Place where the first European was born


The excavations at Sierra de Atapuerca have permitted us to rewrite the history of Europe and to know how we have evolved for millions of years. So far, we have found five different species: Homo sp. (still to be determined, 1,200,000 years), Homo ancestors (850,000 years), Homo heidelbergensis (500,000 years), Homo neanderthalenis (50,000 years,) and, of course, Homo sapiens (us).


What started as a mine railway to operate iron and coal-rich mines late 19thcentury, led to the discovery of a set of palaeoanthropological sites right in the mountains, a place unique in chronology and importance.
 The main sites in the railway cuts are three:

SIMA del ELEFANTE. The lower levels date back more than 1,200,000 years. The most ancient hominid remains in Western Europe were found here. 

COMPLEJO GALERÍA. Vertical hole which functioned as a natural trap for animals nearly 400.000 years ago. Humans groups (HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS) went in through a more accessible entrance to make use of the meat from dead animals.

GRAN DOLINA. Of all the numerous remains found here, the most outstanding are the 150 fossils dating back 850,000 years found on level TD6. This discovery meant the origin of a new species: Homo ancestors.


This is half a kilometre far from the old Railway cut and the access is very difficult, so visits are completely restricted. In this complex we are working on these important sites:

SIMA DE LOS HUESOS. In this 8m² crack we found more than 6,000 human remains (HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS) dating back 500,000 years.

EL PORTALÓN DE CUEVA MAYOR. This has given valuable information about the first groups of farmers and shepherds since Neolithic.

GALERÍA DEL SÍLEX. Spectacular cave sanctuary whose walls contain a great variety of cave paintings, from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

GALERÍA DE LAS ESTATUAS. We have found the remains of animals and stone tools built by Neanderthals nearly 50.000 years ago.


CUEVA DE EL MIRADOR. Home of the last groups of homo sapiens harvesters and hunters 13,500 years ago.

HUNDIDERO, HOTEL CALIFORNIA Y VALLE DE LAS ORQUÍDEAS. The first two have provided us with information about the exploitation of this land by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago. The third told has told us about the type of tools these human groups used in their settleme