Estrategias de subsistencia a finales del Pleistoceno superior y comienzos del Holoceno en el Valle del SellaLa Cueva de El Cierro (Ribadesella, Asturias, España)

  1. Rodrigo Portero Hernández
Supervised by:
  1. Esteban Álvarez Fernández Director

Defence university: Universidad de Salamanca

Fecha de defensa: 18 March 2022

  1. José Yravedra Sainz de los Terreros Chair
  2. Jesús Francisco Jordá Pardo Secretary
  3. Cleia Detry Committee member

Type: Thesis


This Doctoral Dissertation aims to analyse human subsistence strategies during the end of the Upper Pleistocene and early Holocene through the study of macromammals from El Cierro cave (Ribadesella, Asturias, Spain), and to compare them with other archaeological sites in the Sella river valley and the Spanish Cantabrian region. In order to address the processes by which hunter-gatherer groups used these animal resources for their survival, we carry out an archaeozoological and taphonomic study of the faunal remains from the upper archaeological levels of El Cierro cave, specifically from the Upper Solutrean levels (Cierro H1 and H2) to the Mesolithic level (Cierro B), observing the changes in subsistence strategies throughout the sequence of the cave. This research has allowed us to document the main species hunted and consumed by the human groups that inhabited El Cierro and to know the taphonomic agents involved in the formation and transformation of the archaeofaunal record of the cave. In addition, we have analysed, for each moment of occupation, the catchment areas of the faunal resources through Geographic Information Systems, the palaeoecology of the macromammals, the type of prey transport, the seasonal occupation of the cave, and the way the animals were processed. We have also calculated the amount of energy that these resources would have provided to the inhabitants of El Cierro, establishing a prey ranking according to the caloric contribution of their meat and fat. The study of the faunal remains has revealed the important role played by the deer for subsistence during the Upper Pleistocene and Holocene in El Cierro; not only because it was the main species hunted and consumed, but also because it was a fundamental energetic resource in the diet of the hunter-gatherer groups in the Cantabrian region during the studied period. We have been able to verify that, in addition to the energetic factor, other variables influenced the hunting decisions of human groups, being fundamental the orography of the environment, the climate, the ecology, the ethological behaviour of the animals, and the abundance of the species in the environment in combination with the aspects of hunting cost and economic benefit. In this Doctoral Dissertation we have been able to appreciate how the archaeological levels of El Cierro are the result of several seasonal occupations during at least the warm periods of the year, which may have had a longer duration during the Lower Magdalenian. In these occupations the hunting strategy focused on the capture of herds of young adult deer and their offspring, which could have been brought to the site complete. The taphonomic study has allowed us to identify a high degree of anthropic processing of many of the faunal remains from El Cierro. Traces of butchery and percussion, thermoalterations and the manufacture of bone artefacts indicate that there was a systematic exploitation of all the resources provided by the animal, and in some cases the entire processing chain of their carcasses has been documented. Other species such as goat, roe deer, large bovids, horse or wild boar would have made a smaller contribution to the diet, resulting from individual and opportunistic hunting of mainly adult and juvenile individuals. Finally, all the information on subsistence strategies obtained at the different levels of occupation of El Cierro has been compared with that from other sites in the Cantabrian region, always using the same methodology to be able to compare the data on the basis of identical analytical criteria. This has allowed us to qualify the classical models that had been proposed on subsistence strategies in relation to the geographical location of the sites and the type of fauna found.