To speak of a prehistoric population of Madrid is very difficult because of the documentary lacunae that exist.
Our Community has suffered in the 20th century an urban growth that has destroyed important archaeological deposits on the altars of speculative politics with not the least cultural scruple but which, fortunately, now is being brought to a halt.
Of the man who began the making of hand-tools we know nothing although it is supposed that it was Home Erectus by the dating of the tools which he used, from a period of 370,000 years of antiquity, and catalogued within the ancient or Middle Acheulian stage of culture.
To make the date more exact, this hominid appeared in the Mindelian period of glaciation and therefore in a climate more rigorous than ours.
Reconstruction made from the skulls of Homo Erectus Pekinenis
and from the Tautavel Man (France).
Those deposits place Madrid in small groups occupying open-air spaces and at the banks of streams where they made their tools and dismembered their prey. This allowed them to subsist, sheltered in refuges made of branches over a mast flooring.
Surely, they went out hunting, taking advantage of the watering-holes, hiding and waiting for animals easy to capture, without much distinction of prey: from the rodent family up to big animals such as stags, roe deer, horses, aurochs, or wild boars which they could kill with much skill and little risk, considering the poor quality of their weapons.
Also, they picked wild fruits, berries, roots, stalks of herbaceous origin, tubers, leaves and anything that could be eaten: insects in larva or adult form, eggs of birds and reptiles, and fish, especially salmon, then very abundant.
They used all of the prey they hunted: meat and fat for food; skins for protection and bones for tools. Nevertheless, the majority of their utensils were made from stone, preferring, logically, the most resistant, such as granite or flint. The technique of this work was simple but arduous because it was a process of striking one stone against another until effecting a cut.
In our Community there are to be found especially cutting or pointed pieces, forms like knives which were used in the hunt and the later cutting-up of game. These ranged from forms that run from triangular stones with one point well filed to serve as a hatchet, to small pieces for various uses.
Among perishable materials it is to be supposed they took hold of all that could be useful for throwing at a distance, such as tree-branches which had been hardened in fire, like small lances.
Paleolithic zones, representative of the Madrid Community
The customs of this Homo Erectus are unknown aside from supposing that he lived in small clans, sharing a communal space defined by the type and amount of hunt sought at any moment.
It is likely that they developed a certain amount of hierarchy, determined by physical prowess of individual members, and that maternity was part of the role of the female, as will happen later in the Middle and Later Paleolithi. However, we cannot confirm this.
We are looking at a small man, strong-boned and with a head with a sloping forehead, salient cheek-bones, nose not very prominent and lower jaw somewhat withdrawn, in comparison to ours.
His remains have been found in various places; China (Sinanthropus), Africa (Pithecanthropus), Indonesia and Europe, where he is scattered through Spain, Italy and France. There was attributed to him the massive emigration of individuals from the African Continent to temperate regions, going in an easterly direction, up to the probable appearance of fossils of Homo Habilis in Spain.
Now, the answer unknown to us is to the question whether that was the only route of passage, i.e. through Israel and Lebanon or if they also used Gibraltar, which then presumably was united to Morocco by a spur of land.
Deposits in the Madrid area do not contain human remains, but certainly do have a great variety of tools. The most ancient tool-making place is in a deposit at Áridos de Arganda, with an approximated dating of 370,000 years. Next are those of San Isidro in the Valley of the Manzanares, near the capital There is also another in Arganda.
They are not the only ones. There are also vestigial remains in Algete, Alcobendas, Aranjuez, Perales de Tajuña, Portazgo, Rivas, Villaverde Bajo, Mejorada del Campo, San Sebastián de los Reyes and Arriaga. The last is credited with 150,000 years.
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