Category Archives: SPAIN

Possible Neanderthal Hunting Tactic Explored

Possible Neanderthal Hunting Tactic Explored

Juan Negro crouched in the shadows just outside a cave, wearing his headlamp. For a brief moment, he wasn’t an ornithologist at the Spanish National Research Council’s Doñana Biological Station in Seville. He was a Neandertal, intent on catching dinner. As he waited in the cold, dark hours of the night, crowlike birds called choughs entered the cave.

Possible Neanderthal Hunting Tactic Explored
A red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) is an elusive species to hunt during the day. But its nighttime roosting habits could have made it easy prey for Neandertals to catch with their bare hands, a new study suggests.

The “Neandertal” then stealthily snuck in and began the hunt.

This idea to role-play started with butchered bird bones. Piles of ancient tool- and tooth-nicked choughs bones have been found in the same caves that Neandertals frequented, evidence suggesting that the ancient hominids chowed down on the birds. But catching choughs is tricky.

During the day, they fly far to feed on invertebrates, seeds and fruits. At night though, their behaviour practically turns them into sitting ducks. The birds roost in groups and often return to the same spot, even if they’ve been disturbed or preyed on there before.

So the question was, how might Neandertals have managed to catch these avian prey?

To find out, Negro and his colleagues decided to act like, well, Neandertals. Wielding bare hands along with butterfly nets and lamps — a proxy for nets and fire that Neandertals may have had at hand— teams of two to 10 researchers silently snuck into caves and other spots across Spain, where the birds roost to see how many choughs they could catch.

Researchers in Spain attempt to capture choughs with their bare hands in roosting sites such as this building. The effort was part of a study to see if Neandertals could have successfully hunted the birds.

Using flashes of light from flashlights to resemble fire, the “Neandertals” dazzled and confused the choughs. The birds typically fled into dead-end areas of the caves, where they could be easily caught, often bare-handed. Hunting expeditions at 70 sites snared more than 5,500 birds in all, the researchers report September 9 in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

The birds were then released unharmed. It was “the most exciting piece of research” Negro says he’s ever done.

The results demonstrate that through teamwork, choughs can be captured without fancy tools at night and offer a likely way that Neandertals could have captured choughs. But actual Neandertal bird-catching behaviour remains unknown. If this is in fact how Neandertals hunted, it adds to claims that their behaviour and ability to think strategically is more sophisticated than they are often given credit for.

Red-billed choughs, captured as part of an experiment to see if Neandertals could have caught the birds, sit in a sack. The birds were released unharmed.

“The regular catchment of choughs by Neandertals implies a deep knowledge of the ecology of this species, a previous planning for its obtaining, including procurement techniques, and the ability to plan and anticipate dietary needs for the future,” says Ruth Blasco.

A taphonomist at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution in Tarragona, Spain, Blasco is an expert in the Neandertal diet.

Such role-playing, she notes, is “commonly used by scholars as valid analogies to infer processes that happened in the past.” For instance, reenactments with replicas of wooden spears have suggested that Neandertals could have hurled the weapons to hunt prey at a distance.

The researchers re-creating chough hunts used butterfly nets to catch birds fleeing sites with narrow entrances, as well as bigger nets partially covering larger openings. But “the easiest thing was to grab the birds by hand,” Negro says.

“You have to be intelligent to capture these animals, to process them, to roast and eat them,” he notes. Previous studies have shown that Neandertals may have been similarly adept at foraging for seafood. “We tend to think that [Neandertals] were brutes with no intelligence,” Negro says, “but in fact, the evidence is accumulating that they were very close to Homo sapiens.”

Amateur Divers Discover Trove of 53 Roman Gold Coins in Spain

Amateur Divers Discover Trove of 53 Roman Gold Coins in Spain

Two amateur divers swimming along the Spanish coast have discovered a huge hoard of 1,500-year-old gold coins, one of the largest on record dating to the Roman Empire. The divers, brothers-in-law Luis Lens Pardo and César Gimeno Alcalá, discovered the gold stash while vacationing with their families in Xàbia, a coastal Mediterranean town and tourist hotspot.

