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The Nerja Cave

6 May 2023
Ancient history, Dating, Geology

At https://phys.org/news/2023-04-fossilized-soot-charcoal-reconstruct-history.html … an  intriguing new dating technique – in caves. It is being dubbed, ‘smoke archaeology’ but is in fact more complicated than that and ultimately relies of C14 methodology. It was developed in Spain by Marian  Medina and is said to analyse the remnants of torches, fires, and smoke in Spanish and French caves. It involves electron microscopy and C14 is required to provide a base, using charcoal and soot.

Whatever one thinks of the validity of the dating of smoke and the remains of fire it does throw up some significant dates – in the Late Pleistocene. The Nerja Cave contains Palaeolithic paintings and it all took off, it seems, around 40,000 years ago. This is the point in the past when Neanderthals with a Middle Pleistocene tool repertoire were replaced by modern humsns. As said on several occasions previously, it is also coeval with the Laschamp Event, a geomagnetic reversal [temporary]. The findings document how often the cave was occupied between 40,000 and 5,000 years ago. There was a lot of visits to the cave between 30,000 and 15,000 years ago, coeval with the Late Glacial Maximum. Dating made use of fossilised soot on stalagmites.

The cave also played a funerary role in the Mesolithic period, in the early Holocene. See also https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32544-1

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