Fell and lost into the Abyss? Mesolithic human skull remains from a sinkhole in southern tip of Iberian Peninsula (Sima Hedionda, Casares, Málaga)
Rafael M Martinez-Sanchez  1, *@  , M. Dolores Bretones García, Cristina Valdiosera  2@  , Juan Carlos Vera Rodríguez  3@  , Immaculada López Flores, María D Simón Vallejo  4@  , M Pilar Ruiz Borrega, M José Martínez Fernández, Jorge Luis Romo Villalba  5@  , Francisco Bermudez Jiménez, Rafael Martín De Los Santos  5@  , Lázaro Moreno Alarcón  6@  , Miguel Cortés Sánchez  4, *@  
1 : Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Universidad de Granada  (UGR)  -  Website
Campus de Cartuja, SN, 18071 -  Espagne
2 : LaTrobe University
3 : Departamento de Historia, Geografía y Antropología. Universidad de Huelva
4 : Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología. Universidad de Sevilla
5 : GES Casares
* : Corresponding author

The presence of isolated human bones in cavities and sinkholes throughout Late Prehistory is a common phenomenon in a large part of the Iberian territory. These are usually interpreted as erratic elements from burial contexts, which are very frequent in karst areas of the Iberian Peninsula since the Early Neolithic and especially frequent in the Late Neolithic and Copper Age. However, the discovery of Mesolithic human remains in cavities is becoming more and more frequent, both as complete sets associated with sepulchral deposits (La Braña, León) (Vidal et al. 2008), or as disarticulated elements of a markedly different nature, including postmortem manipulations and consumption events (Santa Maira, Alicante) (Morales, et al. 2017). In this work, we present the partial remains of a human skull belonging to an adult male dating from the middle of the 7th millennium Cal BC, found at the bottom of a 30 m deep sinkhole, located in the geographical area of the Strait of Gibraltar. This discovery is very significant not only for its nature and interpretation (that may be an accidental fall, intentional thrown or to be part of a dismantled funerary deposit) but also because it is one of the few pieces of human evidence in the VII and the first half of the VI millennium Cal BC in the south of Iberia. In this territory, as can be seen in other parts of the western Mediterranean, the appearance of the Early Neolithic farmers seems to follow a perceived archaeological gap or hiatus, whose cause and nature we are is difficult to evaluate in the current state (Aura et al. 2009). In the absence of new evidence, the appearance of partial human bone remains in caves could constitute one of the few testimonies of the last hunter-gatherer populations in the southern tip of Iberia.

Aura Tortosa, E., Jordá Pardo, J.F., Pérez Ripoll, M., Morales Pérez, J.V., García Puchol, O., González-Tablas Sastre, F.J., Avezuela Aristu, B., 2009. Epipaleolítico y Mesolítico en Andalucia Oriental. Primeras notas a partir de los datos de la Cueva de Nerja (Málaga, España), in: Utrilla Miranda, P., Montes Ramínez, L. (Eds.), El Mesolítico geométrico en la Península Ibérica. Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, pp. 343-360.

Morales Pérez, J.V., Salazar-García, D.C., De Miguel Ibáñez, M.P., Miret Estruch, C., Jordá Pardo, J.F., Verdasco Cebrián, C.C., Pérez Ripoll, M., Aura Tortosa, J.E., 2017. Funerary practices or food delicatessen? Human remains with anthropic marks from the Western Mediterranean Mesolithic. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 45, 115-130.

Vidal Encinas, J.M., Fernández Rodríguez, C., Prada Marcos, M.E., Fuertes Prieto, M.N., 2008. Los hombres mesolíticos de la Braña-Arintero (Valdelugueros, León): un hallazgo funerario excepcional en la vertiente meridional de la cordillera cantábrica. Férvedes 5, 153-164.


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