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Project - Overview

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Background

Modern human dispersal into Eurasia, its relation to Neanderthal extinction, and the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition, are some of the liveliest debated issues in paleoanthropological research. The first appearance of Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) technocomplexes, e.g., the Aurignacian and the Bohunician, is of crucial importance for the discussion about the timing and the nature of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition and for the Neanderthal replacement debate. In order to contribute to this debate outside the well-known areas of western, southern, and central Europe, this research project focuses on the Late Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic of western Ukraine and aims to provide answers to the following questions:

 

  • What behavioural and cultural adaptatios contributed to the success of modern humans dispersing into Europe?
  • Were these adaptations unique to modern humans?
  • What were the climatic conditions under which modern humans dispersed into Europe?

 

To answer these questions, we are conducting surveys and test excavations in two areas of western Ukraine (the Middle Dniestr valley north of the Carpathian Mountains and the Upper Tisza valley on the southern side of the Carpathian Mountains) and in two areas of Russia (Desna valley and Kostenki-Borshevo area) (see Figure 1). The areas are good case studies as they have loess-paleosol deposits with a rather good palaeoclimatic resolution important for placing Neanderthals and modern humans in a climatic context. Additionally, the case study areas are located in the general distribution of the Campagnian Ignimbrite (CI) tephra, which can be used as a chronostratigraphic marker independent from radiocarbon dating. Further, the Upper Tisza valley belongs to the Danube region, one of the commonly proposed routes of modern human dispersal into Europe.

 

Map

Figure 1: Map of Europe showing the location of the Upper Tisza valley (A) and Middle Dniestr valley (B) survey areas. For reference sites or site clusters in the two study areas and in other parts of Europe are shown: 1 Arcy-sur-Cure, 2 Geißenklösterle, 3 Fumane, 4 Willendorf, 5 Bohunice, 6 Szeleta, 7 Beregovo, 8 Korolevo, 9 Voronovitsa, 10 Molodova, 11 Novodnistro, 12 Kostenki-Borshevo.

 

Research Goals

In general, the goals of the NEMO-ADAP research project can be summarized as follows:

  • Characterization of behaviour and adaptation of Neanderthals and modern humans in MIS 3, including the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition; specifically:
  • What were the behavioural and cultural adaptations of the last Neanderthals and first modern humans in western Ukraine?
  • What adaptations contributed to the success of modern humans dispersing into Europe? Were these adaptations unique to modern humans? With regard to the case study regions of the Upper Tisza and Middle Dniestr, the question on whether the behaviour of the first modern humans differed north and south of the Carpathian Mountains will be pursued.
  • Palaeoclimate and environmental reconstruction; in particular, under which climatic conditions did modern humans disperse into this region of Europe. What was the role of climate in the Neanderthal replacement and the dispersion of modern humans?
  • Building a chronostratigraphic framework for the archaeology at the studied sites, a prerequisite for comparisons of human behaviour and adaptation. Existing reference sequences in the regions (Korolevo and Molodova V, Kostenki 14) are available and accessible for necessary additional sampling.
  • Better understanding of site formation; formation of the deposits and potential reworking has to be addressed before patterns of human behaviour and adaptation can be compared between levels and sites.

 

All photographs ©NEMO-ADAP Project unless otherwise stated.