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Lawrence Guy Straus1,2 , Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales2 & Jose Miguel Carretero3 The authors describe the discovery of the first human burial of Magdalenian age to be found in the Iberian Peninsula—the partial skeleton N El Mirón Cave of a young adult whose bones were stained with red ochre. The burial was well stratified in a sequence at the vestibule rear running from the Mousterian to the Mesolithic, and was adjacent to a large block that had fallen Madrid from the cave roof and been subsequently engraved. A preliminary AMS radiocarbon date on associated faunal remains from the ochre-stained, galena speckled burial layer yielded a date of 15 700 BP, while a hearth directly above the burial is dated to 15 100 BP, placing the interment of this individual in the Lower Cantabrian Magdalenian, the period of most intensive human occupation of El Mir´on Cave during the Upper Palaeolithic. 0



Keywords: El Mir´on Cave, Cantabrian Spain, Lower Magdalenian, Upper Palaeolithic, human burial

Introduction One century ago, in 1911, Hugo Obermaier discovered in El Castillo Cave (Cantabria, Spain) two human frontal bones that had been “fashioned into bowls” (Obermaier 1925: 1 2 3

Department of Anthropology MSC01 1040, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA (Email: Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehist´oricas, Universidad de Cantabria, 39005 Santander, Spain Laboratorio de Evoluci´on Humana, Departamento de Ciencias Hist´oricas y Geograf´ıa, Universidad de Burgos, 09001 Burgos, Spain

Received: 4 April 2011; Accepted: 9 May 2011; Revised: 16 May 2011 ANTIQUITY

85 (2011): 1151–1164



Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain

Figure 1. Excavations in progress at El Mir´on Cave, looking ESE showing centre top (beyond the walkway), the fallen block from the cave roof, with Magdalenian strata beneath. Excavators beyond the block, to the left of the theodolite, are working on the human burial in square X7 (photograph: Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales).

288; see also Breuil & Obermaier 1912; Vallois & Delmas 1976; Cabrera 1984: 61, 298, 356). Associated with three small fragments of parietal that may have pertained to the same skull as one of the frontals, these remains were apparently found at the top of the 2m-thick and multi-hearth layered Lower Magdalenian (sensu lato) Beta horizon. There is only one 14 C date from this immense stratum, done on a decorated antler sagaie: 16 850+ −220 BP (Barandiar´an1988), which should represent the base of the horizon. A few isolated human remains have been found in other Magdalenian deposits, mainly in Cantabrian Spain— but remarkably, given the very large numbers of excavations of Iberian Magdalenian layers since the 1870s, no evidence of burials or even substantial parts of human skeletons—until now. Here we report the find of a mandible (plus loose teeth) and post-cranial bones of a young adult found in a highly ritualised Lower Magdalenian context during the fourteenth year of research (2010) at El Mir´on Cave, 40km and three river valleys east of El Castillo (Figure 1).

The Magdalenian of El Mir´on Cave El Mir´on Cave, located in the western cliffside of 1000m Monte Pando, is oriented directly at the pyramidal face of another 1000m peak, San Vicente, which strikingly resembles Monte 1152

