The IPHES co-organise a scientific symposium in Japan on novel methods for the study of past human behaviour

Scientists from the Institute present to an international audience their multidisciplinary studies focusing on the analysis of the archaeological record from a chronological perspective.

The event take place in Kyoto from the 28th of August to the 2nd of September. More than one thousand scientists coming from the five continents will take part to the meeting.


“Looking at an archaeological site, whether it is an ancient building or the floor of a Prehistoric hut, is not like looking at a picture. A picture shows a single moment of life, while an archaeological site is the result of many events and of the activity of many individuals along time, with their signs mixed and superimposed in a very complex way”, explains Francesca Romagnoli, an Italian Marie Skłodowska Curie Researcher working at Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES). She also specifies: “A challenge to modern scientific research in Archaeology and Prehistory is the identification of these events to understand how many hominids where active at the site and which were their social dynamics”.

Francesca Romagnoli, an Italian Marie Skłodowska Curie Researcher working at Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)

Taking up the challenge, IPHES researchers -in collaboration with The University of Tokyo- will organise a symposium on the methods coming on this stage to study past human behaviour. The symposium is part of the 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC-8) that take place in Kyoto from 28th of August to 2nd of September 2016. More than one thousand archaeologists from the five continents participate to this event.

One example of the novel approach in archaeology is shown at Abric Romaní rock-shelter. This is a campsite where Neanderthals lived approximately 60.000 years before present. It is located in the town of Capellades, close to Barcelona, in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. A fieldwork campaign is currently under way under the IPHES direction. The application of new technologies including GIS (Geographic Information System) and the use of software for statistics have allowed the identification at this site of both areas where Neanderthals carried out specific activities and communal areas. “These discoveries have let us understand the social dynamics of this human group”, comments Francesca Romagnoli, who directs the research project funded by the European Commission and hosted at the IPHES in collaboration with the University College of London (UK) and the University of Bordeaux (France).

Furthermore, a project funded by MINECO and directed by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili at Tarragona and affiliated to IPHES, and Florent Rivals, researcher at ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) also affiliated to IPHES, by applying new methods including the analysis of the distribution of refitting on the site (a sort of 3D puzzle of archaeological materials) has allowed to discover that Neanderthals recycled their tools. “This behaviour shows clear economic strategies”, as pointed out by Francesca Romagnoli.

One example of the novel approach in archaeology is shown at Abric Romaní rock-shelter. This is a campsite where Neanderthals lived approximately 60.000 years before present.

This Italian archaeologist together with Florent Rivals, Manuel Vaquero, and Professor Yoshihiro Nishiaki of The University of Tokyo, organise the above mentioned symposium on “Multidisciplinary approach in the definition of high-resolution events to interpret past human behaviour”. International relevant research teams from Japan, Australia, Canada, Austria, France, and Spain participate to the symposium with the aim of improving the novel methodologies to understand the behaviour of our human ancestors.

Open new perspectives

“For the first time several scientists together will address theoretical and methodological issues related to these novel disciplines in archaeology, in an excellent international environment and with no geographic and chronological limits”, Francesca Romagnoli says. The expected effect of this symposium is to enlarge potential international and interdisciplinary collaboration and open new perspectives in the study of past human behaviour.

The Congress will give IPHES archaeologists the opportunity to present their multidisciplinary work to an international audience, with results deriving from complementary projects focused on the temporal resolution of archaeological records. Francesca Romagnoli is leading the “REAPPAST” Project funded by Marie Skłodowska Curie Action of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme of the European Commission, reference 653667. Florent Rivals and Manuel Vaquero are leading the “NEANDERLIFE” Project funded by I+D Programme of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness), reference HAR2013-48784-C3-1-P.

WAC-8 Congress is organised by World Archaeological Congress Association, Science Council of Japan, and Kyoto City Council. It is supported by several Japanese institutions including Agency of Cultural Affairs of Japanese Government, Educational Board of Kyoto Prefecture, National Institute for Cultural Heritage, Japanese Archaeological Association, and Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage.

