Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

Stone boiling technology reference Journal of Archaeological Science

March, 2009 · Written by: John Tierney Print This Page This entry is part 24 of 34 in the Issue 01

Volume 36, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 684-693

On stone-boiling technology in the Upper Paleolithic: behavioral implications from an Early Magdalenian hearth in El Mirón Cave, Cantabria, Spain

Yuichi Nakazawaa, Lawrence G. Strausa, b, Manuel R. González-Moralesb, David Cuenca Solanab and Jorge Caro Saizb

aDepartment of Anthropology, MSC01 1040, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA

bInstituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria (IIIPC), Universidad de Cantabria, Edif. Interfacultativo, Avda. Los Castros, s/n, 39005 Santander, Cantabria, Spain


Stone boiling is one of the principal cooking methods used by hunter-gatherer societies. The present paper proposes behavioral and organizational inferences as to how stone boiling was incorporated into hunter-gatherer subsistence practices through an examination of a shallow-basin hearth in an Early Magdalenian level (c. 15,500 14C B.P.) of El Mirón Cave, Cantabria (northern Spain). Exploratory analysis of spatial patterns of archaeological remains (bones, lithic artifacts, and fire-cracked rocks) and use-life analysis of fire-cracked rocks demonstrate that the hearth was used and maintained during visits of humans who preyed mainly on ibex and red deer near the site. The relative accessibility of these ungulates and cost-induced technology of stone boiling suggest the implication that stone boiling was employed to maximize the energy and nutrition obtained from carcasses of these game taxa under the circumstance of resource intensification.

Keywords: Stone boiling; Hearths; Spatial patterns; Fire-cracked rocks; Upper Paleolithic; Magdalenian; Cantabrian Spain

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