Amateur Divers Discover Trove of 53 Roman Gold Coins in Spain
Freedivers in Spain notified the authorities after finding a handful of gold coins dating to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The duo rented snorkelling equipment so they could go freediving with the goal of picking up trash to beautify the area, but they found something far richer when Lens Pardo noticed the glimmer of a coin at the bottom of Portitxol Bay on Aug. 23, El País reported. 

When he went to investigate, he found that the coin “was in a small hole, like a bottleneck,” Lens Pardo told El País in Spanish. After cleaning the coin, Lens Pardo saw that it had “an ancient image, like a Greek or Roman face.” Intrigued, Lens Pardo and Gimeno Alcalá returned, freediving to the hole with a Swiss Army knife and using its corkscrew to unearth a total of eight coins. 

Stunned by the find, Lens Pardo and Gimeno Alcalá reported it the next day to the authorities. “We took the eight coins we had found and put them in a glass jar with some seawater,” Lens Pardo said.

Soon, a team of archaeologists from the University of Alicante, the Soler Blasco Archaeological and Ethnological Museum and the Spanish Civil Guard Special Underwater Brigade, in collaboration with the Town Council of Xàbia, came together to excavate and examine the treasure. 

With the help of the archaeologists, they found that the hole held a hefty pile of at least 53 gold coins dating between A.D. 364 and 408 when the Western Roman Empire was in decline. Each coin weighs about 0.1 ounces (4.5 grams).

The coins were so well preserved, archaeologists could easily read their inscriptions and identify the Roman emperors depicted on them, including Valentinian I (three coins), Valentinian II (seven coins), Theodosius I (15 coins), Arcadius (17 coins), Honorius (10 coins) and an unidentified coin, according to a University of Alicante statement.

The hoard also included three nails, likely made of copper, and the deteriorated lead remains of what may have been a sea chest that held the riches.

Coins from the underwater hoard buried off the coast of Spain.

The hoard is one of the largest known collections of Roman gold coins in Europe, Jaime Molina Vidal, a professor of ancient history at the University of Alicante (UA), a researcher at the University Institute of Archaeology and Historical Heritage at UA and team leader who helped recover the buried treasure, said in the statement.

The coins are also a treasure trove of information, and may shed light on the final phase of the Western Roman Empire before it fell, Molina Vidal said. (In A.D. 395, the Roman Empire split into two pieces: the Western Roman Empire, with Rome as its capital, and the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire, with Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) as its capital, Live Science previously reported.)

Perhaps these coins were purposefully hidden during the violent power struggles that ensued during the Western Roman Empire’s final stretch.

During that time, the barbarians — non-Roman tribes such as the Germanic Suevi and Vandals and the Iranian Alans — came to Hispania, the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula, and took power from the Romans in about 409, according to the statement.

The hoard found off the coast of Spain is one of the largest Roman coin hoards in Europe.

“Sets of gold coins are not common,” Molina Vidal told El País, adding that Portitxol Bay is where ships leaving from Rome’s Iberian provinces stopped before sailing to the Balearic Islands, which includes modern-day Mallorca and Ibiza and then heading to Rome. Given that archaeologists haven’t found evidence of a nearby sunken ship, it’s possible that someone purposefully buried the treasure there, possibly to hide it from the barbarians, likely the Alans, he said.

“The find speaks to us of a context of fear, of a world that is ending — that of the Roman Empire,” Molina Vidal said.

So far, a study of the coins suggests that the gold hoard belonged to a wealthy landowner, because in the fourth and fifth centuries “the cities were in decline and power had shifted to the large Roman villas, to the countryside,” Molina Vidal told El País.

“Trade has been stamped out and the sources of wealth become agriculture and livestock,” he said. As the barbarians advanced, perhaps one of the landowners gathered up the gold coins — which did not circulate as regular money, but were collected by families to serve as signs of wealth — and had them buried in a chest in the bay. “And then he must have died because he did not return to retrieve them,” Molina Vidal said.

After the coins are fully studied, they will go on display at the Blasco Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum in Xàbia. Meanwhile, the Valencian government has allocated $20,800 (17,800 Euros) for underwater archaeology excavations in the area, in case any more treasures are buried in the vicinity. Previously, Portitxol Bay has yielded other discoveries, including anchors, amphorae (ceramic vessels), ceramics and metal remain, and artefacts associated with ancient navigation. 

