A pollen study reveals a glacial refugium on the Valencia coast during the Middle Pleistocene

The pollen studies conducted at the Cova del Bolomor, a site on the shores of the Mediterranean, published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, show a rich and diverse environment with a broad spectrum of edible plants

Tomorrow, an open day will be held at the Cova del Bolomor site in Valencia, whose thirty-first excavation campaign, initiated at the beginning of August, is codirected by the Taphonomy Researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) Ruth Blasco, who has participated in a study which highlights the richness in pollen of the sediments of this enclave on the shores of the Mediterranean.

This study, published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews shows a rich and diverse environment in which a highlight is the long resilience of the mixed oak-pine forests throughout the cold phases and the great diversity of woody taxa, including deciduous, Mediterranean and thermophyte species.

The results point to a more forested habitat than that identified at other sites, with a great diversity of plants, typical of the extreme south of the Iberian Peninsula in the context of a glacial refugium. The pollen studies are also consistent with the paleontological findings, especially in relation to the macrofauna, which also suggest forested landscapes.

A varied diet

Apart from the macrofauna, the human groups inhabiting Bolomor also processed other animals, among which small prey such as rabbits, tortoises and birds stand out. “By analyzing the bone modifications, such as cut marks, bone fractures and cremation, we have managed to identify the anthropogenic use of the majority of the animals making up the finds, demonstrating the existence of a broad-spectrum meat diet at the site”, says Blasco.

In this context, the paleobotanical findings are especially relevant, because in conjunction with this diet there was also the possibility of a wide range of edible plants which grew near the cave, such as hazelnut (Corylus avellana), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), Mediterranean hackberry (Celtis australis), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), holly (Quercus ilex), olive (Olea europaea), elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and probably wild roses, including various species of Prunus, Rubus, Rosa and Sorbus.

A site rich in pollen

The Mediterranean basin has a wealth of Middle Pleistocene archaeological sites, although palynological findings from this period are still scarce, probably due to the difficulties of conducting this kind of analysis in sediments which are often not polleniferous or whose taphonomic characteristics do not offer sufficient analytic potential for conducting paleoecological reconstructions.

This point makes clear the importance of the pollen study undertaken at the Cova del Bolomor site, which was led by the Universidad de Murcia, and in which, in addition to the CENIEH, the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, the Universitat Rovira y Virgili of Tarragona and the Servei de Investigació Prehistórica (SIP) of Valencia have participated.

The work at Cova del Bolomor is conducted as part of the annual interventions by the Servicio de Investigación Prehistórica (SIP) of the Diputación de Valencia and with the permission of the Conselleria de Cultura of the Generalitat Valenciana.