Neandertal Legacy. Contacts and interactions in Europe 40,000 years ago.


50 to 40,000 years ago, the world underwent one of the most consequential changes in the history of humankind. All but one population of ancient hominins disappeared and Homo sapiens became the only human species left inhabiting the planet. Yet, extant humans are still carrying genes from extinct hominins, and today humanity is a deeply rooted melting-pot. How frequent were interactions between incoming anatomically modern humans and Neandertals? What was the nature of the interactions, and how much local knowledge and adaptation was adopted by migrating humans? Here, we will unearth the historical processes that led to the development of a human population composed of only Homo sapiens. (Re)-constructing our evolutionary trajectory is key for rethinking who we are, and how we are connected to each other.

We powerfully combine field-archaeology, soil sciences, and the latest developments in artefact studies. We control for the in-situ character of objects and – for the first time –the in-situ character of sedimentary particles susceptible to contain ancient DNA. We use a new approach to material culture developed by the PI grounded in the experimental definition of the range of technical options available to ancient craftsmen. We focus on Europe and its well-preserved sites, contrasting the western mid-latitude cul-de-sac (France) with the southern coast (Italy) and the eastern gate (Romania).
Our team will identify cultural interactions, differentiate them from potential convergence and independent inventions, and evaluate the physical proximity between hominins with different backgrounds. Informed by simulations and reliable empirical data on both cultural and biological aspects, the PI will frame the diversity of relationships between late Neandertals and early modern humans and build a first holistic theory on the legacy of extinct hominins. This project will change how we perceive extinct hominins and the role they played in our evolutionary history.





Prof. dr. M.A. Soressi

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Archeologie


01/08/2020 tot 31/07/2025