Archaeologists Find Several Jars Full of Emeralds Connected to El Dorado, Spain

Archaeologists Find Several Jars Full of Emeralds Connected to El Dorado, Spain

Archaeologists in Colombia have found eight ceramic jars, with metallic figurines and emeralds inside, within a temple and its adjacent graves. 

Archaeologists Find Several Jars Full of Emeralds Connected to El Dorado, spain
Here, an ofrendatario is found at the Muisca site.

The ancient Muisca (also called the Chibcha) crafted the jars called “ofrendatarios” about 600 years ago. The Muisca, a people whose civilization flourished in the region at the time, were famous for their metal-crafting skills, and their work may have inspired the legend of El Dorado — a legendary city made of gold. 

Between 1537 and 1540, the Spanish conquered the region, and many of the Muisca were killed during fighting or due to disease. Despite the destruction, the Muisca persevered and thousands of their descendants live on today. 

Archaeologists uncovered the temple and graves in the remains of an ancient Muisca town located near Bogotá, the modern-day capital of Colombia.

A team led by archaeologist Francisco Correa, an archaeologist who conducts excavations prior to construction work, found the ofrendatarios during excavations that were conducted prior to road construction in the area.

Some of the figurines look like snakes and other animals, while others look more like people with headdresses, staffs and weapons. The temple where the ofrendatarios were found may be related to ancestor worship. 

“It’s very difficult to establish, I think there was some type of cult of the ancestors,” Correa told Live Science.

Ofrendatarios like these have been found at other ancient Muisca sites and may have been offerings of sorts. They have artefacts inside that often include metallic figurines and emeralds. 

The temple and ofrendatarios may also be related to deities worshipped by the Muisca, said Correa, noting that they worshipped a variety of gods, including those associated with the moon and sun. 

Metal-crafting legend

The Muisca were regarded as experts in metal crafting. When the Spanish encountered the Muisca, they were particularly amazed at their goldwork. There were no gold mines nearby, so the ancient Muisca traded for the metal with other groups. 

As for whether the Muisca metalwork — especially their goldwork — inspired the legend of El Dorado, Correa said the group did have a tradition in which during certain ceremonies a chief would appear covered in an ointment that included gold particles.

This ceremony “was one of the motivations of this myth,” said Correa. The ceremony was witnessed by Spaniards and recorded in Spanish chronicles; the story along with the Muisca’s goldwork helped inspire the legend. 

Correa worked with the Museo Del Oro & Xavierian University’s Industrial Engineering department to conduct the excavation. He also got assistance from Artec 3D, which provided an Artec Eva scanner that he used to create 3D scans of the artefacts. 

Possible Grave of Medieval Christian Hermit Excavated in Spain

Possible Grave of Medieval Christian Hermit Excavated in Spain

This summer, a tomb embedded in the rock by the main entrance to the San Tirso and San Bernabé Hermitage situated in the karst complex of Ojo Guareña (Merindad de Sotoscueva, Burgos) was excavated; its structure of slabs holds the skeleton of an adult individual in the supine position, with its head to the west, set between two small limestone blocks.

Possible Grave of Medieval Christian Hermit Excavated in Spain
Hispano-Visigothic tomb in Ojo Guareña.

This excavation was prompted by the new chronologies offered by the dating project for the Ojo Guareña Karst Complex Cultural Heritage (2017–2021).

One of the dates obtained in 2020 evinces a Hispano-Visigothic period chronology related to the transition between the end of the seventh century and the start of the eighth, while the human remains from the lower level are associated with a transition phase between the end of the eighth century and the start of the ninth, in the High Middle Ages.

“In both cases, these push the evidence known to date for the start of Christian worship at this emblematic site back several centuries,” says Ana Isabel Ortega, an archaeologist attached to the Fundación Atapuerca and the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH).

The anthropological studies, especially the analyses of stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon and strontium, together with the dating for the remains, offer us a glimpse into the life of this person, who could have been associated with the first hermits who sought a retreat in this idyllic setting where they could live in isolation, during centuries of great turbulence linked to the arrival of the Moors, just as was the case elsewhere close to the upper course of the River Ebro and its tributaries in the south of the province of Cantabria, the north of Burgos, Álava and La Rioja.

