The cave El Sidrón in the municipality Piloña, is the place where the oldest findings of human excistence in Asturias were found. The fossil remains of about 49000 years old, are of Neanderthal origin. The cave has a length of about 3700 meters with numerous passages and a central hall of approximately 200 meters. As well it has various exits to the outside. One of them is known as the “Entrance of the Tomb” due to burials carried out during the civil war.
First findings in El Sidrón
The international fame of the cave started in March 1994. when three speleologists form Gijón found the first human remains while exploring the cave galleries. The 28 meters long and 12 meters wide site, where the remains were find is now called the Ossuary Gallery.
Among those first remains were a complete jaw, some body parts fragments and dental remains of different individuals from Neanderthal origin. In total the remains of about 12 individuals were found, among them a baby from about two years, two juveniles (between 5 and 9 years old), three teenagers (between 12 and 15 years old) and six adults. As well about 400 stone artifacts were found, such as side scrapers, a hand axe and several denticulate Levallois points. All proved to be a Mousterian Assemblage, or a predominantly style of flint tools associated primarily with Homo Neanderthalensis and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age.
Various international institutes and universities have examined the remains. Coming to the conclusion that the remains were between 45 200 and 51 600 years old, with a weighted average of 49000 years old. The accurate aging of the El Sidrón remains helps in discovering when the transition from Neanderthal to Homo sapiens took place in Europe, and when the Homo Neanderthalensis became extinct.
The findings became more important when the fossil material proved to be from good quality which gave the possibility to retrieve DNA material. A study of these bones and from three other caves in Europe revealed the hypothesis that Neanderthals and the Eurasian humans share genetic material.
Due to the findings the cave was declared a space of geological interest for Spain with international relevance (Geosite), by the Spanish Geologic and Mining Institute, under the name “VP001: Cueva de El Sidrón”, within the category “Deposit of Spanish Pliocene-Pleistocene vertebrates”.
The research revealed a darker history, because it is almost certain that they were all killed and cannibalized. No tooth marks were found on the bones, but were heavily fragmented and showed cut marks made by stone tools or have been cracked. It is believed the family felt victim by another group to survive during a long period of food shortage.
It is believed that the remains were first located outside the cave and that due to a massive flow deposit caused by natural reasons they felt in into the cave.
Useful information …
The cave is located in the municipality Piloña, between the villages Cadanes and Vallobal in the parish Borines. The cave, declared “Partial Natural Reserve” in 1995, is closed to the public as it provides refuge for five species of bats and two new species of beetles.
GPS … +43.386086 | -5.328408