Academics: Excursion to Atapuerca

Cailey Oehler
March 27, 2014

This Friday IES Comparative Religions course headed a few hours northeast of Salamanca for an archaeological field study. We started the day early, with the bus departing at 7 am from the IES center. The first part of the trip was my favorite, a visit to the archeological park at Atapuerca. We learned from our very knowledgeable guide how to make fire by rubbing sticks together and how to create bi-face stone tools for separating meat from bones, tried our hand at spear throwing and bow hunting for straw bales (I’m not too well-suited to this, it turns out), painted with iron oxides on an adobe wall, and explored reproductions of several types of cabins that our ancestors would have lived in during various periods of prehistory.


The next part of the trip was a visit to the yacimientos, or dig sites. We learned how the research, which is still being done today, is carried out and what some of the most impressive finds have been- we were shown reproductions of several of them. Our guide explained various hypotheses about the use of the caves we were viewing and quizzed us on how we thought the researchers would have arrived at such conclusions. We were even treated to a 3-D movie showing in an actual cave where we saw renderings of what life would have been like for several early human species, what they ate, and how they used tools. We wore hard hats for this part of the excursion, which made it all the more exciting.


The last stop we made was in Burgos, and we were fortunate to have a couple of hours of free time to explore the city before our next scheduled event.  Burgos has a lovely Plaza Mayor and a gorgeous cathedral, the only cathedral in Spain that is itself a world heritage site (there are several others in Spain, including ours here in Salamanca, that form part of such a heritage site together with the historic centers of the cities where they are located). We strolled through the old town and stopped to snack on fruit in a park overlooking the river.


The culmination of the trip was a visit to the Museum of Human Evolution, also in Burgos. This museum was only constructed in 2010, but its collections hold some of the oldest artifacts of humankind. Here we saw the original versions of the artifacts we had discussed at the dig sites, including Pelvis Elvis, the oldest fossilized pelvis that has yet been discovered. It is the habit of Spanish archaeologists to name artifacts after kings, and since Elvis was the king of rock one cannot help but find the name doubly appropriate upon recalling his preferred style of dance.


After we finished the tour we headed back to Salamanca, tired and happy to have had such an exciting visit to a unique place.

arriving at the archaeological park Burgos's famous cathedral A view of Burgos's historic center Laura and Megan outside a Neolithic cabin Part of the group with a wall of primitive art Ducks in a pond at the archaeological park The group entering a cabin where we learned to make fire Huddled into the communal meeting space Our guide makes fire! Prehistoric footprints Our guide shows us a collection of authentic bones A neanderthal burial ritual recreated Learning about prehistoric art I left my own mark! A cozy cabin! Various types of cabins Spear hunters! Mia tries her hand at bow hunting. Entrance to the yacimientos Looking great in our helmets and hairnets Our guide shows us Miguelón, the best-preserved human skull of its age Two IES professors enjoy a showing of a 3D film The cave where we viewed a film of prehistoric humans The group with our guide at the Museum of Human Evolution Megan and Laura view "Lucy" Nathan poses as we end our tour.

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Cailey Oehler

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I am a junior at Bowdoin College, where I am majoring in Spanish and minoring in Art History and Teaching. I&#39;m outgoing and inquisitive, and getting to know other people is how I make sense of this mixed-up and beautiful world. My favorite hobbies are baking bread, playing ukulele, and camping. I love exploring new places and am looking forward to getting to know Salamanca as well as the fun and challenges I&#39;ll encounter in my travels around Europe.</span></p>

2014 Spring
Home University:
Bowdoin College
Art History
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