I am very honoured to announce that, starting from tomorrow, I will be working on a new Leverhulme-funded Research Project as the nominated researcher.

The project is called “Neanderthal Palaeoecology: the whens, hows, and whys of a species’ journey“, I co-wrote it together with my PI, prof. Andrea Manica, and it involves the collaboration with internationally renowned scholars (see the list at the end of the post).

Description

The following text is an extract of the article we wrote for the 2021 February’s Newsletter of the Leverhulme Trust (cover and page 16).

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are a human species that lived in western Eurasia between approximately 350,000 and 30,000 years ago. Since the discovery of the first fossil in 1856, a huge body of research from multiple disciplines has helped us uncover more and more about this species.

Genetic analysis of DNA from fossil remains from multiple locations and periods has revealed a major population replacement between 90 and 120 thousand years ago in central Asia. Unfortunately, genetic data, which are very powerful at detecting change, cannot inform us of the processes behind such population dynamics. Climate is an obvious candidate in explaining this population turnover, but formally demonstrating its role is not easy.

We gathered an interdisciplinary team composed of archaeologists, ecologists, paleoclimate modellers and cultural evolution specialists. Together, we will investigate the role of climate in shaping the population dynamics of Neanderthals over their whole temporal and geographic range. We will also incorporate cultural information to see if and how different Neanderthal populations changed and adapted their behaviour in response to climatic fluctuations. 

By doing so, we will be able to put the population turnover that occurred 120 thousand years ago into context, providing a clear test of whether climatic changes are a likely explanation. But most importantly, for the first time, we will be able to test for the role of climate into the whole species’ journey of Neanderthals, integrating cultural evolution into the big picture, to better understand the whens, hows, and whys of the journey of this fascinating human species.

Stay tuned for exciting news and research outputs!

Collaborators

The project will be in collaboration with the following scholars (the order is the same in which they joined the project).

  • Prof. Katerina Harvati, University of Tuebingen;
  • Prof. Francesco D’Errico, University of Bordeaux;
  • Dr. William E. Banks , University of Bordeaux;
  • Dr. Judith Beier, University of Tuebingen;
  • Dr. Philip Nigst, University of Vienna;
  • Dr. Andrew Kandel, University of Tuebingen.

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