Late Mesolithic burials at Casa Corona (Villena, Spain): direct radiocarbon and palaeodietary evidence of the last forager populations in Eastern Iberia

Abstract
Current knowledge about the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in the Central and Western Mediterranean European regions is deeply limited by the paucity of Late Mesolithic human osteological data and the presence of chronological gaps covering several centuries between the last foragers and the first archaeological evidence of farming peoples. In this work, we present new data to fill these gaps. We provide direct AMS radiocarbon dating and carbon (d13C) and nitrogen (d15N) stable isotope analysis were carried out on bone collagen samples of two single burials from the recently discovered open-air Late Mesolithic site of Casa Corona (Villena, Spain). The results shed new light on the chronology and subsistence patterns of the last Mesolithic communities in the Central Mediterranean region of the Iberian Peninsula. Radiocarbon results date the human remains and funerary activity of the site to 6059e5849 cal BC, statistically different from other Late Mesolithic sites and the earliest Neolithic contexts, and bridging the 500 yrs chronological gap of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition from the area. Isotopic evidence shows that diet was based on terrestrial resources despite the proximity to the site of lagoon and marine ecosystems. This and previous isotope studies from the region suggest a lower reliance upon marine resources than for Atlantic and Cantabrian sites, although intra-regional patterns of neighbouring Mesolithic populations exhibit both fully terrestrial diets and diets with significant amounts of aquatic resources in them. We hypothesize that in the Central Mediterranean region of Spain the Late Mesolithic dietary adaptations imposed structural limits on demographic growth of the last foragers and favoured rapid assimilation by the earliest Neolithic populations.
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Bibliographic reference
Salazar García, Domingo Carlos Fernández López de Pablo, Javier Subirà Galdácano, Maria Eulàlia Roca de Togores Muñoz, Consuelo Gómez Puche, María Magdalena Richards, Michael P. Esquembre Bebia, Marco Aurelio. 2013 Late Mesolithic burials at Casa Corona (Villena, Spain): direct radiocarbon and palaeodietary evidence of the last forager populations in Eastern Iberia Journal of Archaeological Science 40 671 680
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