Neandertals and early modern humans in Europe; Insights from Saint-Césaire, Le Piage, Gatzarria (France) and Crvena Stijena (Montenegro)

Project Overview

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The transition between the Middle Paleolithic (300,000 to 40,000 years ago, stone toolkits mostly based on flakes) and the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 10,000 years ago, stone toolkits mostly based on blades) is a period that was marked by significant cultural and biological changes. Whether Neandertals contributed both culturally and biologically to living humans remains a point of contention within Anthropology. Many models assume that early modern humans (Homo sapiens, our direct ancestors) dispersed out of Africa and replaced the Neandertals living in Western Europe 40,000 to 30,000 years ago. While some authors have advocated for behavioral similarities between these two populations, others have argued that they differed in terms of material culture, energetic requirements, diet and capacity for symbolism, among other things.

A research program headed by Eugène Morin (Trent University) and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, award #435-2013-0993) aims at reassessing the chronology, composition and climatic implications of four Neandertal and early modern human sites. More specifically, this program focuses on three aspects that can shed light on the problem of Neandertal and early modern human interactions:

  • Investigation of behavioral variability within and between Neandertal and early modern human populations, the focus being on material culture, logistical organization and subsistence patterns (study of animal remains, bones and teeth)
  • Examination of the technological links between the Châtelperronian and Aurignacian, two lithic (stone tool) industries dating to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic
  • Re-evaluation of our current knowledge on chronology and climatic changes during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition through the collection of new radiocarbon dates (Carbon-14 method) and isotopic (isotopes vary in composition within bones and teeth as a function of water intake, types of food, etc., which are used to assess environmental change) data

This program includes various partners:

To learn more about the chronology and sites that are the focus of this project: