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Palaeolithic tools found in Madrid reveal the social complexity of the first hominids

Herramientas del Paleolítico encontradas en Madrid revelan la complejidad social de los primeros homínidos


Archaeologists from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), in collaboration with researchers from Israel, have shown how our most remote ancestors strategically organised the production of their tools. The results, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, are based on the study of bifaces found at sites in Madrid

Researchers from the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) and the Prehistory Laboratory at Tel Hai College (Israel) have compared two of the most important archaeological sites associated with the first hominids: GBY (Israel) and Charco Hondo 2 (Spain).

This comparison shed new light on how the first Homo groups structured the production of their tools in a strategic way, producing, accumulating and storing their tools in the most advantageous locations. 

The work titled "Life history of a large flake biface", was published by the prestigious Quaternary Science Reviews. It is based mainly on the study of bifaces, tools carved in stone on both sides (such as the famous “Excalibur" found in Atapuerca), typical of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic age.

"It is the first time that we are able to understand that our most remote ancestors organised the production of their tools in an industrialised way, similar to how a company organises its production today", says Javier Baena, Professor of Prehistory at the UAM and the study’s first signatory.

Charco Hondo 2

The region of Madrid, which has undergone intense construction activity in recent decades, has revealed sites of enormous interest related to the exploitation of flint, a type of rock widely used by the first humans to produce tools. These sites have recently provided researchers with a better understanding of early hunter-gatherer groups.

Specifically, excavations have been going on at the Charco Hondo 2 site in the Los Ahijones area near Vicálvaro in recent years. This is an Acheulean industry from approximately 300,000 years ago, in which the use of large-sized flint rocks provided the fundamental support for the production of bifaces.

But despite the enormous volume of materials recovered, this site is notable for the total absence of finished tools.

"However, many of these appear in other areas, possibly close to where they were needed to dismember elephants and other large mammals, among other things," explains Concepción Torres, a doctoral student at the UAM and co-author of the paper.

The researcher explains that, "This circumstance has allowed us to demonstrate how production took place in different contexts, depending on the characteristics and needs of each location”. 

Finally, the article notes that the organisation of utensil manufacturing is identical in places as far removed from one another as the Iberian Peninsula and the Middle East, going as far back as a million years. The authors concluded that this shows that such conduct was already a hallmark of our most remote ancestors.



Baena Preysler J., Torres Navas C., Sharon S. (2018). Life history of a large flake biface, Quaternary Science Reviews (190) 123-136, ISSN 0277-3791.





Concepción Torres Navas, PDIF

Dept. of Prehistory and Archaeology

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona

Telephone:  91 497 2013

Mail: concepcion.torres@uam.es