Late Glacial and Postglacial use of marine resources in the Bay of Biskay, North Spain

  1. Esteban Álvarez Fernández
  2. Miguel Ángel Fano
  3. gor Gutiérrez-Zugasti
An Offprint of shell energy mollusc shells as coastal resource

Publisher: Oxbow Books

ISBN: 978-1-84217-765-5

Year of publication: 2013

Pages: 155-166

Type: Book chapter


This paper analyzes the role played by the marine environment of the Bay of Biscay within the Late Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Early Neolithic societies of Cantabrian Spain (c. 13,000–5,500 BP [15,600–6,400 cal BP]), with particular attention to evidence of fishing and gathering. The discussion also considers the use of marine fauna as ‘symbolic resources’, in adornments and art, and refers to the possible use of shells as artefacts, a topic still little researched in this region. Various factors impede interpretation. Sea level change is the most important of these. Late Glacial societies exploited the shores (mainly rocky areas) for food, and used some shell species to make personal ornaments. They fished in rivers and estuaries and represented aquatic fauna in Palaeolithic art. A significant increase is seen in the quantity of marine resources in Mesolithic archaeological levels, but it is difficult to know how much more intensively these resources were exploited in comparison with the previous periods, given that so much evidence from these earlier periods may have been removed by sea level change. We know more about mollusc gathering than fishing, and it seems that not all the population used the sea as a source of food. Several archaeological sites along the coast of Cantabrian Spain demonstrate that exploitation of the marine environment continued in the Early Neolith