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The Lowermost Tejo River Terrace at Foz do Enxarrique, Portugal: A Palaeoenvironmental Archive from c. 60–35 ka and Its Implications for the Last Neanderthals in Westernmost Iberia

1
MARE—Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Coimbra, Rua Sílvio Lima, Univ. Coimbra—Pólo II, 3030-790 Coimbra, Portugal
2
ICT—Instituto de Ciências da Terra, Departamento de Geociências, Universidade de Évora, Rua Romão Ramalho, 59, 7000-671 Évora, Portugal
3
Centre for Nuclear Technologies, Technical University of Denmark, DTU Risø Campus, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark
4
Nordic Laboratory for Luminescence Dating, Aarhus University, DTU Risø Campus, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark
5
IDL-FCUL, Instituto Dom Luís, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
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Department of Earth Sciences, University of Coimbra, Rua Sílvio Lima, Univ. Coimbra—Pólo II, 3030-790 Coimbra, Portugal
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ICArEHB—Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human Behaviour, Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade do Algarve, Campus da Penha, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
8
Geosciences Center—U.C., Portuguese Center of Geo-History and Prehistory, Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Quinta do Contador, Estrada da Serra, 2300-313 Tomar, Portugal
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Geosciences Center—U.C., Portuguese Center of Geo-History and Prehistory, Earth and Memory Institute, 6120-721 Mação, Portugal
10
Department of Geography, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
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Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul/Camus, Avenida Ranulpho Marques Leal, 3484, Três Lagoas 76620-080, MS, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Jef Vandenberghe and Valentí Rull
Quaternary 2019, 2(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat2010003
Received: 11 October 2018 / Revised: 11 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 January 2019 / Published: 18 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Special External Effects on Fluvial System Evolution)
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Abstract

Reconstruction of Pleistocene environments and processes in the sensitive geographical location of westernmost Iberia, facing the North Atlantic Ocean, is crucial for understanding impacts on early human communities. We provide a characterization of the lowest terrace (T6) of the Lower Tejo River, at Vila Velha de Ródão (eastern central Portugal). This terrace comprises a lower gravel bed and an upper division consisting of fine to very fine sands and coarse silts. We have used a multidisciplinary approach, combining geomorphology, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, grain-size analysis and rock magnetism measurement, in order to provide new insights into the environmental changes coincident with the activity of the last Neanderthals in this region. In addition, we conducted palynological analysis, X-ray diffraction measurement and scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive spectra of the clay fraction and carbonate concretions. We discuss these new findings in the context of previously published palaeontological and archeological data. The widespread occurrence of carbonate concretions and rizoliths in the T6 profile is evidence for episodic pedogenic evaporation, in agreement with the rare occurrence and poor preservation of phytoliths. We provide updated OSL ages for the lower two Tejo terraces, obtained by post infra-red stimulated luminescence: (i) T5 is c. 140 to 70 ka; (ii) T6 is c. 60 to 35 ka. The single archaeological and fossiliferous level located at the base of the T6 upper division, recording the last regional occurrence of megafauna (elephant and rhinoceros) and Mousterian artefacts, is now dated at 44 ± 3 ka. With reference to the arrival of Neanderthals in the region, probably by way of the Tejo valley (from central Iberia), new dating suggests a probable age of 200–170 ka for the earliest Mousterian industry located in the topmost deposits of T4. View Full-Text
Keywords: OSL dating; river terraces; Late Pleistocene; environmental change; western Iberia OSL dating; river terraces; Late Pleistocene; environmental change; western Iberia
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Cunha, P.P.; Martins, A.A.; Buylaert, J.-P.; Murray, A.S.; Gouveia, M.P.; Font, E.; Pereira, T.; Figueiredo, S.; Ferreira, C.; Bridgland, D.R.; Yang, P.; Stevaux, J.C.; Mota, R. The Lowermost Tejo River Terrace at Foz do Enxarrique, Portugal: A Palaeoenvironmental Archive from c. 60–35 ka and Its Implications for the Last Neanderthals in Westernmost Iberia. Quaternary 2019, 2, 3.

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