Apart from Ortega, the excavation team was made up of Pilar Fernández, Sofía de León and Raquel Lorenzo, restorers at the CENIEH, and Miguel Ángel Martín.

The other collaborators were Aitor Fernández, an employee of the Ayuntamiento de Merindad de Sotoscueva, as well as Clara López, Alberto Gómez and Eduardo Sainz Maza, who are guides to the San Bernabé Cave. Josu Riezu and Txus Riezu also furnished their support.

Once the excavation has concluded and the human remains have been recovered, these will be consolidated and restored at the CENIEH.

They will subsequently be subjected to dating, morphometric and paleopathological studies, while Ana Belén Marín and Borja González, researchers from the EvoAdapta R+D+i Group at the Universidad de Cantabria, will participate in isotopic studies.

Hub of Christianity

San Bernabé Cave became a hub of Christianity during the High Middle Ages as a centre for religion and pilgrimage, with the foundation of a church devoted to San Tirso and San Bernabé in a process that appropriated the former pagan sanctuary in the Ojo Guareña karst enclave caves, intimately bound up with the process that gave rise to the Kingdom of Castile.

‘I don’t care: text shows modern poetry began much earlier than believed

‘I don’t care’: text shows modern poetry began much earlier than believed

New research into a little-known text written in ancient Greek shows that “stressed poetry,” the ancestor of all modern poetry and song, was already in use in the 2nd Century CE, 300 years earlier than previously thought. In its shortest version, the anonymous four-line poem reads “they say what they like; let them say it; I don’t care.” Other versions extend with “Go on, love me; it does you good.”

The poem inscribed on a cameo on a medallion of glass paste (2nd to 3rd century CE) found in a sarcophagus around the neck of a deceased young woman in what is now Hungary.

The experimental verse became popular across the Eastern Roman Empire and survives because, as well as presumably being shared orally, it has been found inscribed on twenty gemstones and as a graffito in Cartagena, Spain.

By comparing all of the known examples for the first time, Cambridge’s Professor Tim Whitmarsh (Faculty of Classics) noticed that the poem used a different form of meter to that usually found in ancient Greek poetry. As well as showing signs of the long and short syllables characteristic of traditional “quantitative” verse, this text employed stressed and unstressed syllables.

Until now, “stressed poetry” of this kind has been unknown before the fifth century when it began to be used in Byzantine Christian hymns.

Professor Whitmarsh says: “You didn’t need specialist poets to create this kind of musicalized language, and the diction is very simple, so this was a clearly a democratizing form of literature. We’re getting an exciting glimpse of a form of oral pop culture that lay under the surface of classical culture.”

The new study, published in The Cambridge Classical Journal, also suggests that this poem could represent a “missing link” between the lost world of ancient Mediterranean oral poetry and song, and the more modern forms that we know today.

The poem, unparalleled so far in the classical world, consists of lines of 4 syllables, with a strong accent on the first and a weaker on the third. This allows it to slot into the rhythms of numerous pop and rock songs, such as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”

Whitmarsh says: “We’ve known for a long time that there was popular poetry in ancient Greek, but a lot of what survives takes a similar form to traditional high poetics. This poem, on the other hand, points to a distinct and thriving culture, primarily oral, which fortunately for us in this case also found its way onto a number of gemstones.”

Asked why the discovery hasn’t been made before, Whitmarsh says: “These artefacts have been studied in isolation. Gemstones are studied by one set of scholars, the inscriptions on them by another. They haven’t been seriously studied before as literature. People looking at these pieces are not usually looking for changes in metrical patterns.”

Whitmarsh hopes that scholars of the medieval period will be pleased: “It confirms what some medievalists had suspected, that the dominant form of Byzantine verse developed organically out of changes that came about in classical antiquity.”

In its written form (which shows some minor variation), the poem reads:

Λέγουσιν: They say

θέλουσινWhat they like

λεγέτωσαν: Let them say it

οὐ μέλι μοι: I don’t care

σὺ φίλι με: Go on, love me

συνφέρι σοι: It does you good

The gemstones on which the poem was inscribed were generally agate, onyx or sardonyx, all varieties of chalcedony, an abundant and relatively inexpensive mineral across the Mediterranean region.

