Roca dels Bous (archaeological site)

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Roca dels Bous is a Middle Paleolithic site located in Sant Llorenç de Montgai, in the Catalan Pyrenees, Spain. Archaeological research at the site includes the study of southern European Neanderthals who inhabited the area approximately 50,000 years ago. The archaeological site is characterized by the use of technology that is innovative for archaeology including labeling with QR codes. It has also been one of the first middle Paleolithic sites open to visit in Spain.[citation needed]

Roca dels Bous
Type Archaeological site
Period Middle Paleolithic
Population Neanderthals
Location Sant Llorenç de Montgai, Catalonia, Spain
Website Roca dels Bous

History of the region[edit]

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Iberian Peninsula acted as a “refuge” for the retreating Neanderthal populations as they were being replaced by modern humans. Several archaeological sites in the Western Mediterranean and Portugal show that Neanderthals lived there until around 30,000 BP. In the north of the Iberian Peninsula, around 40,000 BP, a new techno-economical – and possibly social – tradition had emerged, different from the one represented by the Neanderthals. This new tradition is associated with the appearance of anatomically modern humans, who, it is believed, arrived in Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean and quickly spread throughout the continent.[citation needed]

As late as 50,000 years ago, the Pyrenees were the dwelling of hunter-gatherer groups of Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans. Critical changes in their subsistence, in social organization, a colder climate and a poor ability to adapt to these changes have been proposed as causes for their extinction.[citation needed]

History of the project[edit]

The site is in northeast Spain, located above the river Segre in the Pyrenees foothills, six miles north of the city of Balaguer and two hours west of Barcelona. This location allows easy access to the Ebro basin and entrance to the Pyrenees.

The principal aim of the project is to study the dynamics of population and lifestyles of the late middle Paleolithic and to increase our knowledge about the possible Neanderthal-modern human interaction.[citation needed]

Preliminary excavations identified archeological materials typical of Neanderthals, especially flint and quartzite artifacts characteristic of the middle Paleolithic.[citation needed] Archaeologists found bones from various animals that were part of the diet of Neanderthal groups. Remains from woodlands (red deer), grasslands animals (wild horses) and rock dwellers (wild goats) are present, which suggests that Roca dels Bous was at the nexus of different ecosystems.[citation needed]

One of the most interesting[citation needed] characteristics of this site is the role it might have played in the mobility of the Neanderthals. The archaeological floors found had Neanderthals of Roca dels Bous (La Noguera, Catalonia, Spain) surprisingly few lithic artifacts and scarce animal remains. Layers of hearths with no apparent organization were discovered by the wall of the rock shelter. Fires appear repeatedly along the stratigraphic sequence and could be interpreted as resulting from ongoing short-term settlements. The combination of these factors suggests that small groups consistently chose Roca dels Bous as a temporary shelter as they moved through wide areas, possibly following the migratory routes of their prey.[citation needed]

Several carbon-dating analyses resulted in dates around 38,000 BP. If this dating is confirmed, Roca dels Bous would stand out as a very interesting archaeological site indeed.[original research?] Furthermore, it is to be noted that the samples used for the 14C AMS[clarification needed] dating were obtained from deep strata at the site.[citation needed]

The oldest Neanderthal sites known in the nearby areas date back to around 40,000 BP. The first settlements attributed to “anatomically modern” Homo sapiens sapiens in Northern Spain are dated around 39,000-38,000 BP. All this would suggest that Neanderthals could have persisted in this particular area longer than previously believed, preceding the arrival of the first Homo sapiens to the area.[citation needed]


Research work began in 1988. This wide period of time[clarification needed] has contributed to achieve a high level of knowledge about this important moment in the history. Currently the European Union contributed to its development as a museum, together with special infrastructure construction uncommon in other prehistoric sites. La Roca dels Bous forms part of the European project POCTEFA, a partnership between the countries of Spain, France and Andorra. Its aim is to provide highly valuable information about the Neanderthal occupation in this area and reasons that drove them to their sudden disappearance.[citation needed]

ICT and museumization[edit]

The study of site uses advanced technology, not found in most other excavations. This technology has been exclusively developed for this site.[citation needed]

Roca dels Bous is the first archaeological site in Spain that has been turned into a museum exhibition using digital technology.[citation needed] With an iPad, it is possible to take an interactive tour through photos, videos and 3D applications. Via laser triangulation, the archaeologist can log the exact location of the findings.

