Neanderthals and Modern Humans in the Palaeolithic of Europe and Western Asia

Excavations at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Roca dels Bous, Spain

Research on aspects of the Middle, Upper and Epi-Palaeolithic in Europe and Western Asia

Lithic artefacts on surface of site in Wadi Jilat, Jordan

A number of staff at the Institute of Archaeology are involved in research on aspects of the Middle, Upper and Epi-Palaeolithic in Europe and Western Asia. The Middle Palaeolithic extending from c. 250 to 50/40 cal. ka is associated with Neanderthal populations in Europe and central-western Asia, but also with the spread of early Modern Humans from Africa into south-western Asia, the Indian subcontinent and beyond. There has been much interest in whether behavioural differences can be recognised in the archaeological record, but also whether there may have been interactions between the populations.

Modern Humans spread into Europe around 45/40 ka and the last Neanderthals appear to have become extinct around 35/30 ka. Here again there is much interest in the nature of the interface between Neanderthal and the Modern Human communities. Through this period and the later stages of the Palaeolithic there were major fluctuations in climate and resources with a major expansion of the ice sheet over north-west Europe at the last glacial maximum followed by rapid deglaciation in the terminal Pleistocene. There has been much research undertaken on the adaptations of hunter-gatherers to these changing environments and particularly on issues such as colonisation processes, resource use, developments in technology, food procurement strategies and social and symbolic practices.

In the terminal Pleistocene of the eastern Mediterranean there is evidence of increased sedentism in certain locales and also of increasing social complexity and the emergence of agriculture is documented at c. 12/11 ka.

Aims and Objectives
  • To strengthen Palaeolithic studies at the Institute of Archaeology by creating synergies amongst members of staff undertaking research on the Middle, Upper and Epi-Palaeolithic of Europe and Western Asia.
  • To expand the research undertaken by Master’s and Doctoral students in these subject areas and to actively develop doctoral and post-doctoral research projects which can then be advertised for suitable students.
  • To run workshops and seminar series on comparative and thematic issues relevant to these time periods.
  • To continue to offer and develop high quality field-training for students with interests in the Palaeolithic.
Specific Research themes
  • Neanderthal origins: Adaptive response of Homo heidelbergensis to European environments, and the origins and trajectory of Neanderthal specialisation.
  • Late Neanderthal and Modern human interactions in the Near East and Europe 125 - 30 ka.
  • Late Glacial technology and landscape use in Europe and the Near East.
  • Hunter-gatherer responses to the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene transition.

The following projects are currently being run by the three network leaders:

Related outputs

  • Articles and monographs are being prepared on the fieldwork currently being undertaken and which has recently been completed by the leaders of the network, details of which will be made available here shortly.
  • In addition to the above, the research network would be interested in running at least one thematic cross-regional seminar series over the next four years, which would eventually lead to collaborative publications. One possibility cross-cutting all geographical areas would be to examine the impact of well documented global climatic events in various parts of Europe and Western Asia and compare the human behavioural record during these periods across the various areas. Possibilities might include:

    • the Last Glacial Maximum and
    • the Terminal Pleistocene interstadial and stadial events (Allerod, Bolling and Younger Dryas)
  • Training, site presentation and involvement with local communities is being undertaken in countries/areas where fieldwork is being undertaken. Network members have given presentations on their research at various workshops, seminars and public lectures while the development of Palaeolithic field schools is also being planned. 


Network members have received funding from the following sources, thus far, for their research activities:

  • AHRC
  • British Academy
  • CBRL
  • English Heritage
  • Society of Antiquaries
  • Spanish Government

Network Co-ordinators:

Network Members:

  • Network leaders and members also collaborate with a wide range of staff and researchers from other universities in the UK and overseas


Further information:

Bookmark and Share