In contrast to Saint-Césaire and Le Piage, which are both located in a plains environment, Gatzarria is in the French Pyrénées on Mont Hargagne at 290 meters above sea level. The site was first excavated from the late 1950’s until 1976 under the direction of Georges Laplace and has material spanning the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Excavations have recently resumed at the site under the direction of Marianne Deschamps (Unversidade de Lisboa) and Damien Flas (Université de Liège).
Research at Gatzarria has focused on the examination of diet breadth during the Late Middle Paleolithic to the Evolved Aurignacian. Elspeth Ready’s (2012) study paid close attention to identified problems regarding the stratigraphic context of the “Cj” Middle Paleolithic assemblage, as the fauna from the Châtelperronian, Proto-Aurignacian, and Early Aurignacian (these industries are all dated to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic) were rarely differentiated during Laplace’s excavations. By avoiding zones where these levels overlap, she was able to produce reliable results for the Cj Middle Paleolithic occupation.
On-going analyses indicate that humans were the main occupants of the site. The faunal assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic occupations are dominated by large herbivores, specifically red deer (Cervus elaphus), with other herbivores being less frequently represented. Additionally, there is ample evidence for marrow extraction activities at the site, suggesting a maximizing strategy in terms of carcass exploitation. The abundance of red deer remains suggests that this species was relatively abundant during this period. In contrast, data collected for the Aurignacian occupations indicate that bison (Bison priscus) and/or the aurochs (Bos primigenius) dominate the faunal assemblages.
Seasonality analyses by Elspeth Ready suggest that Gatzarria was occupied in the fall and/or winter. However, due to problems of small sample size, other seasons of occupation cannot be excluded.
The relatively narrow diet breadth seen at Gatzarria is common to other comparable sites in the Pyrénées. It is possible that this pattern is the result of Neandertal populations living at relatively low densities in the area. However, additional research will be needed to confirm this proposition.