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1 August 2014
Territory of Upper Palaeolithic groups defined by flint

Studies by the University of the Basque Country of flint remains found in Donostia-San Sebastian, northwest Spain, have determined the economic territory of the human groups that lived there for about 2,000 years.
     The first inhabitants lived about 25,000 years ago in what is now known as the Ametzagaina park. Cro-Magnons of the Upper Palaeolithic set up open-air camps there for a couple of millennia. Sites of this type are much more difficult to locate than those found in caves, and tend to provide little more than the remains of stone tool production. However on this site - the oldest in the area - a significant set of flint items were found. The rock is endowed with excellent properties for carving, and in the Gravettian culture to which the Cro-Magnons of Ametzagaina belonged, clear technological progression took place in this art.
     These groups were nomadic: they had no permanent settlements. According to Álvaro Arrizabalaga, an Arts Faculty lecturer, "Determining where they obtained the flint makes it possible to establish their economic territory. They rough-hewed it on the spot and returned to their camps just with whatever they could make use of."
     The researchers also compared remains in this site with those in other nearby sites. They found that outcrops of peninsular flint were worked in 90% of the sites in the Peninsular Basque Country, and that outcrops of the Continental Basque Country were worked in 90% of the sites in the Northern Basque Country. In other words, the exploitation area tended to be radial and cover about 100 square kilometres. This is not the case in Ametzagaina. As Arrizabalaga points out, "They exploited the outcrops on both sides of the Pyrenees - their territory was shaped like a sandglass because it gets thinner across the Bidasoa pass. It was more than their flint territory, it was the area where they hunted, gathered and fished. It was their economic territory."

Edited from Universidad de Pais Vasco (18 July 2014), PhysOrg (21 July 2014)

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