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The School of Sciences celebrates Teacher's Day at the Atapuerca sites

61 professors, researchers, technicians and staff of service celebrated the end of the course with a scientific visit

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Professors of the School of Sciences who visited the Atapuerca sites.
PHOTO: Arturo Ariño
06/06/14 11:59 Laura Latorre

As is now traditional, a total of 61 professors, researchers, technicians and staff of service of the School of Sciences celebrated the end of the course with a scientific visit to the Atapuerca sites and the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos. This archaeological complex has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco (2000) and its researchers received the award Príncipe de Asturias de research Scientific and Technical Award in 1997.

During the morning we visited the archaeological sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca, a mandatory reference for any study on human evolution. David Canales (graduate in Humanities by the University of Navarra and guide professional of the sites) explained the origin and how the sites were formed, as well as the history of the discoveries. The tour included the Sima del Elefante, the Gallery and the Gran Dolina in the Trinchera del Ferrocarril.

The visit was completed in the afternoon at the Museum of Human Evolution, where the originals of some of the discoveries are shown in a very didactic way:"Miguelón", the skull issue 5 which is the best preserved Homo heidelbergensis skull in the world;"Elvis", the most complete pelvis in the fossil record, which belonged to a male individual, 175 cm tall and weighing 95 kilograms; or"Excalibur", a biface tool , unused and made of red quartzite, which is believed to have been used as a cult for the deceased in what was a human burial place. All these findings make Atapuerca a unique place in the world.

An unprecedented finding

The Sierra de Atapuerca is a karst system: it is formed by water-soluble limestone rock. Water seeps in, dissolves the limestone and generates a whole series of subway galleries and conduits, some of which have become clogged and covered with sediments over time. Thus, the caves fill up, leaving between layers of sediments episodes of the life of the animal and human groups that inhabited them.

The site has yielded remains dating from more than one million years ago (Lower Pleistocene) to the present day, with data on the fauna, flora and climate. Atapuerca is exceptional for the abundance of its fossil record, its good preservation and scientific importance. The lithic tools that have been found cover all technological stages, from the most primitive forms of stone carving to those belonging to the Bronze Age. In terms of fauna, a new species of cave bear has been found, baptized Ursus dolinensis, as well as a large number of fossil remains of different animals: horses, giant deer, bison, lions, hippopotamuses, saber-toothed tigers, among others.

But the most important finding is that of human remains: the remains of Europe's oldest ancestor, Homo antecessor, have been found, proposal as the last common species between Neanderthals, Homo sapiens and those of the pre-Neanderthal Homo heidelbergensis.