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Excavations at the O Porriño site questions prehistory in Spanish Galicia


A team of international researchers led by archaeologists Eduardo Méndez-Quintas and Manuel Santonja, from the National Centre for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), are resuming their research work at the Gándaras de Budiño, historically the most important Palaeolithic site in Galicia, with the financial support of the Porriño Council and within the framework of the Minho/Miño research project: Os primeros poboadores do río Miño, which is being carried out simultaneously in Spain and Portugal.

Excavations at the O Porriño site questions prehistory in Spanish Galicia
Excavations at Gándaras de Budiño [Credit: Cedida]
The project is also supported by the Portuguese universities of Miño, Oporto and Lisbon and the Australian universities of Adelaide and Griffith, as well as CENIEH itself. The As Gándaras do Budiño archaeological site has always "been a reference site for Galicia since its discovery in 1961", explains Méndez-Quintas. "It was initially excavated by Emiliano Aguirre, known worldwide as the driving force behind the Atapuerca project."

The initial study determined that the site was about 26,000 years old, when it was expected to be over 100,000 years old. This led to the conclusion that in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula there was an atypical and anachronistic Palaeolithic in comparison to what was happening in the rest of southwestern Europe.

This argument was used to defend the idea of "Galicia's cultural backwardness", which supposedly began in the Palaeolithic period. "Even in the textbooks, it was said that in Galicia there was an extended Palaeolithic period", says Méndez-Quintas.

The current investigations have had a completely different outcome which contradicts the previous investigation.

"The results we have til now were wrong because they relied on carbon 14 dating, with which only remains up to 50,000 years old can be dated. In cases like this one, whose remains are older, the method is useless."

"We have indications that it is even older than 300,000 years, but we will know until the investigation is over. This would make it the oldest site found in Galicia, and the oldest site to date is Porto Maior, located in As Neves. It was found in 2005 by chance thanks to some road works that left a section of its geological deposits visible."

"It is also important in terms of its relationship with the African Palaeolithic. Both because of the size of the tools found (the normal size in Europe they do not exceed 15 centimetres and in this case quite a few pieces exceeded 18), and because of the fact that they were deliberately stockpiled."

"Other important sites in the area of Galicia include Arbo, which is 115,000 years old. But these are all very far from the sites of the Caves of Altamira (Cantabria) and Orce (Granada), which date back more than a million years", concludes Méndez-Quintas.

Source: La Voz de Galicia [July 13, 2018]

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