1) FIRST INHABITANTS OF LA MANCHA AND THE FIELD OF MONTIEL (approx. 400,000-10,000 BC)
The Paleolithic («ancient stone») is the most remote period of Prehistory, spanning from about 3 million years to about 12,000 years ago. This period is characterized by the first testimonies of the carving of stone tools, although the occupation of the Southern Sub plateau of the Iberian Peninsula did not take place until about 400,000 BC. By then, on the terraces of the Guadiana River and its tributary rivers of La Mancha and Campo de Montiel –such as the Jabalón or the Azuer– large quantities of Paleolithic utensils appeared in places such as El Sotillo and Albalá (Ciudad Real), the cave of the Toriles (Carrizosa) or the area of Los Pizorros de Infantes.
Although there is no human fossils to date, the species that carved such tools were Neanderthals and pre-Neanderthals (or Homo Hidelbergensis), who populated the European continent between 450,000 and 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthals and their ancestors were adapted to strong climatic oscillations typical of the Pleistocene: they were corpulent hominids, with great muscle mass and shorter than us.
2) PREHISTORY IN VILLANUEVA DE LOS INFANTES
Los Pizorros is the most remarkable paleolithic site in the area. It is an outcrop of quartzite on the old terraces of the Jabalón River, next to the sanctuary of the Virgen de la Antigua. This place is important for having been an ideal ecosystem for hunting, harvesting and, especially, for the supply and cutting of quartzite made by the preterit human species. This is evident in a large number of cores and flakes, the «waste» of the lithic reduction. But here, and in other similar enclaves of the valley, have also been found manufactured tools, such as hand axes (removed on both sides as axes, for cutting or scraping), racloirs (knives-scrapers), drills and even spearheads from the Middle Paleolithic period, from the Mousterian period.
Homo sapiens appeared on the Iberian Peninsula around 42,000 BC. During the cold phases of the Würm glaciation, first modern humans coexisted with the last Neanderthal strongholds until their disappearance. From that time onwards, the Upper Paleolithic reached its apogee, concentrating its presence in the caves of the coastal areas (e.g. Altamira). However, in the interior of the peninsula there is hardly any evidence of this brilliant phase.
The same lack of evidence exists in the immediately subsequent stages, when the Holocene thaw occurred and sedentary settlements and agricultural and livestock farming activities became widespread. Thus, the scarce presence in the region of archaeological remains from the Epipalaeolithic/Mesolithic (10,000 B.C. approx.) and Neolithic (5500 B.C. approx.) raises the question: Are we facing a real population vacuum or a lack of research?