Atapuerca, a tunnel back through time to the prehistoric era

Did you know that the Atapuerca hides one of the most valuable archaeological treasures in the world? The Sierra de Atapuerca is home to an Experimental Archaeological Site that has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The importance of the area to the field of paleontology is obvious, seeing as remains of the earliest human beings in Europe and over 90% of the human fossils from over 300,000 years ago discovered worldwide have been found here in Atapuerca.

Although visits to the excavation site are limited, thanks to the partnership between Fundación Repsol and Fundación Atapuerca, our shareholders had the opportunity to become archaeologists for a day and enjoy a guided tour of the digs. A journey into the past with three stops: the Sima del Elefante, the Galería, and the Gran Dolina. Trenches full of human and animal bones that extend for over a mile in the mountains near the city of Burgos.

Getting up close to the excavation site is like walking through a tunnel back in time. All of the remains found here help us build an idea of how and why we turned into what we are today.  The experience was a real eye-opener for Charo Alonso, a Repsol employee and shareholder, who has taken part in visits like this from the other side of the scaffolding on more than one occasion: “I just loved the visit and seeing the precision of the excavation work, which focuses on every last detail.” The speed of the excavation was the most impressive aspect for her, advancing centimeter by centimeter to avoid damaging the remains, and she praised those who work in the area for their dedication and effort.

Laborious but rewarding work. Furthermore, 2017 has been a year of celebration for the excavation site following the discovery of Neanderthal remains — the only European species of which the archaeologists had found no trace in the more than 40 years they have been working at Atapuerca. “This closes the cycle of human evolution in Europe,” stated David Canales, who is certified in Experimental Archeology by Fundación Atapuerca and who welcomes visitors and leads the guided tours. During his explanations, he makes it clear that these excavations are some of the most interesting in the world, where “we have discovered remains that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. This site is one-of-a-kind.”

At Atapuerca, we have discovered archeological remains that cannot be found anywhere else in the world”, David Canales

Atapuerca is also a place to reflect. “It helps us to see the point when we went from being animals to human beings, the most important milestone in the history of the universe when we stopped being just organic matter and became conscious organic matter,” David tells us, excitedly. An affirmation that brings to mind Darwin’s mythical work, On the Origin of Species: “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

For many of the visitors, this was the first time they had taken part in a Shareholder Community activity. Alberto Sánchez and Elena de Miguel commented that they “didn’t know much at all about Atapuerca” and that they “have really enjoyed learning about it. The Cave of Altamira deserves to have people talk more about it, and more publicity and importance should be given to these excavations.” Rafael García and Josefina Rodríguez were also very happy with the visit and added that this type of activity “is an opportunity for us to get together with people who work directly with the company, as we do not and have a different connection with it.”

We didn’t know much at all about Atapuerca and we have really enjoyed learning about it. More publicity and importance should be given to these digs”, Alberto Sánchez

Cristina Galdón Cuesta from the Investor and Shareholder Relations Area also took part in the visit, and said that one of the aims of these cultural activities, which the Repsol en Acción Community has been organizing since 2012, is to bring shareholders together through events that “bring the company closer to members of the community, keep them informed, and increase in-person contact.”

David Canales is convinced: “Thanks to Fundación Atapuerca and the companies and foundations that support culture, research, and, in particular, this project, we can fund these excavations and studies. Without their help, these archaeological excavations would not exist and Spain would not be considered one of the most important countries for paleontological study.”

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