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Clay combustion structures in early Mesolithic at Cova da Baleia (Mafra, Portugal): Approaches to their functionality

Sousa, Ana Catarina, Gibaja Bao, Juan, Mazzuco, Niccolo, Miranda, Marta, Tereso, João Pedro Vicente, Oliveira, Cláudia, Gonçalves, Victor S.
Journal of archaeological science: Reports 2018 v.18 pp. 984-999
archaeobotany, clay, combustion, wood, Portugal
The functionality of Cova da Baleia (Mafra, Portugal) is hereby presented and discussed in this paper. In an excavated area of 500m2 was identified a large concentration of structures (128), of which 104 were in clay, with two phases of occupation. The absolute chronology indicates a majority occupation of the second half of the 8th millennium cal BCE (Early Mesolithic) and a second phase towards the end of the 7th millennium (Late Mesolithic). Despite the excellent state of conservation of the site, the osteological remains are practically absent, possibly due to taphonomic factors.Cova da Baleia is clearly a distinctive site of the reference framework known of the Early Mesolithic times in Portugal, given the large size of the site (about 1ha) and its structural complexity.It was clear that an interdisciplinary approach was mandatory in order to fully guarantee the site interpretation, namely regarding its functionality. The results of the use-wear and archaeobotanical studies show the relevance of wood and other hard materials, whereas the need for fire for these activities remains to be understood.