Neolithic to Bronze Age economy and animal management revealed using analyses lipid residues of pottery vessels and faunal remains at El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)

Marta Frances-Negro, Eneko Iriarte, M.A. Galindo-Pellicena, A. Carrancho, A. Pérez-Romero, Pascale Gerbault, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, J.M. Carretero, Mélanie Roffet-Salque*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


El Portalón de Cueva Mayor located in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Atapuerca, is a unique reference Late Prehistory archaeological site in the Iberian Peninsula, covering some 7 kyr of Holocene occupations. Herein we present the study of lipid residue analyses from 108 pottery sherds coupled with faunal kill-off patterns from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age periods to gain new insights into natural product exploitation and animal management. The molecular and isotopic analyses of lipid extracts provide evidence for the use of carcass and dairy products at the site. The construction of kill-off profiles for the ovicaprids (sheep/goat) and bovids (cattle) provide complementary insights into animal management at the site, suggesting that both bovids and ovicaprids were exploited for their milk. The diachronic evolution of identified products show no major variations in livestock husbandry or diet due to cultural or environmental change. Changing uses and different activities at the cave over time (e.g. domestic, funerary, etc.) are likely responsible for the subtle differences identified in the results. This study provides the first insights into human subsistence strategies through time at El Portalón de Cueva Mayor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Mar 2021


  • Pottery
  • fatty acids
  • δ 13C values
  • archaeozoology
  • kill-off patterns
  • Neolithic
  • Chalcolithic
  • Bronze Age
  • El Portalón de Cueva Mayor site
  • Spain

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