The tooth and the parietal of a Neanderthal child 7-9 years old who lived in Teixoneres Cave 50,000 years ago have been discovered

It is the first time that human remains are recovered in this site

These fossils open up new perspectives to the research that takes place at the Toll Caves in order to know who their inhabitants were

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The excavations in the Toll Caves (Toll and Teixoneres, Barcelona, Spain) have been very productive from the scientific point of view this year. To a large amount of animal remains and stone tools that were recovered, the tooth and the parietal of a Neanderthal child who lived in Teixoneres Cave 50,000 years ago have been discovered. The tooth is a lower canine with a high degree of wear and it is estimated that it could correspond to an individual between 7 and 9 years old. The tooth still keeps the root and therefore indicates that it felt from normal natural causes, such as tooth replacement.

These fossils open up new perspectives to the research that takes place at the Toll Caves in order to know who their inhabitants were. In the prehistoric European record, children are represented by several individuals of different ages, but the number of lower canines is very scarce. The detailed study of the tooth will allow to find out the sex of the individual and to help elucidate the passage from childhood to puberty among members of this human species. Moreover, paleogenetics studies will be performed on the tooth and the parietal to better understand the phylogenetic relationships of the human groups from Moià with the inhabitants of the different regions of Europe during the same period.

The parietal and the tooth Neanderthal – IPHES

The identification of the tooth has been confirmed by Prof. José María Bermúdez de Castro (CENIEH) and Dr. María Martinón-Torres (University College of London), both specialists in human fossil teeth.

Both Toll Cave and Teixoneres Cave are known to contain a significant record of the presence of Neanderthals in the region of Central Catalonia. The studies carried out at IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), Universitat Rovira i Virgili and CENIEH (Centro Nacional para el Estudio sobre la Evolución Humana) are providing significant data to understand how ecosystems are evolving in the area depending on the climate changes, and how the populations of the Middle Paleolithic were able to adapt to constant changes.

The 2016 excavations in the Toll Caves, from August 5th to 24th, are supported by the City of Moià. The importance at the scientific level that are acquiring these archaeological sites brought together researchers from different institutions from Spain and other countries. Thus, the team consists of 25 researchers from the institutions mentioned previously and the Universitat de Barcelona, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Universidad de Murcia, the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, the Tel Aviv University and the Binghamton University in New York.

The research in both sites is part of a project entitled “Sharing the Space: hominid-carnivore interactions at the North-East of Iberian Peninsula” (Ref. 2014/100573 from Catalonian Government-AGAUR) supervised by Dr. Jordi Rosell (IPHES-URV, Dr. Florent Rivals (ICREA-IPHES) and Dr. Ruth Blasco (CENIEH).


I International conference on Transitional Societies in the Peninsular Southwest

Abstracts: deadline is 30th July 2016webcatalàespañol


In order to celebrate the centenary of the first archaeological excavations fieldworks in El Conejar Cave (Caceres, Spain), the research team “First Settlers in Extremadura” in collaboration with the Fundación Extremeña de la Cultura and other local entities are pleased to announce the celebration of the “I International conference on Transitional Societies in the Peninsular Southwest” (TRANS-SW) to be held on 24, 25 and 26th November 2016 at the Complejo Cultural San Francisco, Caceres (Spain).

El Conejar, Cáceres, Spain

This international conference aims to serve as an encounter place for researchers who have the last hunter-gatherers and the first farmers and herders as object of study. With this meeting, we seek to establish a new framework about the changes, adaptations and resiliences developed during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, an area with great influence of Atlantic façade, the inner peninsula and the Mediterranean basin.

IPHES presents two new informative videos about stone tools production

You can see these on the YouTube channel of this research centre

Firstly the way of identification of different hammers using on flakes (“Hard-hammer and Softhammer”) and secondly another video about the alternate and alternating reduction strategies (“Alternating and Alternate flaking method”).

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Technology becomes humans from the beginning of our evolution. Along this process the ways for tools production have changed. The Arqueosnakcs series from IPHES presents two new videos in order to explain two concrete aspects of experimental archaeology, and how the specialists identify the production techniques. Firstly the way of identification of different hammers using on flakes (“Hard-hammer and Softhammer”) and secondly another video about the alternate and alternating reduction strategies (“Alternating and Alternate flaking method”).

The new videos take part of the Arquesnacks series, focused in to make easy the explanation of human evolution and archaeological science. From the site to the public, explaining quickly the advances of the field and laboratory research.

