In 1996, an archaeological team working on a cave burial site near Europa Point on Gibraltar found the human remains of a female. Using techniques that were not available in 1996, a team from the Gibraltar Museum extracted DNA from the remains, reconstructed the skull that had been damaged since her burial and then created a lifelike model based on 3D scans and the DNA results. The model was christened Calpeia and was unveiled by the Minister for Heritage Dr John Cortes on the 10th September 2019.
Reborn as it were, Calpeia has provided the team with a great deal of information. She was a female aged between 30 and 40 years, she had dark hair and dark eyes and she died about 5,400 BC. In addition, 10% of her genes were from the Mesolithic, hunter-gatherer, people that had inhabited the Iberian peninsula for thousands of years whilst 90% of her genes were from Anatolia in modern Turkey.
It is thought that Neolithic practices started in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ in the Middle East about 10,000 BC and then spread out into Europe from the Anatolia region, reaching Andalucia in the 6th millennium BC. The Neolithic 'package' included the legumes and grains introduced into areas as well as the method by which they were grown, harvested and stored. There has always been some debate as to whether Neolithic practices were a ‘package’ that couriered across the landscape without involving the migration of humans or whether there was a migration of humans carrying the ‘package’ with them. In the latter case, archaeologists have pondered the question as to the degree of integration between Neolithic newcomers and pre-existing Mesolithic people.
Calpeia is helping to answer some of those questions although she is only one person and it is conceivable that her far distant ancestors were a very small group of Anatolians, perhaps only including one female, when they left Anatolia some thousands of years before Calpeia died.
However, whether a small group, one female or part of a full-blown migration, Calpeia does help to prove that descendants of the original Anatolians did carry the Neolithic package and that integration did take place between Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and the newcomers with their legumes and grain. The date the Neolithic arrived in Andalucia may have to be pushed back a little, 1,000 years does not seem long enough to replace 10% of the human genome.
At the date of her death, 5,400 BC or thereabouts, there is no evidence of any agricultural activity in the Gibraltar area. To date, the earliest evidence of agriculture in Andalucia can be dated to about 6,400 BC so Calpeia was in the vanguard in that respect. From a study conducted by Dimas Martin Socas and others, in 2017, it appears that there was a small amount of agricultural activity in Andalucia between 6,400 BC and 5,300 BC and then a very rapid increase in activity after that.
Calpeia has much more to tell us.
The Gibraltar team consisted of Professor Clive Finlayson, Dr Geraldine Finlayson, Stewart Finlayson and Manuel Jaen Candón.
Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.
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Submitted by Brian Neale on 25 Sep 2019
very interesting article. As I am very interested in history
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