Atapuerca: the origin of the European man in the middle of the Burgos mountains

Atapuerca: the origin of the European man in the middle of the Burgos mountains

Atapuerca it is an exceptional deposit in the world. The secrets that it keeps in its entrails invite us to travel a million years, explaining the origin of Europeans. Today it is a must-see place to explain prehistory and it is undoubtedly the best Pleistocene birth from the earth.

When excavation began in 1978, this small mountain range did not appear on the maps of human evolution. The discovery of an 11-year-old adolescent who had a combination of totally primitive teeth with a totally modern face, led the researchers to propose a new species: Homo antecessor, common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans and from it evolve both the European and African lines. The fossil of the Sima del Elefante It is thus the oldest European in history found so far.

It is one of the few deposits in the world in which all the caves content. It was a jaw of a water rat, found in 1994, which made it possible to determine its age. Numerous animal remains over a million years old have been recovered. Most of them are linked to the aquatic environment such as hippos, ospreys or beavers, which is striking since we are in the middle of the Sierra de Burgos.

These excavations have also served to learn more about the way of life of these "first europeans”. Here have been found the evidence of older cannibalism documented so far, but also the first evidences of man as a social animal: the discovery of the Bifaz Excalibur, the only stone instrument recovered, confirms that there was a belief shared by the group and at the same time the oldest symbolic behavior demonstrated to date.

It has also been confirmed that the site functioned as a sporadic but repeated occupation center since there they were going to stock up on animal meat that was presented as easy and fast food "to carry out”.

However, like any large excavation, Atapuerca has had to deal with some remains of dubious provenance. On the wall in front of the mouth of the Portalón Cave a painting representing the head of a horse. The analysis carried out did not reach conclusive tests, however, the difference in color that can be seen between a photograph taken in 1913, or in 1947 is strikingly striking.

This led the research team to question how it was possible that quality had not been lost for 11,000 years and that in the last 50 years it had deteriorated so much. For the moment it is thought to be a painting made sometime in the early 20th century.

The treasures that it keeps inside seem inexhaustible and in each new campaign this site surprises us with something new. The fossils of the pit of the bones seem to have no end and in the great sinkhole new and spectacular remains of its predecessor continue to appear. To this we must add that the oldest tools in Europe have been discovered at the elephant site, that someone carved more than 1,500,000 years ago.

Images: Locutus borg on Wikimedia

I was born in Madrid and I live in Madrid. Like all my family, even my great-grandparents, so I am one of the few authentic Madrilenian cats that survive around here. Although my great hobby is traveling the world, my favorite corner is and always will be my big city. I am currently studying two majors at the Rey Juan Carlos University: Law and Journalism. My studies have made me a responsible, hard-working person who fights to get what he wants. I have always wanted to be an international journalist and I have always believed that to be the best I had to know law and languages. In 2008, I was working at a college in Oxford called Radley College where I met people from all over. It was a meaningful experience that opened my mind. During the 2009-2010 academic year I was awarded an Erasmus grant to Paris. It was a very good experience for my training, both personal and professional, and I returned as in Casablanca, with that phrase of "We will always have Paris."


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