Birds of prey and humans in prehistoric Europe: A view from El Mirón Cave, Cantabria (Spain)
Demarchi B., Presslee S., Gutiérrez-Zugasti I., González-Morales M., Marín-Arroyo AB., Straus LG., Fischer R.
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Bird eggs can become part of the archaeological record either accidentally or as a result of human activities but, in both instances, they can reveal important aspects of the environment at the site, the ways in which people chose to exploit it, and even the existence of subtle ecological balances between humans and other animals. This is the case for El Mirόn, one of the most important cave sites in Cantabrian Spain, with occupation levels spanning around 40,000 years, from the late Middle Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. This mountainous area in Cantabria was an ideal environment for hunting medium-sized game and, as such, supported both human and non-human predators, including birds of prey. Here we use a combination of peptide mass fingerprinting (by MALDI-MS) and protein sequencing (by LC-MS/MS) in order to taxonomically identify ninety-five fragments of eggshells recovered from nineteen archaeological layers. We firmly identify these as diurnal birds of prey (Accipitridae) and suggest that the species might have been bearded vulture, based on previous taphonomic studies that highlighted its presence at the cave. The implication is that both species of diurnal predators, humans and birds, inhabited the cave and used the surrounding environment during different periods of the year.