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Sporadic occupation in Armina cave during the Upper Magdalenian: What for?

Rios-Garaizar, J; San Emeterio, A; Arriolabengoa, M; Aranbarri, J; Rofes, J; Marin-Arroyo, AB; Rivero, O; Intxaurbe, I; Arranz-Otaegui, A; Salazar, S; Medina-Alcaide, MA; Garate, D

JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE-REPORTS
2020
VL / 30 - BP / - EP /
abstract
The cave of Armina is the lower level of the same karst cave system as Atxurra Cave, which has a habitat site in the entrance, covering from the Gravettian to the Late Magdalenian periods, and an important Palaeolithic rock art ensemble in the inner part of the cave. The current entrance of Armina was opened artificially at the end of the 19th century. Between 2016 and 2017 several tests and a 6 m(2) excavation were performed in the main hall of Armina to evaluate its archaeological record. The excavated stratigraphic sequence is sealed by a succession of sterile units (Ia-Ic) with no archaeological or faunal remains. At the bottom of this sterile unit a continuous flowstone separates it from Unit III, an almost sterile unit containing a few transported bones, charcoal fragments and a few lithics found in contact with Unit IV, where the bulk of archaeological remains were found. In Unit IV, a number of bone fragments and lithic tools are associated with a small hearth and an ocher stain. The available archaeological evidence, and the first results of the ongoing multiproxy analyses, suggest that the deposit is the result of a very short occupation event or even shorter visits to this spot inside the cave. These visits were more or less contemporaneous with the occupation levels in Atxurra and probably correspond chronologically to the artistic activity in the deep part of the cave. However, although Armina Cave is quite suitable for human settlement, only a short-term occupation has been recognized. This could partially be related to the morpho-topographic conditions of the cave which would imply that access from the exterior was difficult at the time of the occupation. Thus, the occupation site might be defined as an Inner Archaeological Context (I.A.C.). Therefore, our main hypothesis is that this short-term occupation was an activity spot for Magdalenian explorers inside the cave, in which the activities they carried out were not exclusively related to technological and subsistence practices, nor to the execution of art, given the particular nature of the finds and the absence of Palaeolithic artistic manifestations in Armina.

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PROYECTO FINANCIADO POR PLAN NACIONAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN AGENCIA ESTATAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN, MINISTERIO DE CIENCIA E INNOVACIÓN. PID2019-109127RB-I00