Reports from the El Mirón Cave in northern Spain have sparked interest in several quarters. The site has been described as “residential hotel for travelling groups of Stone Age hunters” by lead author Ana Belén Marín Arroyo, who worked with Lawrence Straus and other scientists.
“El Mirón Cave is located in a strategic point next to the access routes to the high zone of the River Asón and has a wide visibility,” Arroyo told Discovery News. “It’s a mountain settlement next to the coastal plain that would allow a seasonal residential mobility from the coast towards the interior at summer time, coinciding with the migrations of red deer herds to the high altitude grass.”
Engraved red deer shoulder blades, along with images of red deer hinds found at the site were probably “stylistic markers of a regional band.” The cave is well known for rock art and decorative objects, such as shell and tooth ornaments. In addition, an intriguing pile of black bones were determined as belonging to butchered red deer, ibex, roe deer, chamois and small carnivores. The staining was demonstrated not to be due to burning, but was instead due to the presence of manganese oxides and hydroxides.
Based on the timing of the natural decomposition that produced this staining, along with clues provided by deer dental remains, the researchers believe the hunters killed mostly red deer in the spring and summer, during which time they stayed in the cave. They likely occupied the cave’s large, well-lit outer vestibule, and used the interior room with the bones as a makeshift place for garbage.
As Tim Jones at Remote Central observes, “there is a vast amount of archaeological material that has been recovered from all over the world, precisely because much of it was regarded as refuse by the original owners, makers and consumers, little dreaming that people thousands of years into their future would be able to reconstruct details of their lives and environments from discarded remains and artifacts.”
Jones, T. 2007. El Mirón Cave – Upper Palaeolithic ‘Hotel’ Of Cantabria. Remote Central.
Vlegas, J. 2007. Cave Clue Reveals Ancient Bohemian Life. Discovery News.