tl;dr: it's the default shape fill, strictly unnecessary if there are no shapes.
XLSX, DOCX and other formats use OPC (the open packaging conventions), which mandates the zip container and describes how files should be laid out. If there is a file that you do not recognize, look in the various relationship files (they end in .rels).
In this case, the relevant line can be found in the themes relationship file
<Relationship Id="rId1" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/image" Target="../media/image1.png"/>
The file will be referenced in
rId1. Using ECMA-376 as a guide, you will find it referenced as the default shape fill:
<a:objectDefaults> <-- shape/line/text defaults
<a:spDef> <-- shape defaults
<a:spPr> <-- shape properties
<a:blipFill rotWithShape="1"> <-- picture fill
<a:blip r:embed="rId1"/> <-- references the picture
The writer must not be omitting the image if there is no shape.