In the uppermost reach of the Lower Tejo River (eastern central Portugal), where the river crosses two quartzite ridges that separate the Ródão (upstream) and Arneiro (downstream) depressions, Palaeolithic artefacts have been recovered from three lower river terrace levels and a cover unit of aeolian sands. This paper presents data on the discovery of archaeological artefacts from the terrace levels and the aeolian sands that can be linked to Middle and Upper Palaeolithic industries from new field sites at Tapada do Montinho and Castelejo. The archaeological data when placed in a geomorphological, sedimentary and chronological framework, contribute new information on the understanding of human occupation in western Iberia during cold-climate episodes of the last 62 to 12 ka; and especially during the cooler and driest conditions that occurred between 32 and 12 ka, when the climate favoured aeolian sediment transport. In the Lower Tejo River, the integration of absolute age datasets with archaeological, geomorphological and sedimentary data indicate that in westernmost Iberia the first appearance of artefacts in river terrace sediments suggests that the earliest marker for human occupation dates from the lower Acheulian (Lower Palaeolithic), probably corresponding to an age of ~ 340 ka. Data also suggest, for the first time, that Acheulian lithic industries were replaced by Middle Palaeolithic ones (namely the Levallois stone knapping technique) by ~ 160 ka (~ MIS6). Middle Palaeolithic industries were later replaced by Upper Palaeolithic industries at 32 ka. The post 32 ka period, dominated by aeolian sediment transport, is related to the onset of cold-dry climate conditions which resulted in low river flow discharges, floodplain exposure and reworking by NW winds. This cold-dry period is coeval with the disappearance of Megafauna and associated Neanderthal communities, and the replacement of the Middle Palaeolithic industries by Upper Palaeolithic ones in this westernmost part of Europe.
- Lower Tejo River
- Middle–Upper Palaeolithic industries
- Fluvial terraces
- Aeolian sands