Archaeologists return to Cova Gran rock shelter

The rock shelter in northeastern Spain could hold answers to questions about hunter-gatherer evolution.

In 2015, a team of archaeologists and students will be returning to the site of Cova Gran de Santa Linya, a rock shelter located at the seam between the first range of the southern Pyrenees and the Ebro Basin in the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain. They plan to recover and investigate evidence they hope will shed light on Early Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer adaptations in this mountainous region.  

The cave has been found to yield a rich stratigraphic sequence of human occupation, including animal bones, lithic stone tool artifacts and hearths, dating back to at least 50,000 years ago with additional evidence of human occupation continuing through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Led by Professor Rafael Mora and Dr. Jorge Martinez-Moreno of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, investigations will focus on questions surrounding the adaptations of Neanderthal and Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) in the area.    

“Investigation at the site will allow us to recognize both the evolution of hunting and gathering strategies in the region and recognize important differences between Neanderthals and modern human adaptive strategies,” state the project leaders. “The deep archaeological sequence at Cova Gran contains animal bones, hearths, and Middle and Upper Paleolithic artifacts. The presence of Early Upper Paleolithic layers in stratigraphic context enable careful examination of two competing models that explain Middle/Upper Paleolithic “transition”: the first suggesting a continuity and the second suggesting a population replacement.“*


covagran3Above and below: The Cova Gran rockshelter, site of intensive archaeological excavations and investigations into a long sequence of human occupation going back to Middle and Upper Paleolithic times. Centre d’Estudis Patrimoni Arqueològic Prehistòric, Cova Gran Archaeological Project, Institute for Field Research




Cova Gran was first discovered during surveys in 2002, and in recent years has been the subject of continuing excavations and research. Scientists hope that the site will help answer questions within the ongoing scientific debate regarding the disappearance of the Neanderthals and the appearance of modern humans in Europe.

For individuals interested in participating in the excavations and research, more information can be found at the Institute for Field Research website.




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