Castillo in which El Castillo Cave is located. Like Monte Castillo, Monte Pando contains numerous Upper Palaeolithic art and residential sites and dominates a major river valley, the As´on. In both El Castillo and El Mir´on, some of the thickest, culturally richest deposits pertain to the classic Cantabrian Lower Magdalenian period, first discovered in Altamira Cave and also well represented at such other well-studied coastal sites as El Juyo. El Mir´on has revealed a long sequence of Magdalenian levels dated to the Initial, Lower, Middle and Upper phases of this quintessential Western European Upper Palaeolithic cultural tradition, plus the (Epimagdalenian) Azilian period. With 46 radiocarbon dates, the El Mir´on Magdalenian–Azilian stratigraphic series is one of the most complete and thoroughly dated in Iberia or, for that matter, Europe, although some horizons clearly witnessed far more intensive occupation than others. The dates range from about 17 000 to about 10 300 BP (c. 20 000–12 000 cal BP). By far the densest Magdalenian levels in El Mir´on pertain to the Lower Cantabrian Magdalenian, represented in the large (30 × 16–10 × 12–13m) front, centre and rear of the cave vestibule by a thick, dark ‘chocolate brown’, highly organic deposit of silty, clayey loam with small- to medium-size limestone ´eboulis and large numbers of water-worn cobbles from the alluvial infilling of the inner cave upslope of the vestibule. The Lower Magdalenian is characterised by enormous quantities of lithic knapping debris and tools/weapon elements, osseous artefacts such as points and needles, charcoal- and ash-rich hearths with anvil stones, fire-cracked rocks, pits, a possible stone wall, lenses of red and yellow ochres, and vast amounts of highly fragmented faunal remains—mainly red deer and ibex, plus salmon and smaller fish. Remnants of this horizon survive in niches in the bedrock walls of the erosional ramp leading back to the inner cave, where a Lower Magdalenian layer has also been found in a test-pit we dug at the base of an old exploratory trench (Straus & Gonz´alez Morales 2003, 2007a & b, 2008, 2010; Gonz´alez Morales & Straus 2005; Straus et al. 2008; Mar´ın 2010). Along with extraordinary works of portable art (Gonz´alez Morales et al. 2007; Gonz´alez Morales & Straus 2009, in press), the Magdalenian of El Mir´on is characterised by engravings both on the bedrock wall at the back of the vestibule and on a very large (c. 2.5 × 1.5 × 1m) block that had fallen from the roof, also near the back of that enormous sunlit chamber (Figures 2 & 3; Garc´ıa Diaz et al. in press). The Magdalenian levels which directly underlie this block and others which cover the engravings on its flat (western, sunlight-oriented) surface (along which the block had sheared off as a plane of weakness from the cave ceiling when it fell, landing with the weathered former ceiling surface down) provide termini post et ante quem dates for execution of the engravings, namely, after approximately Lower Magdalenian Level 110 (radiocarbon dated to c. 16 000 BP) on which the block had fallen, but before approximately Middle Magdalenian Level 108 (c. 14 000 BP) and subsequent Upper Magdalenian (c. 12 500 BP), Azilian (c. 12 000 BP) and Mesolithic age levels that overlie the engravings on the block’s up-tilted, west-facing, flat surface. This decorated block is critical to the story of the Magdalenian human burial.

Discovery and excavation of the human burial Excavations in the El Mir´on vestibule have concentrated on two separate, but trenchconnected, 9–10m2 areas, one near its front and the other at the foot of the erosional 1153


Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain

Figure 2. The west (daylight facing) surface of the fallen block, which carried engravings (Figure 2a) (photograph: Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales).

ramp leading back to the inner cave (Figure 3). In 2001 we undertook excavations at the rear of the vestibule, between the east and south sides of the fallen block mentioned above and the cave wall (X7 in Figure 3). Expectations were initially rather low, as this area had recently been intensively used by shepherds for stabling their goats. Indeed we had dismantled a wooden corral fence and feeding trough and shovelled large amounts of caprine dung from this south-east rear corner of the vestibule in 1996, exposing what we thought might be at least semi-intact sediments between the top of the engraved block and the cave wall. It was here that Gonz´alez Morales first observed seemingly old engraved lines descending both rock surfaces beneath the apparently intact, pre-modern stable ground surface. The area immediately north of the engraved block had been disturbed (by looting and or guano-digging) in recent times, but our initial test excavation demonstrated that the sediments against at least the western (engraved) face were intact and Magdalenian, Azilian and Mesolithic in age (Table 1). The 2001 excavation in squares X–Y/6–7 quickly (and surprisingly) revealed a series of indeed apparently intact levels banked up against the outwardly (westwardly) sloping rear wall of the cave with no modern artefacts. The artefacts 1154

Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

1155 Figure 3. Plan of El Mir´on Cave vestibule showing excavation trenches and location of the human burial in square X7, behind the engraved block (topography by Eduardo Torres, modified by Ron Stauber).


Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain Table 1. Tentative correlation of adjacent strata in the Corral & Burial areas at the rear of the El Mir´on Cave vestibule. Burial area between engraved block and rear cave wall Levels


C dates (BP)

500 501 502

502.1 503 503.1 504 (burial) Bedrock ledge

15 120+ −40 15 740+ −40

Corral area north and west of engraved block Levels


C dates (BP)

Cultural attribution

99 100 101 102 102.1 103–105 106 107 108

14 850–13 660

Upper Magdalenian Middle Magdalenian Lower/Middle Magdalenian

109 110 111–119 121–127 128 130

16 130+ −250 16 370–19 960 18 390–19 230 27 580+ −210 41 280+ −1120

Lower Magdalenian Initial/Lower Magdalenian Initial Magdalenian Solutrean Gravettian Mousterian

11 950+ −70 12 460+ −180

Disturbed surface fill Mesolithic (?) Mesolithic (?) Azilian (?) Final Magdalenian

recovered had a distinctly Magdalenian appearance, but the stratigraphy and logistics of digging here were complex due to the small size of the area, steep slope of the levels and isolated location vis a` vis total station (EDM) base locations in the cave. Thus the excavation was not renewed in this sector in 2002. It was not until 2010 that Straus suggested that it would be interesting to further pursue work in the narrow ‘behind-the-block’ area. Work was restarted in the northern half of square X7 (actually subsquare B and a very small area of A) on the irregular edge of the area disturbed by the ‘pothole’ to create a small, clean EW section across the middle of the square (Figure 4). Actually digging in the area were Straus and David Cuenca Solana. On 19 and 21 June 2010, while digging in rather loose sediments, first called Level 503, along the west face of the engraved block and upon removal of a 40 × 35 × 18cm rock (probably split off from the block) and a 15 × 10 × 6cm stone (both stained with red ochre), they uncovered two human hemi-mandibles, two loose lower molars, a tibia and other human bones. Following these discoveries, we proceeded to excavate the remainder of Levels 502, 502.1, 503 and 503.1 (all apparently intact—except limited disturbance of 503 by a rodent burrow at the eastern edge of the engraved block—and Azilian/Magdalenian in content appearance) in the southern half of X7 (subsquares C and D) recovering many more human bones. Level 503.1 corresponds to the base of a repeatedly used hearth (Feature 2010.1) with considerable ash and fire-cracked rocks. Charcoal from the bottom of this feature in X7D, 1156


Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

Figure 4. Excavation of the burial in progress, with the fallen block in the foreground (photograph: Lawrence Straus).

spit 5.1, included nine >2mm fragments that were identified as Juniperus (some being immature [i.e. 4-year-old] wood) by Dr Lydia Zapata (Universidad del Pa´ıs Vasco, VitoriaGasteiz) and were subsequently AMS radiocarbon-dated by Dr Alexander Cherkinsky (University of Georgia, USA) to 15 120+ −40 BP, or 18 290–18 110 cal BP (UG-7799). This 503.1 hearth base lay directly atop Level 504, which was subsequently excavated down to (or almost down to) the bedrock shelf in X7C and D. Level 504 was c. 20cm thick in the centre of X7. It is a loose grey-brown silt, stained bright red with ochre and speckled with the glittering mineral, galena. It is a wedge of sediment, thickest to the west against the engraved block and feathering out against the top of the sloping bedrock shelf to the east (at the western end of square Y7), where it and the overlying levels are so thin as to be hard to differentiate and disappear with the lightest brushing. The differences among so-called Levels 502, 502.1, 503 and 503.1 are sometimes illusory and clearly local in nature, all within the confines of not more than 1m2 . These may all be lenses related to hearth formation and human activity associated with it. The bedrock shelf bears what seem to be highly eroded, non-natural engraved lines (like those of the bedrock rear wall of the vestibule in precisely this area). Excavation of X7C and D (plus Y7C) yielded more human remains, including a clavicle, many hand and foot bones, vertebrae and ribs. A large quartz crystal was closely associated with these finds in X7D, spit 6. At the close of the 2010 excavation campaign, there were 1157

