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Formation processes, fire use, and patterns of human occupation across the Middle Pal
Gruta da Oliveira features a c. 13 m-thick infilling that includes a c. 6.5 m-thick archaeological deposit (the “Middle Palaeolithic sequence” complex), which Bayesian modelling of available dating results places in MIS 5a (layers 7–14) and MIS 5b (layers 15–25), c. 71,000–93,000 years ago. The accumulation primarily consists of sediment washed in from the slope through gravitational processes and surface dynamics. The coarse fraction derives from weathering of the cave’s limestone bedrock. Tectonic activity and structural instability caused the erosional retreat of the scarp face, explaining the large, roof-collapsed rock masses found through the stratification. The changes in deposition and diagenesis observed across the archaeological sequence are minor and primarily controlled by local factors and the impact of humans and other biological agents. Pulses of stadial accumulation—reflected in the composition of the assemblages of hunted ungulates, mostly open-country and rocky terrain taxa (rhino, horse, ibex)—alternate with interstadial hiatuses—during which carbonate crusts and flowstone formed. Humans were active at the cave throughout, but occupation was intermittent, which allowed for limited usage by carnivores when people visited less frequently. During the accumulation of layers 15–25 (c. 85,000–93,000 years ago), the carnivore guild was dominated by wolf and lion, while brown bear and lynx predominate in layers 7–14 (c. 71,000–78,000 years ago). In the excavated areas, conditions for residential use were optimal during the accumulation of layers 20–22 (c. 90,000–92,000 years ago) and 14 (c. 76,000–78,000 years ago), which yielded dense, hearth-focused scatters of stone tools and burnt bones. The latter are ubiquitous, adding to the growing body of evidence that Middle Palaeolithic Neandertals used fire in regular, consistent manner. The patterns of site usage revealed at Gruta da Oliveira are no different from those observed 50,000 years later in comparable early Upper Palaeolithic and Solutrean cave sites of central Portugal.

 See also, https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/2023...fa1d650000
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