A geoarchaeological perspective on human behaviour

Dr Vera Aldeias, a post-doctoral researcher from Max Plank Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, expert fire experimenter and Neanderthal fire analyst, visited the AMBI Lab and gave an inspiring talk entitled On experimentation and site formation: a geoarchaeological perspective on human behavior.

Microarchaeology of craft production processes in Roman times

Mario Gutiérrez in AMBI Lab
Mario Gutiérrez

Mario Gutiérrez, a micromorphologist expert in Roman contexts, visited the AMBI Lab and presented examples of Roman furnaces and other combustion structures.


Mario Gutiérrez and ERC PALEOCHAR teamwork
Mario Gutiérrez and ERC PALEOCHAR teamwork in AMBI Lab

Summer fieldwork at Abric del Pastor and El Salt sites (Alcoy, Tenerife)

Carolina Mallol, Lucia Leierer and Rory Connolly working in Abric del Pastor

As every summer, archaeological excavations are carried out at Abric del Pastor and El Salt sites (Alcoy, Alicante) from July to the end of August. The work is part of a research project directed by Bertila Galván, Cristo Hernández and Carolina Mallol and funded by the Spanish Ministry Economy and Competitivity (MINECO).

ULL Media is currently preparing a documentary about  our work at the sites. Our goal is to show the general audience the different tasks that take place at a Palaeolithic excavation and the different lines of research that can provide information about the human past.



Experimental fires

The ERC PALEOCHAR teamwork started making experimental fires to provide a reference collection of burnt fats. Dr Tammy Buonasera works on molecular and isotopic biomarkers to characterize animal fats in archaeological context. The aim of these analyses is to determine what these fats are and which animals were consumed.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire

The PALEOCHAR project examines how Neanderthal diet, fire technology, settlement patterns, and surrounding vegetation at a local scale (individual sites) were affected by changing climatic conditions.

Our recent experimental and geoarchaeological work on Palaeolithic fire has led to the discovery of black layers from archaeological fireplaces as invaluable contexts of preserved organic matter. 

The black layers typically documented in Middle Palaeolithic hearths represent the charred ground beneath the fire. Therefore, they can be considered as snapshots of living floors, rich in residues from human activity as well as from soils and vegetation of the natural surroundings.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire

Crucially, experimental data has shown that the average temperatures associated with black layers – below 300°C on average – are high enough for the charring of organic compounds and to make them unappealing to biodegrading soil fauna, but not as high as to destroy their biomarker chemical fingerprints.

Therefore, once charred, organic compounds may preserve well within sediment for indefinite periods of time as long as the sedimentary environment does not undergo strong diagenesis. The PALEOCHAR project will target this important window of organic matter preservation by exploring the black layers of intact Neanderthal fireplaces.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire