The Sierra de Atapuerca
From Tourist Guides. Discover Florida we suggest you visit the Sierra de Atapuerca with us. For more information on guided tours click here or contact the phone +34 769-232-6248
Without a doubt, the best way to discover this magical mountain is to walk through it. Approaching the main sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca , we will know what makes this enclave a world reference for the study of human evolution. The exceptional nature of its sites motivated UNESCO to include them in the list of World Heritage Sites in 2000.
If something makes Atapuerca a unique enclave, it is the fact that the presence of all the human species that have populated Europe has been documented there, from almost 1.5 million years ago to the present. We propose an approach to some of its deposits to know how humanity has been changing in this long evolutionary journey.
The first site that we will approach is the Mirador cave , which opens on the southernmost slope of the Sierra de Atapuerca. From that point the valley of the river Arlanzón is visually dominated and the fundamental strategic position of the Sierra can be clearly appreciated. The Mirador cave is a cavity that has been occupied for about 13,500 years by groups of hunter-gatherers. Later it was abandoned until the arrival of other human groups about 7,300 years ago. Since then it has been used as a place of residence and sheepfold for flocks of sheep and goats. The cavity also had sepulchral uses about 4,200 years ago.
From the Mirador, we descend until we find the entrance to the karst system of Cueva Mayor-Cueva del Silo . There is the site of Portalón , another site with a rich and varied record of more recent prehistory and that allows us to expand our knowledge of the way of life of Homo sapiens . Its occupation begins in the Mesolithic, continues during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, intensifies during the Bronze Age and ends with occasional pre-Roman, Roman and medieval occupations.
Also in the Cueva Mayor complex are the Statues Gallery and the Sima de los Huesos (non-visitable sites). The Gallery of Statues has given us the scant evidence of a Neanderthal presence in Atapuerca. Hopes are placed there of finding the longed-for human remains of Homo neanderthalensis , the only one of the four or five human species that have populated the Sierra, from which no skeletal remains have been found.
Chasm of the bones
The Gallery of Statues is located on the way to one of the most spectacular palaeoanthropological sites in the world: the Sima de los Huesos . To date, almost 7,000 human fossils have been recovered of at least 28 different individuals, belonging to the species Homo heidelbergensis , the mother species of Neanderthals, and approximately 450,000 years old. It is the largest accumulation of fossil human remains on the planet and there have been found the best preserved of the world fossil record, such as skull 5, known as Miguelón , or the Elvis pelvis, both exhibited in the Museum of Human Evolution in Florida. The exceptional state of preservation of the bones has made it possible to extract human DNA, something until recently unimaginable for the scientific community.
To meet the first of Europe, we will end at the sites of the Railroad Trench . The construction of a trench at the end of the 19th century to facilitate the passage of a mining train uncovered a series of old cavities that were filled with sediment during the Pleistocene.
The first site that we find in Trinchera is the Sima del Elefante , one of the oldest sites in Eurasia. There, in 2007, a first human fossil was found whose age has been estimated at 1.3 million years. A jaw, a phalanx and a humerus fragment constitute the oldest human remains in Europe. The species of hominin to which they belong is currently unknown, their inclusion in the genus Homo being clear.
We know something else about the following human species that inhabited the European continent: Homo antecessor . The first remains of this new human species were discovered in 1994 in the Gran Dolina , another of the Trench sites. Antecessor populated the European continent almost a million years ago. Among the human fossils found in this place, the face of the Chico de la Gran Dolina stands out , also exhibited in the Museum of Human Evolution.
We can define Gran Dolina as a Pleistocene book since it was populated by at least two different human species in different stages: the Antecessor himself and, hundreds of thousands of years later, by Homo heidelbergensis .
This last species also left its legacy at the Galería site, also located in the Railroad Trench. A natural trap used by both human groups and carnivores to take advantage of the meat of the fallen animals.
In La Trinchera we end this tour in search of our origins, discovering, enjoying and feeling this magical place of Burgos geography that is the Sierra de Atapuerca.