Skip to main content

The Early Exploitation of Cetacean in Western Europe during the Late Upper Palaeolithic

Objective

The Whalebone project builds upon new advances in the study of past human adaptations to coastal environments, focusing on a key case study: early interactions between Late Upper Palaeolithic foragers and cetaceans at the end of the Last Glaciation in Western Europe. Over the last decade, a growing body of evidence suggests that the exploitation of whales could have been one of the significant factors underlying the development of early coastal economies during the Magdalenian culture, between 18,000 to 15,000 years ago. The recent identification of 54 whale bone artefacts in the Cantabrian region (northern Spain) during the previous postdoctoral research of the PR, to which can be added the 109 previously known Pyrenean examples, revealed the existence of regular and structured communication networks for the long-distance circulation of these marine resources. However, these studies focused only on the Bay of Biscay and it is still unclear whether this phenomenon was a strictly local adaptation or was part of a wider, shared coastal economy connecting different parts of Europe. To test this hypothesis, Whalebone proposes to identify cetacean bone objects outside the Pyreneo-Cantabrian region, focusing on the Spanish coasts. As many Magdalenian sites are close to the paleo-shorelines that yielded rich osseous industries, the Mediterranean coast is a particularly crucial area of investigation. Direct (dolphin bones) and indirect (whale barnacles) evidence for the exploitation of cetaceans in its southern part confirms the early interest and management of marine mammals. A multi-proxy approach beyond traditional zooarchaeology, including the first use of an innovative ancient proteomic technology (ZooMS), together with a minimally invasive dating program of cetacean bone objects, will be undertaken by Whalebone in order to address long-standing questions about long-term forager mobility patterns, regional interactions and coastal adaptations on a European scale.

Coordinator

UNIVERSIDAD DE CANTABRIA
Net EU contribution
€ 181 152,96
Address
Avenida De Los Castros S/n
39005 Santander
Spain

See on map

Region
Cantabria Cantabria
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
No data

Partners (1)

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
United Kingdom
Net EU contribution
No data
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge

See on map

Region
East of England East Anglia Cambridgeshire CC
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
No data