“Poor” archeological levels not to be forgotten: units of Middle and early Upper Magdalenian age in El Mirón Cave (Ramales de la Victoria, Cantabria, Spain)


en Comptes Rendus Palevol 20 (36) - Pages 761-777

Published on 10 September 2021

This succinct contribution focuses on description and preliminary interpretation of “minor” occupations of the large, strategically located El Mirón Cave on the edge of the Cantabrian Cordillera in eastern Cantabria (Spain) during the Middle and early Upper Magalenian that followed upon the massive, culturally rich, faunally dense, functionally complex deposits of the Initial and Lower Magdalenian. The ten levels analyzed here date to the Late Glacial, c. 15.5-12.5 uncal kya BP. At a time when the classic Middle Magdalenian of the nearby French Pyrenees developed and major residential sites with clear social links to it (via the key site of Isturitz) were occupied in the lowland coastal zone of Cantabria and Asturias (e.g. La Garma, Llonín, La Viña), El Mirón had reverted for the most part to the role of a short-term, special-purpose, perhaps logistical campsite, rather than as a long-term, large-scale hub residential base. It is tempting (and indeed traditional) to focus on levels with large numbers of lithic and osseous artifacts, as well as works of portable art and personal ornaments, which are so characteristic of the most famous Magdalenian occupations. However, in hunter-gatherer subsistence systems, the “minor” locations played a significant role in the human exploitation of territories (especially ones with such complex, high relief as Cantabrian Spain). The levels in question here include some that can be interpreted as hunting camps (suggested by high percentages of worked and unworked bladelets and some antler points within the small assemblages), partially reminiscent of the use to which the cave may have been put during pre-Initial Magdalenian times, notably during the Solutrean, which was relatively rich in stone points.


Magdalenian, El Mirón Cave, Cantabrian Spain, minor special-purpose occupations, Late Glacial

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