‘I don’t care’: text shows modern poetry began much earlier than believed
The poem is preserved in a graffito from an upper-storey room in Cartagena Spain (2nd to 3rd century CE).

Archaeologists found the most beautiful and best-preserved example around the neck of a young woman buried in a sarcophagus in what is now Hungary. The gem is now held in Budapest’s Aquincum Museum.

Whitmarsh believes that these written accessories were mostly bought by people from the middle ranks of Roman society. He argues that the distribution of the gemstones from Spain to Mesopotamia sheds new light on an emerging culture of “mass individualism” characteristic of our own late-capitalist consumer culture.

The study points out that “they say what they like; let them say it; I don’t care” is almost infinitely adaptable, to suit practically any countercultural context. The first half of the poem would have resonated as a claim to philosophical independence: the validation of an individual perspective in contrast to popular belief. But most versions of the text carry an extra two lines which shift the poem from speaking abstractly about what “they” say to a more dramatic relationship between “you” and the “me.” The text avoids determining a specific scenario but the last lines strongly suggest something erotic.

The meaning could just be interpreted as “show me affection and you’ll benefit from it” but, Whitmarsh argues, the words that “they say” demand to be reread as an expression of society’s disapproval of an unconventional relationship. The poem allowed people to express a defiant individualism, differentiating them from trivial gossip, the study suggests. What mattered instead was the genuine intimacy shared between “you” and “me,” a sentiment which was malleable enough to suit practically any wearer.

Such claims to anticonformist individuality were, however, pre-scripted, firstly because the ‘careless’ rhetoric was borrowed from high literature and philosophy, suggesting that the owners of the poetic gems did, after all, care what the classical litterati said. And secondly, because the gemstones themselves were mass-produced by workshops and exported far and wide.

Whitmarsh says: “I think the poem appealed because it allowed people to escape local pigeon-holing, and claim participation in a network of sophisticates who ‘got’ this kind of playful, sexually-charged discourse.”

“The Roman Empire radically transformed the classical world by interconnecting it in all sorts of ways. This poem doesn’t speak to an imposed order from the Imperial elite but a bottom-up pop culture that sweeps across the entire empire. The same conditions enabled the spread of Christianity; and when Christians started writing hymns, they would have known that poems in this stressed form resonated with ordinary people.”

Whitmarsh made his discovery after coming across a version of the poem in a collection of inscriptions and tweeting that it looked a bit like a poem but not quite. A Cambridge colleague, Anna Lefteratou, a native Greek speaker, replied that it reminded her of some later medieval poetry.

Whitmarsh says: “That prompted me to dig under the surface and once I did that these links to Byzantine poetry became increasingly clear. It was a lockdown project really. I wasn’t doing the normal thing of flitting around having a million ideas in my head. I was stuck at home with a limited number of books and re-reading obsessively until I realized this was something really special.”

There is no global catalogue of ancient inscribed gemstones and Whitmarsh thinks there may be more examples of the poem in public and private collections, or waiting to be excavated.

2,000-Year-Old Roman-era Chandelier is One-of-a-Kind!

2,000-Year-Old Roman-Era Chandelier is One-of-a-Kind!

A Roman chandelier, which is believed to be the last one remaining, has been reconstructed by Spanish archaeologists after they discovered it among the ruins of a workshop.

The round lamp which was used during the Roman Empire to light up large spaces has a diameter of half a metre and has spots for 32 candles or fuses. 

The rare artefact, which has been lovingly restored by local art teacher Eva Maria Mendiola, is on display at the Elda Museum in Alicante, Spain.

It is believed the light, from the 1st Century AD, was made by a potter named Lucius Eros, The Times reports. 

According to El Pais, Augustus and Tiberius were ruling while Eros was alive and he used to engrave his name on the moulds he made. 

The round lamp which was used during the Roman Empire to light up large spaces has a diameter of half a metre and has spots for 32 candles or fuses
It is believed the light, from the 1st Century AD, was made by a potter named Lucius Eros.

His branding made it possible to identify the craftsman that had originally made the precious item which was found during an archaeological dig.

Another four lamp moulds were found at the archaeological site Elo-Monastil, which is where Eros is believed to have had his workshop and several kilns. 

