Fourth excavation campaign at the La Malia rockshelter

Since 2018, the CENIEH has been engaged in excavation work at this site in the province of Guadalajara, where it has been possible to verify the presence of human populations during the Upper Paleolithic

Over the month of September, a team directed by Nohemi Sala, a researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), and Adrián Pablos of the Universidad de Sevilla (US), has carried out the fourth excavation campaign at the La Malia rockshelter, a site in the Tamajón karst archaeopaleontological complex (Guadalajara). It has proved possible to locate different levels of human presence there, and bony remains of the animals these prehistoric populations consumed, utensils made of rock and bone, and pigments have all been recovered.

At this site in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, at least two periods of occupation have been identified as from the Upper Paleolithic, that is, by the earliest Homo sapiens to inhabit the Peninsula. Later, in recent prehistory, groups of Chalcolithic and Bronze Age farmers used the rockshelter for their day-to-day activities, modifying and reshaping the earlier Paleolithic levels.

This year's excavation campaign is part of the research project “PYHIP-TAMAJON-21: the Paleolithic and Holocene of the peninsular interior at the Tamajón karst sites (Guadalajara)”, led by Nohemi Sala and Adrián Pablos.

More habitable and populated

For decades, the inland Iberian Peninsula has been considered uninhabitable by the Paleolithic populations who lived between 25,000 and 40,000 years ago, coinciding with a period of climatic oscillations. This is also a crucial stage as it is when the disappearance of the Neanderthals and the spread of H. sapiens throughout Europe took place.

Over recent years, much effort has gone into finding new enclaves in this region, and this is enabling Paleolithic sites to be located. “Thanks to this drive, and the fossils and lithic industry remains recovered over these four consecutive years of excavation campaigns, today we can say that the Iberian plateau was not as uninhabited as formerly believed”, states Sala.

Researchers at numerous Spanish and international institutions are collaborating on this project, which is financed by the Consejería de Educación, Cultura y Deportes of the Junta de Castilla la Mancha and the CENIEH: Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU), Universidad de Alcalá (UAH), Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA), Universidad de Murcia (UM), Universidad de Zaragoza (UZA), Universidad de Oviedo (UniOvi), Universidad de Cantabria (UC), University of Adelaide (Australia), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), University of Tübingen (Germany) and the Universidad de Extremadura (UEX).

Lámina de cuarzo recuperada en los niveles del Paleolítico superior del abrigo de la Malia en la campaña 2021/ Antonio Rodríguez Hidalg