0.083 mm a–1 for at least the last 419 ka, with interruptions due to sedimentary inputs. Moreover, allostratigraphic units comprising fluviokarstic deposits at the base and flowstone formation at the top have been shown to be climatically controlled, formed either during glacial–interglacial cycles or during interstadial cycles. Finally, when the cave was used by humans in the Late Magdalenian, the lower entrance was closed, and they must therefore have entered the cave through the upper entrance. To reach the sectors selected to decorate the panels, they probably travelled from the upper cave level, as the current crawlway was wider than today, according to our U/Th dating. Once these visitors reached the panels, the floor in the main gallery would have been around 15 cm lower than at present. However, the morphology of the conduit was similar; this has significant implications for understanding and interpreting the human use of the cave during the Palaeolithic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)841-853
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Cultural Heritage Service of the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia for funding the 4‐year multidisciplinary study project (2016‐2020) ‘Study of rock art in the Atxurra cave’ directed by Diego Garate, and the IT 1029‐16_GBV6 research project from the Basque Government. This work is part of the research project ‘Before art: social investment in symbolic expressions during the Upper Palaeolithic (B‐Art)’ VP27 funded by the University of Cantabria (Spain), PI: Diego Garate and the research project ‘Learning and development of artistic abilities in Anatomically Modern Humans; a multidisciplinary approach (ApArt)’ HAR2017‐87739‐P funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (Spain), PI: Olivia Rivero. I. Intxaurbe's PhD research is funded by a grant for the training of research personnel (PIF 2019) at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). We also thank the anonymous reviewers and Jo De Waele for their useful comments, which have helped improve this work.

Funding Information:
We thank the Cultural Heritage Service of the Diputaci?n Foral de Bizkaia for funding the 4-year multidisciplinary study project (2016-2020) ?Study of rock art in the Atxurra cave? directed by Diego Garate, and the IT 1029-16_GBV6 research project from the Basque Government. This work is part of the research project ?Before art: social investment in symbolic expressions during the Upper Palaeolithic (B-Art)? VP27 funded by the University of Cantabria (Spain), PI: Diego Garate and the research project ?Learning and development of artistic abilities in Anatomically Modern Humans; a multidisciplinary approach (ApArt)? HAR2017-87739-P funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (Spain), PI: Olivia Rivero. I. Intxaurbe's PhD research is funded by a grant for the training of research personnel (PIF 2019) at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). We also thank the anonymous reviewers and Jo De Waele for their useful comments, which have helped improve this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Copyright:
Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Palaeolithic rock art
  • U/Th dating
  • allostratigraphic unit
  • cave processes
  • inner archaeological context

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