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain

left in place two large stones (a square block measuring c. 40 × 45cm and a slab measuring c. 20 × 25cm, whose bases lay atop the bottom of Level 504 and which had been surrounded by, and in the latter case also overlain by, the distinctive ochre-stained sediment of Level 504. Like the two stones originally removed in X7B, these stones may have been deliberately placed above the buried but somewhat scattered human remains. Although these remains were concentrated in X7 subsquares B, C and D, none were in anatomical connection and cranial bones (except the mandible) are (so far at least) absent. Unfortunately, the still-open rodent tunnel running the length of the western face of the engraved block, at the intersection of the block and the bedrock shelf along which it lies, had considerably disturbed Level 504 in its immediate vicinity and made controlled excavation difficult, since the tunnel would progressively collapse as excavation proceeded in X7A and C. Several artefacts and bones had to be scooped out of the tunnel, making for very approximate provenance. Luckily, most of the human remains came from far less disturbed/intact Level 504 sediments further east, including ones found under the first two stones removed in X7B and several found around the base of the two large stones in adjacent X7C and D. All in situ finds (lithics, animal and human remains, ‘manuports’ [i.e. water-worn cobbles and fire-cracked rocks]) were three-dimensionally piece-plotted with a total station set up immediately adjacent to X7; all sediments were water-screened through fine mesh. All bones from X7, Level 504, were reviewed by Dr Ana Belen Mar´ın (and some were also reviewed by Straus) to separate out definite or possible human remains that had not been determined as such in the field. Remains that appeared at the time of discovery to be human were placed immediately after recording into individual, clean, zip-locking plastic bags and these were in turn kept in clean plastic boxes with tightly sealing lids. They were touched as little as possible and were usually only handled with latex gloves. With the exception of the few finds made the first day (including one of the hemi-mandibles), they were not washed.

Context and associated finds The segment of the east face of the engraved block directly abutting the area of the dispersed human remains in Level 504 is stained with red ochre. This ‘painting’ coincides with the area of the burial, whose western edge was formed by the block and whose eastern edge was the rear cave vestibule wall. This is unlikely to be a coincidence, especially since Level 504 is stained bright red, as are the human remains, most dramatically the tibia. So this individual’s osseous remains—cleaned of flesh either naturally or artificially (to be determined by microscopic examination of the bone surfaces in the future)—were placed in a narrow space between the engraved cave wall and the engraved block, either directly atop a possibly engraved bedrock shelf or separated from it by a thin deposit of silt (Figure 5). The immediately adjacent part of the east face of the engraved block was painted with red ochre. The bones were covered with rocks some of which were also ochre-stained. This burial space was then back-filled with sediments mixed with red ochre and galena. The contents of the backfill included Magdalenian-type lithic and osseous artefacts, whose possible relationship (as ‘offerings’) with the human remains really cannot be ascertained (although the quartz 1158


Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

Figure 5. The narrow space between the rear wall of the vestibule (left) and the edge of the fallen bock (right), in which the human burial was originally interred (Level 504). Both stone faces had been stained with ochre (photograph: Lawrence Straus).

crystal is unusual enough and physically so close to several human bones as to be highly probable). Osseous artefacts found in X7, Level 504, include a perforated incisor (ibex?), a possible double-bevel base of a quadrangular-section sagaie with oblique engraved lines on both faces, an undecorated distal tip of a round-section sagaie, a distal tip of another round-section sagaie with a longitudinal engraved line crossed by two sets of oblique engraved lines on one face, a mesial fragment of an oval section sagaie with a 3mm-wide longitudinal groove (probably for bladelet slotting) on one face, a long mesial fragment of a sub-quadrangular section needle and a possible distal tip fragment of a lenticular section needle. Lithic artefacts from Level 504 in X7 include about 3000 items of chipping debris (mostly flakes, bladelets, plus several cores, all generally made of high-quality flint) plus 46 formal, retouched tools. These include three endscrapers (one of which is a nucleiform endscraper), three perforators, three notches/denticulates, a triangle and a circle segment (geometric microliths often found in small numbers in the Cantabrian Lower Magdalenian, including at El Mir´on), and 26 backed bladelets (or small blades). Level 503.1 yielded 33 tools, 20 of which are backed bladelets/small blades. Level 503 (from X7C and D only, where this unit is less clearly a mixed 504 than in X7A and B) has only 15 tools, six of which are backed 1159

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain

bladelets. Both the osseous and lithic artefact sets coincide with the Lower Magdalenian assemblages of the Corral and Cabin excavation areas of El Mir´on.