His workshop was first discovered in 1989 before further kilns were found in 2009 and 2010.

2,000-Year-Old Roman-Era Chandelier is One-of-a-Kind!
The rare artefact, which has been lovingly restored by local art teacher Eva Maria Mendiola, is on display at the Elda Museum in Alicante, Spain.

Speaking in 1989, professor of Ancient History at the University of Alcalá de Henares Antonio M. Poveda explained the chandeliers of this style would have taken a lot of expertise to make. 

As a result, they were quite rare and were only made to order for wealthier people in other cities, including what is now known as Elche and Alicante, with large rooms to light up. 

This latest discovery is the first of its kind to have been preserved. 

The lights worked by poking fuse through holes in the multiple tubes and oil was piped in to keep it alight. 

They were soon replaced by lamps made of metal materials. 

In Madrid, a 76,000-year-old Neanderthal hunting camp was discovered

In Madrid, a 76,000-year-old Neanderthal hunting camp was discovered

In Madrid, archaeologists have uncovered an ancient camp where Neanderthals conducted ‘hunting parties’ 76,000 years ago to chase down big bovids and deer. Archaeologists think it is the largest such camp in the Iberian Peninsula region, with a total area of 3,200 square feet (300 square meters).

They think it may have acted as an intermediary between Neanderthals hunting their prey and the place of final consumption, where the whole group would take advantage of the resources that the hunting parties had gathered.

An analysis of fauna at the Abrigo de Navalmaíllo site in Pinilla del Valle, Madrid helped researchers make the discovery.

Findings: An ancient camp where Neanderthals hosted ‘hunting parties’ to track down large bovids and deer 76,000 years ago has been found in Madrid. Animal remains (pictured) recovered from the site helped archaeologists identify the camp
In Madrid, a 76,000-year-old Neanderthal hunting camp was discovered.
Covering a space of 3,200 sq ft (300m2), archaeologists believe the Abrigo de Navalmaíllo site in Pinilla del Valle, Madrid (pictured) could be the largest such camp in the Iberian Peninsula region
Faunal remains from the Navalmaíllo site include a) jaw of a large bovid; b) rhinoceros molar; c) horse molar; d) molar hyena; e) stone tool cutting marks, and f) percussion mark to access the medulla of a long bone
A taphonomic study of fauna at the Abrigo de Navalmaíllo site showed that it matched remains found at similar hunting camps but not those at previously identified Neanderthal residential camps (pictured above)

This looks at the entire process of what happens after an organism dies and eventually becomes a fossil.

‘We have been able to demonstrate with great certainty that the Neanderthals of Navalmaíllo hunted mainly large bovids and deer that they processed at the site and that they would later move to a second referential place,’ said Abel Moclán, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the National Center for Research on Human Evolution.

‘This aspect is very interesting since there are very few deposits in the Iberian Peninsula where this type of behaviour has been identified. 

‘For all this, we have used very powerful statistical tools, such as Artificial Intelligence.’

Archaeologists have previously found evidence of other Neanderthal activity in the region, including the making of stone tools or the use of fire.

With this latest discovery, researchers think it was used as a short-term base by Neanderthal groups.

Animals were captured locally, transported to the camp, and following their processing, parts of them would have been transported elsewhere.

All phases of butchery were identified, along with the extraction of marrow from long bones, revealing an interest in obtaining this nutritious food.

Human use of animal resources at the site reflects a focus on hunting large bovids and cervids, or deer, while horses, rhinoceroses and small-sized animals were much less frequent, the researchers said. 

The activity of carnivores was also identified, but these animals, including hyenas, mostly left behind the remains of small prey or fed upon carcasses abandoned at the camp by human hunters.

‘Navalmaíllo is one of the few archaeological sites in Iberia that can be interpreted as a hunting camp,’ the study’s authors said, but added that ‘it is probable that more hunting camps are present in the Iberian Peninsula but are yet to be found.’

