Leonor Peña-Chocarroa, Lydia Zapatab, Maria Jose Iriarteb, Manuel González Moralesc and Lawrence Guy Strausd, ,
aLaboratorio de Arqueobotánica, Instituto de Historia, CSIC, C/ Duque de Medinaceli 6, 28014 Madrid, Spain bArea de Prehistoria, Universidad del Pais Vasco, 01006 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain cInstituto de Prehistoria, Universidad de Cantabria, Avda. de los Castros, 39005 Santander, Spain dDepartment of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
Received 2 November 2004; revised 2 December 2004. Available online 16 February 2005.
Emmer wheat (Triticum diccocum) has been positively identified from the stratigraphically oldest ceramic- and domesticated livestock-bearing level of El Mirón Cave in the Cantabrian Cordillera. The grain is AMS 14C-dated to 5550±40 BP. This date is congruent with six others from the same layer, higher within which were found other grains of wheat, including einkorn as well as emmer. Although wild ungulates (mainly red deer) were still hunted, abundant ovicaprines, together with small numbers of cattle and pigs, appear in this level-for the first time in the 40,000-year record at El Mirón. Potsherds (undecorated, but of very good quality) also appear abruptly and abundantly. However, the associated lithic assemblage contains specific tool types also found in late Mesolithic contexts in Cantabrian Spain. In addition to the full suite of Neolithic indicators at El Mirón, as confirmed by less unambiguous early agro-pastoral evidence from other sites in the Vasco-Cantabrian region, there are megalithic monuments both in the vicinity of the cave and throughout the region that are similarly dated. All these data tend to suggest that Neolithic adaptations—already present about a millennium earlier not only along the Mediterranean coast, but also much closer, to the southeast of the Cordillera—were quickly adopted as “a package” by Cantabrian Mesolithic foragers, possibly as a consequence of social contacts with Neolithic groups in southern France and/or the upper Ebro basin of north-central Spain.
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