Population dynamics and cultural adaptations of the last Neandertals and first Modern Humans in inland Iberia: a multi-proxy investigation 

The relations between cultural developments and environmental change among hunter-gatherers are crucial for studying population dynamics during the last glaciation (110,000–11,700 years ago). However, proposing solid interpretations on how climate and environment variability affected the social and techno-economic organisation of hominins, requires robust geoarchaeological, chronological, and palaeoecological evidence. In the Iberian Peninsula, a key area for this period due to its geographic position and ecological variability, models on these topics are biased by the poor quality of available evidence for its interior lands. The Iberian interior has been traditionally depicted as a marginal and few populated region due to its harsh ecological conditions compared to the coastal areas.

Based on preliminary data suggesting that this picture could be wrong, we hypothesize that the human settlement of inland Iberia during this period was more stable than previously thought. If verified, this will have relevant implications at the European scale for problems such as the replacement of Neandertals by modern humans, the first modern human peopling of Europe, and the patterns of land use and mobility during the coldest stages of the last glacial.

To test these hypotheses, we investigate population dynamics and human-environment interactions of the last Neandertals and first modern humans in interior Iberia based on completely unprecedented evidence gathered by means of a macro-regional and interdisciplinary research project. This involves the participation of a wide team of scholars coordinated by the core team of MULTIPALEOIBERIA, and a network of methods including field surveys, geoarchaeological excavations and chronometric, paleoecological, zooarchaeological, techno-economic and symbolic studies applied to Middle and Upper Palaeolithic contexts. We expect that our results will significantly change our views on key biocultural and ecological processes of the European prehistory, and the way human societies have dealt with challenging environments.

MULTIPALEOIBERIA is a 5-year Starting Grant funded by the European Research Council under the programme H2020-EU.1.1 -EXCELLENT SCIENCE- (Grant agreement ID: 805478). The ERC operates according to a “curiosity-driven”, or “bottom-up” approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of science, in a wide range of topics and research questions.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Manuel Alcaraz-Castaño is a Professor of Prehistory at the University of Alcalá (Spain)

University of Alcalá (Spain)

MULTIPALEOIBERIA ERC Project. Área de Prehistoria. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. C/ Colegios 2, 28801 Alcalá de Henares (Madrid, Spain)

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