Professor Lawrence Guy Straus Presents on "The Old Stone Age of Iberia"

October 23, 2012

The UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute, in partnership with the UNM Department of Anthropology and Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque, will host a lecture with Professor Lawrence Guy Straus, the Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and long-time editor of UNM's Journal of Anthropological Research. The presentation, "The Old Stone Age of Iberia: From Homo Antecessor to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, 1 Million to 10 Thousand Years Ago," will be an illustrated lecture of the long, rich record of Stone Age humans in Iberia, and will be held on Thursday, October 25, 2012, from 4:00-5:00 p.m., with a reception following from 5:00-6:00p.m. Both lecture and reception will be held in the UNM Hibben Center, and will be free and open to the public. For reference, please see the event flyer or for questions or comments, contact the LAII at or 505.277.2961.

With this lecture, Straus will explore how "the human settlement of Europe began in the Iberian Peninsula, about 1.4 million years ago. Over the course of time, successive species -- Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens sapiens -- have adapted to the diverse and changing landscapes of what are today Spain and Portugal. Indeed humankind in Europe has survived repeated Ice Ages by seeking refuge in Iberia, as well as in the two other Mediterranean peninsulas. The Neanderthals evolved from populations of early Homo -- very well represented in the Castilian sites of Atapuerca -- about 300,000 years ago and some of the last Neanderthals survived until about 30,000 years ago in southern Portugal and Spain (including Gibraltar). It was in northern Spain that cave art (in Altamira) was first recognized some 125 years ago as the work of anatomically modern Upper Paleolithic people (about 40,000-13,000 years ago) and some of the oldest and most spectacular cave and open-air rock art in the world is now known at hundreds of sites there and in eastern and southern Spain and Portugal. The ways of life based on hunting, fishing and gathering gradually came to an end across the Peninsula during a transition that spanned the end of the Last Glacial and beginning of the present Interglacial, culminating with the adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry between about 7000- 6000 years ago."

Straus has spent 17 years actively excavating El Mirón. Each summer since 1996 he has led a team of graduate and undergraduate students in search of information about the people who lived in or used the cave. He spent this summer in Spain doing analyses of stone and bone artifacts collected from El Mirón and consulting with the human paleontologists who are analyzing the skeleton found there in 2010-11. The remains have been carbon-dated to be about 19,000 years old. A monograph, "El Miron Cave", was published by UNM Press in February.

Straus is a renowned expert on the Upper Paleolithic and has specialized in the early modern humans who replaced the Neanderthals in Western Europe some 35-40,000 years ago. He has excavated in SW France, Portugal and Belgium, as well as in Spain. His 19th book, "The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe," which he co-edited with T. Terberger of Universitat Greifswald in Germany and D. Leesch of Universite de Neuchatel in Switzerland, was recently released as a special double issue of "Quaternary International" in September.

Information for this article was provided in part by Karen Wentworth for UNMToday.