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A sample of flint tools found in the Barranc de la Boella site

Scraping Up Prehistory in Iberia: Million-Year-Old Flint Tools Found in Spain

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Excavations being carried out at the site of La Boella Creek, Tarragona, Spain are bringing to light a world packed with diverse, ancient, and large mammals. The archaeological remains found at this site show one of the earliest known examples of human occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Works have been carried out there for some years, and this season the researchers have found about fifty flint tools of an "exceptional" value. The artifacts are prized for their antiquity – they date to between 800,000 and one million years old.

The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology (IPHES) has reported that the tools, which are very well preserved, have been found in the area known as La Mina. They have also recovered a large number of hyena droppings and several fragments of deer antlers and a rhinoceros’ femur among the large skeletal remains which date to the same period as the tools.

Josep Vallverdú , co-director of the excavation and a researcher at IPHES, told EFEFuturo that the site has “one of the oldest records of human evolution in Catalonia and in the Iberian Peninsula.” He also said that the team has high expectations for future discoveries because “we know very little of its potential as of yet.”

Experts working during previous excavations at the La Boella Creek site.

Experts working during previous excavations at the La Boella Creek site. ( CSIC)

It is also exceptional how well-preserved the recovered wildlife remains have been. For now, there are four defined strata with paleontological and archaeological material. There is a diversity of taxa amongst the discovered remains (deer, horse, cattle, rhino) that will facilitate an informed interpretation of the Francolí River basin’s ecosystems.

"This type of information is unprecedented in our region and has a unique ability to explain human and ecosystem evolution in the recent history of the Earth. In these early years, we have focused a lot on different surveys of the fossil-bearing strata to define their antiquity and the number and characteristics. We do not know yet how deep in geological time there are archaeological and paleontological remains in La Mina. One of the next challenges is to end this survey, while we begin to excavate a large surface area as well. In this way, we can begin to make deeper studies of the Francolí basin ecosystems, thanks to a greater number of fossils," the scientist explained to IPHES.

The 10 archaeological excavations of the Barranc de la Boella have served to acquire a basic knowledge about its heritage, scientific, and academic value. Precisely for these reasons, the next campaign will require a larger number of participants in the archaeological work.

The Francolí river passing by Masó, Tarragona, Spain.

The Francolí river passing by Masó, Tarragona, Spain. (Public Domain )

"In this campaign we have opened participation lists to graduates and postgraduates to introduce the Barranc de la Boella site into the academic realm, so European universities can convert it into a field school in the next few years. For this reason, we have expressed to the local, regional, and national administration the need to build a research project with universal vocation - to find out more about the natural history of humans that lived in La Canonja during such ancient times," Josep Vallverdu concluded.

Top Image: A sample of flint tools found in the Barranc de la Boella site. Source: IPHES

By Mariló T. A.

This article was first published in Spanish at http://www.ancient-origins.es and has been translated with permission.

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