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The exceptional finding of Locus 2 at Dehesilla Cave and the Middle Neolithic ritual funerary practices of the Iberian Peninsula

AuthorsGarcía-Rivero, Daniel; Taylor, Ruth; Umbelino, Cláudia; Price, T. Douglas; García-Viñas, Esteban; Bernáldez-Sánchez, E.; Pérez-Jordá, Guillem; Peña-Chocarro, Leonor ; Barrera-Cruz, María; Gibaja, Juan Francisco ; Díaz-Rodríguez, Manuel J.; Monteiro, Patrícia; Vera Rodríguez, Juan Carlos; Pérez-González, Javier
Issue Date2020
PublisherPlos One
CitationPLoS ONE 15(8): e0236961. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236961 (2020)
AbstractThere is a significant number of funerary contexts for the Early Neolithic in the Iberian Peninsula, and the body of information is much larger for the Late Neolithic. In contrast, the archaeological information available for the period in between (ca. 4800-4400/4200 cal BC) is scarce. This period, generally called Middle Neolithic, is the least well-known of the peninsular Neolithic sequence, and at present there is no specific synthesis on this topic at the peninsular scale. In 2017, an exceptional funerary context was discovered at Dehesilla Cave (Sierra de Cádiz, Southern Iberian Peninsula), providing radiocarbon dates which place it at the beginning of this little-known Middle Neolithic period, specifically between ca. 4800–4550 cal BC. Locus 2 is a deposition constituted by two adult human skulls and the skeleton of a very young sheep/goat, associated with stone structures and a hearth, and a number of pots, stone and bone tools and charred plant remains. The objectives of this paper are, firstly, to present the new archaeological context documented at Dehesilla Cave, supported by a wide range of data provided by interdisciplinary methods. The dataset is diverse in nature: stratigraphic, osteological, isotopic, zoological, artifactual, botanical and radiocarbon results are presented together. Secondly, to place this finding within the general context of the contemporaneous sites known in the Iberian Peninsula through a systematic review of the available evidence. This enables not only the formulation of explanations of the singular new context, but also to infer the possible ritual funerary behaviours and practices in the 5th millennium cal BC in the Iberian Peninsula.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236961
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