This map of the Iberian Peninsula shows the location of the Abrigo de Navalmaíllo excavation sites as well as those sites dated in the Upper Pleistocene
These graphs show the types of very large, large, medium and small-sized animals found at the site. Human use of animal resources at the site reflects a focus on primary access to large bovids and cervids. Access to horses, rhinoceroses and small-sized animals was much less frequent, the researchers said

Earlier this month separate research claimed that cave paintings drawn by Neanderthals of swirling dots, ladders, animals and hands show our distant cousins were more artistic than first thought

A flowstone formation at the Cueva de Ardales, Málaga in Spain is stained red, originally thought to be a natural coating of iron oxide deposited by flowing water.

However, samples of the red residue allowed a team from Barcelona University to re-examine its origins and confirm it was created by Neanderthals 65,000 years ago. 

They found the ochre-based pigment was intentionally applied by Neanderthals, as modern humans had yet to make their appearance on the European continent. 

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Skin Impression Discovered In Spain

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Skin Impression Discovered In Spain

In Spain, detailed skin impressions of a giant dinosaur discovered 66 million years ago in a muddy riverbank have been discovered. The fossil was created over centuries by sand petrifying into sedimentary rock, and it clearly shows the pattern of massive scales that once lined the creature’s hide.

skin
Detailed skin impressions of a massive dinosaur that rested in a muddy river bank some 66 million years ago have been uncovered in Spain. The fossil was formed by sand petrifying into sedimentary rock over millennia and distinctively shows the pattern of large scales that once lined the creatures hide

The prints are thought to have been left by a titanosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous period, just before dinosaurs went extinct.

‘This is the only registry of dinosaur skin from this period in all of Europe, and it corresponds to one of the most recent specimens, closer to the extinction event, in all of the worlds,’ said lead researcher Victor Fodevilla, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

‘There are very few samples of fossilized skin registered, and the only sites with similar characteristics can be found in the United States and Asia.’

Instead, the team envisions the creature that made the impressions with a huge four-footed sauropod, possibly a Titanosaurus – one of the biggest animals ever to walk the Earth.

And researchers found footprints near the site that support the titanosaur theory.

‘The fossil probably belongs to a large herbivore sauropod, maybe a titanosaur, since we discovered footprints from the same species very close to the rock with the skin fossil,’ said Fodevilla.

A titanosaur, a silhouette representing the size of a hatchling titanosaur, relationship to a human at birth, tiny titanosaur babies weigh about as much as average human babies, 6 to 8 pounds. But in just a few weeks, they’re shedding the tiny descriptor and are at least the size of golden retrievers, weighing 70 pounds, knee-high to a person. And by age 20 or so, they’re bigger than school buses

The discovery was made in the village of Vallcebre, near Barcelona, in an area that was once the bank of an ancient river. It is thought the dinosaur left an imprint of its scales when it laid down in the mud to rest. Over time, the region where the animal left its prints was eventually covered with sand.

And over the course of thousands of years, the area petrified to form sandstone, preserving the astonishing impressions recently discovered by the researchers. 

Since the sand acted as a mold, what is seen on the rock is a relief from the animal’s original skin. 

How the process happened is unique, as the Late Cretaceous period corresponds to the moment shortly before dinosaurs became extinct, there are few places on Earth containing sandstone from this period.

Characterizing these dinosaurs is very important in order to understand how and why they disappeared. Two skin impressions were found, one about 20 centimetres across and the other five centimetres, separated by a distance of 1.5 meters.

And experts believe they were made by the same animal.

The ‘rose’ pattern of the scales is characteristic of certain dinosaurs, said the researchers, who describe their find in the journal Geological Magazine.  

‘The fact that they are impression fossils is evidence that the animal is from the sedimentary rock period, one of the last dinosaurs to live on the planet,’ said Fondevilla.

‘When bones are discovered, dating is more complicated because they could have moved from the original sediment during all these millions of years.’ 

This discovery also verifies the excellent fossil registry of the Pyrenees in terms of dinosaurs living in Europe shortly before they became extinct. 

‘The sites in Berguedà, Pallars Jussà, Alt Urgell and La Noguera, in Catalonia, have provided proof of five different groups of titanosaurs, ankylosaurids, theropods, hadrosaurs and rhabdodontids,’ said Àngel Galobart, head of the Mesozoic research group at the ICP and director of the Museum of Conca Dellà in Isona. 

‘The sites in the Pyrenees are very relevant from a scientific point of view since they allow us to study the cause of their extinction in a geographic point far away from the impact of the meteorite.’