Dating The burial of the human remains obviously post-dated the fall of the engraved block, since Level 504 was banked up against it and the eastern face of the block was stained red like Level 504. The engraved block, resting at its eastern edge on a bedrock shelf jutting westward from the rear cave wall of the vestibule, served as a wall demarcating the western end of Level 504 and of the burial (Figure 5). The human remains are to be the subject of a programme of detailed scientific analysis (see below). Pending direct dating of one or more of the human bones, we selected a group of unidentifiable large mammal bone splinters from X7, subsquare D, Level 504, spit 7—an ashy, grey-yellowish, beige silt at the base of the level. This spit and subsquare did also yield a human fibula, vertebrae, ribs, foot and hand bones and possible pelvis fragments. The result of the AMS dating by Dr Cherkinsky is 15 740+ −40 BP or 18 940–18 770 cal BP (UG-7217). This date is in stratigraphic order with the one from overlying Level 503.1 in the same subsquare (D). It clearly falls within the range of the classic Lower Cantabrian Magdalenian, represented elsewhere in the El Mir´on vestibule by Level 17 in the front (‘Cabin’) excavation area (with five 14 C dates ranging between 15 700 and 15 370 uncal BP) and Levels 110–116 in the rear (‘Corral’) area (with eight far less coherent dates ranging between 16 460 and 14 760 uncal BP, excluding one younger date with a huge standard deviation). The engraved block itself had fallen, landing with its old, weathered cave ceiling face atop Level 110, as far as can be seen in the V–W/8 and W/8–9 stratigraphic sections along the western and northern sides of the block. Level 110 has three 14 C dates (14 760+ −70, + + 14 795+ 75 and 16 130 250 BP), Level 111 also has a pair of divergent dates (15 530 − − −230 + and 16 370+ 190) and Level 112 has a single date of 15 430 75 BP. In the cases of both − − Levels 110 and 111, however, the older dates are from a square closer to the block and might, therefore, more accurately date its fall. A plausible sequence of events could be thus: 1. Deposition of Level 111: 16 370 BP; 2. Deposition of Level 110: 16 130 BP; 3. Fall of the block and at least the start of engraving of its western face: c. 16 000–15 750 BP; 4. Deposition of human bones, painting of the block’s eastern face and Level 504 formation: 15 740 BP; 5. Formation of hearth in Level 503.1: 15 120 BP; 6. Covering of the engraved face of the block during the period between c. 14 850 and 11 950 BP. In short, it is possible that the deposition of the burial followed soon after the fall of the block. Furthermore, as noted above, it is likely that the western face of the block was engraved soon after it had fallen, since the engravings were covered relatively quickly by later Magdalenian levels. These facts all suggest that the burial was placed behind the block, 1160


Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

Figure 6. Hemi-mandible from El Mir´on Cave, Square X7B, Level 504 (photograph: Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales).

which itself had significance to the cave’s frequent Lower Magdalenian inhabitants. Recall that sunlight strikes the engravings on the block’s western face at the end of the afternoon in summer, which is when the site was probably occupied, if the (faunally determined) seasonality pattern of the Middle and Upper Magdalenian and Azilian had also held in the Lower Magdalenian (Mar´ın 2010). And recall how its eastern face was stained with red ochre in the area immediately adjacent to the location of the human remains. The fall of the block (perhaps due to an earthquake, since similar ceiling-fall blocks have been found in Lower Magdalenian deposits throughout the Cantabrian region, suggesting a major seismic event) must have been a significant event for humans at the time, so its human marking may have been very meaningful and the burial was perhaps even more important in the symbolic, ritual life of human groups that frequented El Mir´on during Oldest Dryas times.

The human remains: preliminary inventory The provisional inventory of the human remains uncovered in 2010 is given in Table 2, the more complete fragments recovered being a mandible (Figure 6) and a right adult tibia (Figure 7). 1161

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain Table 2. Inventory of human bone. Mandible:

partial right corpus with P4 , M1 and M3 , plus a compatible loose right M2 partial left corpus with P4 , M1 , M2 and M3 loose lower canine and lower premolar

Middle third of a right adult tibia Right adult fibula in four fragments Right adult clavicle in two fragments Two possible pelvis fragments Fifteen fragments of vertebrae (cervical and thoracic) Eight rib fragments Hand bones:

left adult metacarpal 4 two distal halves of adult proximal phalanges three complete adult middle phalanges three complete adult distal phalanges complete adult right capitate complete adult right trapezium

Foot bones:

complete adult left calcaneus three complete (or nearly complete) adult left metatarsals complete adult left second cuneiform possible phalanx base

Figure 7. Tibia from El Mir´on Cave, Square X7B, Level 504 (note ochre staining and gnaw marks) (photograph: Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales).