Otherwhiseresearch[clarification needed] team use innovative digital system, which allows classifying the pieces found. The incorporation of incorporating Datamatrix codes (DM) to the fieldwork and use of PDA. This novelty reduces the error rate (from 40% to 1%) and the labeling time in a half. This methodology is starting to be adapted to other archaeological projects across Europe.[citation needed]


  • de la Torre, I., J. Martínez-Moreno and R. Mora (2012). When bones are not enough: Lithic refits and occupation dynamics in the Middle Palaeolithic level 10 of Roca dels Bous (Catalunya, Spain). Bones for tools - tools for bones. The interplay between objects and objectives. K. Seetah and B. Gravina. Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research: 9-19.
  • Martínez-Moreno, J., P. González Marcén and R. Mora Torcal (2011). "Data matrix (DM) codes: A technological process for the management of the archaeological record." Journal of Cultural Heritage 12(2): 134-139.
  • Martínez-Moreno, J., I. de la Torre, R. Mora and j. Casanova (2010). Technical variability and changes in the pattern of settlement at Roca dels Bous (southeastern Pre-Pyrenees, Spain). Settlement dynamics on the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age. N. J. Conard and A. Delagnes. Tübingen, Kerns Verlag. III: 485-507.
  • Martínez-Moreno, J., R. Mora, P. González Marcén, S. Vega Bolívar, J. Pizarro, J. Casanova and X. Roda (2010). L'aparició de l'homo sapiens al Prepirineu oriental. Reconstruint els darrers 50.000 anys de poblament humà als Pirineus. 2n col.loqui d'Arqueologia d'Odèn. Home i Territori. Darreres investigacions al Prepirineu Lleidatà 2006-2008. Òdèn, MuseuDiocesà i Comarcal de Solsona: 11-28.
  • Benito-Calvo, A., J. Martínez-Moreno, J. F. Jordá Pardo, I. de la Torre and R. M. Torcal (2009). "Sedimentological and archaeological fabrics in Palaeolithic levels of the South-Eastern Pyrenees: Cova Gran and Roca dels Bous Sites (Lleida, Spain)." Journal of Archaeological Science 36(11): 2566-2577.
  • Mora, R., J. Martínez-Moreno and J. Casanova (2008). "Abordando la noción de "variabilidad musteriense" en Roca dels Bous (Prepirineo suroriental, Lleida)." Trabajos de Prehistoria 65(2): 13-28.
  • Martínez-Moreno, J., R. Mora, J. Casanova and I. de la Torre (2007). "La Roca dels Bous: sur les pas des Néandertaliens du sud des Pyrénées." Bulleltin de l'Association Archéologique des Pyrénées-Orientales(22): 47-55.
  • Martínez-Moreno, J., R. Mora, I. d. l. Torre and J. Casanova (2006). "La Roca dels Bous en el contexto del Paleolítico Medio final del Noreste de la Península Ibérica." Zona Arqueológica 7: 252-263.
  • Mora, R., I. d. l. Torre and J. Martínez Moreno (2004). Middle Palaeolithic Mobility and Land Use in the Southwestern Pyrenees: The Example of Level 10 in La Roca dels Bous (Noguera, Catalunya, Northeast Spain). Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Palaeolithic and Middle Stone Age. N. J. Conard. Tübingen, Kerns Verlag. II: 415-435.
  • Mora, R.; de la Torre, I. y Martínez-Moreno, J. 2004. “Middle Palaeolithic mobility and land use in the Southwestern Pryrenees: The example of Level 10 in La Roca dels Bous (Noguera, Catalunya, Northeast Spain)”. En: Conard, N. J. (ed.), Settlement Dynamics on the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age. Tübingen, Kerns Verlag. 2: 415-435

External links[edit]