Dr. Ines Medved


Dissertation Title

Continuity vs. Discontinuity Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic in the Mediterranean Southeast of the Iberian Peninsula

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Gerd-Christian Weniger, Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmermann,
Prof. Dr. Thomas Widlok
Advisor: Dr. Jörg Linstädter


This study deals with the Neolithization process on a regional scale in SE Spain. The narrow chronological and spatial focus on the Epipaleolithic-Early Neolithic transition in Murcia, Almería, Granada and Málaga is a unique characteristic of this study. I studied 10 lithic inventories and vessel units (VUs) of five pottery assemblages of Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic origin and recorded them systematically in a database available in NESPOS 2013 associated with the DOI 10.12853/RESDB.NESPOS.0001. Attribute comparisons and selected statistical analyses are used to detect continuity or discontinuity in the assemblages of this transition.

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Specific questions about the Neolithization process – especially concerning the agency – are addressed in 1. Approach and research questions. The short 2.1. Overview of the research locates this study within related studies conducted in the working area. The cultural chronology is confusing with a variety of circulating denominations and different structuring approaches. The lack of radiocarbon ages is severe: In the research area only six dates are available from Epipaleolithic context (2.2. Chronology). Eighteen reliable ages stem from Early Neolithic contexts.

Several Neolithization models (2.3. The Neolithization of the W Mediterranean in its European context) offer various scenarios to model the transition. Intermediate positions and combinations of these models provide additional perspectives. These models and combinations were tested against to archaeological evidence from the working area. It can be assumed that environmental conditions and differing bioclimatic zones influenced the transition (3.2. Topography; 3.3. Early to Middle Holocene climate and vegetation cf. 3.4. Paleoenvironmental contextualization of the sites).

Alumni Medved Fig3The recorded inventories consist of variable numbers of artifacts ranging from only 91 up to 1613 lithic artifacts or from six to 674 VUs. The following sites provide Epipaleolithic (EPI) and/or Early Neolithic (NEO) lithic assemblages: Cueva del Algarrobo, Abrigo del Monje, Cueva Higuera, Cueva de los Zagales, Barranco de la Hoz/all EPI and Murcia; Cueva Ambrosio (EPI) and Cabecicos Negros (NEO)/both in Almería; Cueva de la Carigüela (NEO)/Granada and Abrigo 6 (EPI and NEO)/Málaga (cf. 4.2. Correction and data set [lithic assemblages]). I recorded VUs of the following Early Neolithic contexts: Hondo de Cagitán/Murcia, Cabecicos Negros/Almería; Cueva de la Carigüela/Granada; Abrigo 6 and Cueva de las Goteras/Málaga (cf. 5.2. Correction and data set [pottery]). The selection of these finds is discussed in 3.1. Sites, and the sites are presented detailed in the SITE GAZETTEER.

As far as the lithic attributes are concerned, Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic industries show variable frequencies within a stage and diachrone (4.3. Raw material and 4.4. Descriptive analyses: Reconstruction of the reduction sequence (chaîne operatoire) with a summary in 4.5. Comparative characterization of the reduction sequences). So far no chronological rupture is obvious. The lithic assemblages point to a continuous transition, i.e. with the beginning of the Neolithic, hunter- gatherers obviously adopted Neolithic elements. This must not be the only mechanism, but it was most likely the dominating process.

An alternative grouping of the lithic blank and tool assemblages according to coastal-/interior site- location or bioclimate did not provide clear results. I tested this with Chord- and Hellinger-distance matrices, the Adonis algorithm and Mantel test in R Statistical Computing (4.6. Grouping by intra- assemblage similarities: Distances within blank and tool spectra with references). The trend is that the location in the E or W of the research area was relevant for variations in blank and tools spectra. Possibly this is connected to potential Neolithization directions (cf. 2.3. The Neolithization of the W Mediterranean in its European context) from the NE to the S/SW of the Iberian Peninsula.