Preliminary review by Dr Mar´ın of faunal remains recovered in 2001 from the small wedge of Level 504 atop the bedrock ledge in Y7 yielded another human (foot?) phalanx, a distal fibula, a possible rib articulation and a few other possible rib and foot bone fragments. Although analyses are at a very preliminary stage, it appears at this time that the human remains could represent a single young adult. There are no duplicate elements. Besides the mandible, the individual is (so far at least) represented by her/his neck, thorax, a possible pelvis, parts of left and right hands, a lower right leg and a left foot. There were no bones in 1162

anatomical connection. Clearly this is a very partial skeleton, but whether a whole, defleshed skeleton had originally been buried in the vestibule rear may never be known for certain, since the area immediately north of square X7 had been dug out by looters and/or shepherds. Because almost all the remains were piece-plotted in situ, detailed distribution maps can be made to study the remnant dispersion thereof within the area between the block and the cave wall. The bones are stained red and at least the tibia bears what appear to be gnaw marks.

Conclusions and future work During one of many Lower Magdalenian residential stays—the most intensive Upper Palaeolithic occupations in large, strategically located El Mir´on Cave—the red ochre-stained bones of at least part of the skeleton of a young adult human were buried in a narrow space between a large block and the rear wall of the cave vestibule. The west-facing, sunlit surfaces of both that recently fallen block and the adjacent cave wall had been engraved, possibly around the time of the burial. In addition, the east-facing surface of the block, immediately adjacent to the human remains, was stained with red ochre, as were the sediments which covered those remains. There can be no doubt that the secondary interment of this person occurred in a highly ritualised context, although obvious grave offerings are problematic at this early stage of analysis. Given the slope of the Lower Magdalenian levels in this area (down toward the cave mouth), the high, vespertine sunlit face of the engraved block was clearly a centre of attention for the human inhabitants of the vestibule. One can speculate that the absolute rarity of this individual’s ‘special treatment’, especially in a regional context devoid of other Magdalenian burials, might indicate an unusual status attributed to her/him, as she/he ‘presided over’ the activities of the living—fellow band members, relatives and/or descendants. Ongoing excavations in the area immediately south of square X7 will determine whether more of the individual’s remains had been buried there. Future DNA analyses will attempt to test whether this individual was part of a refugial human population that had been involved in the post-LGM resettlement of north-west Europe as hypothesised by some recent genetic studies of modern European populations; stable isotope analyses will help reconstruct her/his diet; taphonomic analysis will investigate the possibilities of postmortem defleshing and gnawing, as well as ochre-staining; and bioanthropological studies will determine age, sex, health status and possibly cause of death. It is notable that the only other significant Magdalenian remains known from the Cantabrian region—the ‘cranial bowls’ of El Castillo—had also been artificially manipulated before burial. Note: During the 2011 excavation season, many more (as yet uninventoried) human bones were found in the southern half of square X7, some under the limestone block and slab mentioned above and all stained with red ochre. Most are hand and foot bones, but fragments of vertebrae, scapula (glenoid fossa) and pelvis (acetabulum) were also found. It was revealed that the southern end of the burial lay not atop bedrock (as in the northern half of X7) but rather in a small pit dug into underlying hearth layer 505 banked up against the bedrock slope. This level in turn overlay an occupation layer (506) which, by its depth, slope and contents, is probably the equivalent of Level 110, the stratum upon which the later-engraved block had fallen ‘soon’ before the human remains were



Lawrence Guy Straus, Manuel R. Gonz´alez Morales & Jose Miguel Carretero

Lower Magdalenian secondary human burial in El Mir´on Cave, Cantabria, Spain deposited to its east. Samples of three bones and a tooth were taken by Svante Paabo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig) for DNA and stable isotope analyses and direct AMS 14 C dating.

Acknowledgements The 2010–2011 campaigns in El Mir´on were financed by the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the Government of Cantabria and Jean and Ray Auel.

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