Lesley Blundell

Early human landscape use in North-west Europe

My research will look at early human landscape use in North-west Europe, with the objective of establishing whether there is any evidence of long-term evolutionary change in hunting behaviour, tool use and social organisation among early Neanderthals. Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in southern Britain and North-West Europe will be investigated, focusing on the headwaters of the English Channel river system including the major river valleys of the Thames, Somme and Meuse and their surrounding high ground. Particular attention will be paid to the upland interfluves, which have, so far, largely been neglected by researchers. For control purposes, sites in the Near East and southern Europe will be studied through published accounts.

Two competing hypotheses will be tested:

a) That early Neanderthal behaviour was static and not capable of effective response to long-term climate change, especially at the edge of their range;

b) That clear responses and evolutionary development can be seen in changing patterns of landscape use.

Research questions addressed will include whether high-ground sites show uniformity of topography and location; whether there is any differentiation in their content; and whether there are any marked differences in technological and other practices between upland sites and those in the valley bottoms (testing the ‘spatial differentiation’ and ‘preferential site location’ hypotheses of Kolen et al 1999) . Questions of whether the upland interfluves or valley bottoms were used preferentially (testing the ‘riparian preference model’ of Ashton et al 2006); and whether any patterns established are applicable across the whole of North-West Europe, will also be addressed.


 Educational background

  • BA (External)Medieval and modern history London University 1979
  • MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology, UCL 2010

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