Compared with the lithic analyses, the foundation for pottery analyses can be described as poor: Only five reliable assemblages were available. Only two include a sufficient data amount of several hundred VUs. Nevertheless, pottery production and style was apparently fully consolidated and people used different raw materials: The mineralogical analyses of samples from CNP/AL conducted by H. Müller-Sigmund and M. Harmath (Institute for Geosciences of the University of Freiburg i.Br./Germany) unfolded great potential (5.3. Raw materials: Mineralogical and chemical analyses of pottery and clay deposits). The pottery discovered in CNP/AL stems from at least seven different origins. People mainly collected the clay and temper material close to the site. Furthermore, probably about 25% of the VUs carry temper material that could stem from a 20-40km distant sources at Cabo de Gata (cf. footnote 3: clay source needs to be verified!) and another distant origin in the Betic Cordillera. This demonstrates mobility and inter-regional contacts.

Pottery attribute comparisons show overall similarities, but also differences (5.4. Descriptive analyses). However, no regional groups and no other grouping have become obvious so far. Correspondence analyses (CAs) of the pottery decorations are also ambiguous (5.5.2. CA of SE Spanish pottery decoration). Even though decoration motifs disperse nicely in clusters, the trigger behind the dispersion could not be determined. Nevertheless, comparisons with other sites and especially with the Moroccan assemblages are auspicious.

The clay origins and the consolidated overall impression of the pottery indicate a small-scale immigration of groups or individuals. With regard to the lithic tradition, they assumingly merged with Epipaleolithic mobile groups.

The before mentioned low number of radiocarbon ages is apparently caused by various issues. Despite a large sampling effort in this study only A6/MA and Car/GR provided sufficient, reliable samples and about 20 of those were dated in the AMS laboratory of Cologne/Germany (Institute for Geology, J. Rethemeyer). However, only four ages are reliable (6. New radiocarbon dates). They range roughly between 7500-7000 calBP, verifying the initiation time of the Neolithic in SE Spain.

Within the Neolithization of the whole Mediterranean, migratory processes of early farming communities were certainly involved and left behind spots with a consolidated Neolithic lifestyle on the route to the W. However, in SE Spain, Early Neolithic re-occupations of several very same sites as in the Epipaleolithic, similar site types, ritual landscape, subsistence, mobility and tradition in lithic technology and typology demonstrate continuity and a strong Epipaleolithic residue in the Early Neolithic (cf. 7.2. The Neolithization of SE Spain). Amongst the Neolithic elements, only pottery was really consolidated, whereas animal husbandry, farming and sedentariness occurred only marginally and heterogeneously. On the one hand, these unstable occurrences might be an indication of an introduction of these elements predominately by networks and exchange and only to a small extent by people moving from neighboring regions, group splitting and re-union processes. On the other hand hunter-gatherer groups may have adopted these elements. Rough environmental conditions could have prevented the quick acceptance of the Neolithic in SE Spain and permitted a gradual change. Variable micro-regions string locally together and severe fluctuations in fresh water supply and aridification phases (e.g. around 7800-7300 calBP) are characteristic. All these qualities match within the r-phase (growth) of an adaptive cycle on a macro-scale (cf. item 2.3. in 7.2. The Neolithization of SE Spain). The newly combined hunting-gathering+farming lifestyle and adaptation to the difficult environment imply a high resilience.

In conclusion, the Early Neolithic in SE Spain seems to be the true transitional intermediate stage from hunting-gathering to subsequently Fullneolithic farming. The Neolithization of SE Spain combines various elements of available models (Network, Dual, Cardial, Maritime Pioneers, Social and African origin model, cf. Tab. 7 and Fig. 71). Similarities to NE Morocco are indicated and will have to be tested in future research with the Moroccan dataset to shed further light on transcontinental influences.




2009 – 2013: Ph.D. student at the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne.

07/2009: M.A. in Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne.

Thesis title: “Das Steininventar des bandkeramischen Fundplatzes Müntz 1 / The stone assemblage from the Linear Pottery site of Müntz 1”. (Abstract)

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. A. Zimmermann

2003  2009: Studies of Prehistoric Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and Egyptology at the University of Cologne.


Field Work

2010 and 2011: Participation at excavations in Ifri Oudadane/Morocco within the C2 project.
2009 to 2011: Research trips and studies of inventories in South Spain 2004 to 2010 Several participations at excavations and internships in Germany, France, Austria and Alaska, USA.



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