Arqueosnacks 1 cp

Each video is structured on a format question-answer. Is formulated a question and researchers and experts in each field give a reasoned synthetically response.

The ArqueoSnacks’ idea is for the archaeologist and researcher of IPHES Josep Maria Vergès : “It came to me to the need of audio-visual resources that could make it through a wide distribution network, which allows answering questions often posed by students or people visiting the sites or interested in our research”, he said.We has opted for the short format in order to make them dynamic and achieve a good reception by consumers of culture through mobile devices, something that hardly can be achieved with long documentaries. “Hence your name, ArqueoSnacks, because we intend it as a cookie, candy, anything you eat between meals (that would be the documentaries) to make you spend your appetite, while your walking or do anything else, without having to sit at the table”, points out Josep Maria Vergès.

The videos, available on channel of the IPHES at YouTube (IPHESComunicació), have been co-financed by Universitat Rovira i Virgili and IPHES. There have been three versions: in Spanish, in English and in Catalan. The company responsible for the realization of the videos has been Esclats Prehistòries Didàctiques i Natrox Produccions.The Directione has been in charge of Josep Maria Vergès and have contributed Miquel Guardiola and Juan Ignacio Morales, researchers at the IPHES

Did Moianès witness Neanderthal extinction?

Researcher Sahra Talamo from the Max Planck Institute presents IPHES with new data on the archaeological dating of Moià’s Cova de les Teixoneres

The cave was not inhabited between 35,000 years ago, when Neanderthals went extinct and more than 5,000 years later, when it was re-inhabited by Homo sapiens


Nowadays, the international scientific community believes that the Neanderthal extinction took place in Western Europe between 38,000 and 35,000 years ago. The archaeological site at Cova de les Teixoneres in Moianès could have witnessed this disappearance. This is suggested by a study recently published in Radiocarbon written by members of Leipzig’s Max Planck Institute in Germany, IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana I Evolució Social) and CENIEH (Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana). According to the study the aforementioned cave registered the presence of the Homo neanderthalensis up until 35,000 years ago, which was followed by a 5,000 year period in which it was not inhabited by humans until 28,000 years ago when it was inhabited by Homo sapiens.

Animal bones that present cut marks made by the knives of humans that inhabited the Cova de les Teixoneres – IPHES

The authors of this study reached these conclusions concerning the archaeological dating of the site using a new ultrafiltration method (Abox), which allows for a more precise filtering of carbon-14 samples than with previous systems. Applying this technique, the Max Planck researcher Sahra Talamo obtained the chronology of 17 animal bones that present cut marks made by the knives of humans that inhabited the cave during the cave’s last two stratigraphic units: level II and level III, 35,000 and 40,000 years ago respectively. The various archaeological dating records that have been obtained have been very coherent, the oldest being obtained from the lower part of the stratigraphic sequence and the more recent ones from the upper part, indicating that the sediment was never disturbed by later processes such as the formation of holes made by carnivores. This also indicates that humans, up until 35,000 years ago, continuously inhabited the cave. ‘From there on, it seems that there was a 5,000-year gap and the cave was not used by Homo sapiens until 28,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic Period,’ said Jordi Rosell, a researcher for IPHES, the head of the excavation at Cova de les Teixoneires and one of the article’s authors, along with Florent Rivals of the same institution and Ruth Blasco from CENIEH.

The excavation at Cova de les Teixoneres 2015 – IPHES

‘Unfortunately, the lithic industry located in the Unit IIa (associated to the past 35,000 years) does not allow us to attribute the findings to either of the two inhabitants of the area during that time period: Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. However, there is enough evidence to conclude that there were human groups present in Moianès’, states Jordi Rosell.

‘We think that this does refer to the last groups of Neanderthals that were present in the area. Even though the lithic industry is not conclusive, there seems to be evident continuity between the preceding stratigraphic units and there is nothing to make us think that this changed. In any case, we will try to figure out this mystery with the next seasons of excavations.’

Coinciding with the publication of this study, researcher Sahra Talamo was in Tarragona to present her results to members of the IPHES as well as to discuss the strategy that should be followed when continuing to study the archaeological sites in the Toll Caves (Moià, Barcelona) where Teixoneres is located. This researcher is part of the Sharing the space: Interactions between hominids and carnivores in the peninsular north-east research project, directed by IPHES and co-financed by the Government of Catalonia.


