The People of Palomas: Neandertals from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Southeastern Spain

The People of Palomas: Neandertals from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Southeastern Spain

The People of Palomas: Neandertals from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Southeastern Spain

The People of Palomas: Neandertals from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Southeastern Spain


The Neandertal site of the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, located in Murcia in southeastern Spain, is unique in several respects. One of its most important contribution to the field of Anthropology, however, may be that it has yielded of the remains of at least 17 Neandertals, adding appreciable breadth to the available data for a greater understanding of Neandertals. Further, its location in the southern Iberian Peninsula provides the potential for studying a population that may have been somewhat isolated from contemporaneous groups of early humans.

This comprehensive analysis represents the first detailed description and analysis of the human fossil assemblage found at the Sima de las Palomas site. While scientific discussion continues regarding the precise impact of Neandertals upon modern human physiology and biology, The People of Palomas adds significantly to our knowledge of the human fossil record of the Late Pleistocene.


For most of the history of human paleontology, the paleontological monographic descriptions of substantial samples of human fossil remains have been undertaken by single individuals or, at the most, pairs of individuals. These efforts have produced a series of now classic monographs describing the remains from Spy, Krapina, La Chapelle-aux-Saints, Oberkassel, La Quina, Předmostí, Skhul and Tabun, Zhoukoudian, Olduvai Gorge, La Ferrassie, Qafzeh, and Shanidar, among others. Yet during the past few decades, it has become apparent that the proper presentation and analysis of a large sample (or even small sets of isolated bones and teeth) requires the collaboration of multiple individuals with different areas of knowledge and technical expertise as well as diverse perspectives. It is with this recent approach that this treatment of the human remains from the Sima de las Palomas has emerged.

A decade ago, when Michael J. Walker invited Erik Trinkaus to undertake the process of bringing the Palomas Neandertal remains to the larger profession, it was readily apparent that any such effort would involve a substantial set of individuals. Some of these people had already been involved with the Palomas remains, especially A. Vincent Lombardi through his years of excavating at the Sima de las Palomas and his early involvement with the human remains. Other individuals—Josefina Zapata, Alejandro Pérez-Pérez, and Beatriz Pinilla—had begun their studies of the large sample of dental remains. At the same time, Jon Ortega had been involved with the excavation and cleaning of the human remains (especially Palomas 92) and was increasingly involved in their analysis.

Once we, along with the late Josep Gibert, had sorted out the basics of the project and had begun the process of publishing short notes on aspects of the collection, it was then appropriate to bring in other individuals—ones with appropriate and complementary paleoanthropological expertises. It was therefore as a result of these different individuals’ work, separately and together, that the contents of this volume have emerged and come together. All of these individuals are authors or coauthors of the chapters in this volume. in addition, a substantial number of individuals have furnished expertise and analyses in the field and the laboratory to enable placing the Palomas human remains in their geological and chronological context; most of them are mentioned in chapter 2. Through this process, João Zilhão has provided helpful feedback and perspectives.

Any project such as this one is of course dependent on substantial financial and logistical support for the fieldwork, the descriptions of the Palomas human fossils, the collection of comparative data, and the analysis of the resultant data. the following institutions have provided economic, material, and personnel support to Michael J. Walker and colleagues for the Sima de las Palomas excavations and laboratory analysis: the Spanish Government for research grants CGL2005/02410/BTE, BOS/2002/02375, PB/98/0405, and PB/92/0971 . . .

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