Talamo, S., Blasco, R., Rivals, F., Picin, A., Chacón, G., Iriarte, E., López-García, J. M., Blain, H.-A., Arilla, M., Rufà, A., Sánchez-Hernández, C., Andrés, M., Camarós, E., Ballesteros, A., Cebrià, A., Rosell, J. and Hublin, J.-J., 2016. The Radiocarbon approach to Neanderthal in a carnivore den site: a well-defined chronology for Teixoneres Cave (Moià, Barcelona, Spain). Radiocarbon 58(2), 247-265.

Found in the Camp dels Ninots a whole new tapir skeleton 3.1 million years ago and in anatomical connection

This finding the site Caldes de Malavella concentrates and 70% of global fossil record of this species

It is a very important discovery because it will help you get plenty of information on the ecological environment was at that time


The excavation that this May is developed on the site of Camp dels Ninots in Caldes de Malavella (Girona, Catalonia), under the direction of IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), has discovered the entire skeleton of a tapir than three million years, also is in anatomical connection. With the finding the Camp dels Ninots concentrates and 70% of the fossil record of this species.

“While in Europe there are many other isolated sites with remains of tapir, Camp dels Ninots is the only one who keeps whole and in anatomical connection in an exceptional state”, they said Bruno Gomez and Gerard Campeny, researchers IPHES and codirectors of this project. The measures of tapir that has appeared these days would be for a young of about 1.80 m long and 1.30 m high, which should weigh about 250 kilograms and belonged to the species Tapirus arvernensis.

The skeleton of a tapir discovered these days at the Camps dels Ninots (Caldes de Malavella, Catalonia)

3.1 million years ago tapirs were abundant in the Mediterranean, at a time when governing a subtropical climate, wetter than today, with relatively mild temperatures, abundant rainfall and low seasonality. One of the characteristics of the vegetation of Western Europe at that time was that it was characterized by forests of laurel (laurel) evergreen as those currently found in southeast China and the Mississippi Delta, dominated, for example, called cypress swamps.

Reconstruction of the landscape

At the site of Camp dels Ninots had been able to reconstruct the landscape of this area thanks to the abundant traces of plant remains, mainly leaves and fruit, which have been trapped in its sediments. Their study has allowed distinguish the existence of aquatic vegetation, submerged plants living in shallow and shallow. Another documented vegetation is typical of forest laugh with poplars, willows, etc. and finally, where we find a laurisilva, oak, holly and some deciduous trees such as walnut.

It is in this environmental context where tapirs found ideal conditions for living. These animals are mammals too bulky to base their feeding on leaves and fruits, which in this environment could have during the whole year. The presence of the waters of ancient Lake Camp dels Ninots provided enough food not only shelter but also the possible attacks of carnivores in the area.

With the skeleton of a tapir located this year, along with the other four previous excavations, all of different ages, it is shown that the environment of Camp dels Ninots was right to live a stable population of this animal so extraordinary. Their extinction in Europe in the early Pleistocene, between 2.8 and 2.5 million years is a result of climate change run by the cyclicity of the glacial and interglacial periods, when the subtropical landscape was replaced by Mediterranean-type vegetation.

Currently, the tapirs are found in very specific areas of Central America and Asia, especially China and Sumatra. The Tapirus indicus, black and white fur, is more closely related living species that lived in Camp dels Ninots.

The site Camp dels Ninots is included in the four-year research project “El Plio-pleistocè del Camp dels Ninots i la depressió prelitoral: evolució paleoclimàtica, dispersions faunístiques i humanes” (2014/100575) promote by the Departament de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

The first Europeans: leading roles in a special issue of Quaternary International

The volume focuses on the results of recent investigations discussed in the XVIIth World UISPP Congress held in Burgos in 2014.

The guest editors of the volume are researchers from IPHES.

A growing body of evidence from sites with stone tools confirms that humans occupied Western Europe from 1.4-1.2 million of years ago.


The renowned international scientific journal Quaternary International recently published a special issue devoted to current research about the first hominins in Western Europe. The data included is based on discussions which took place during the XVIIth World Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences Congress, held in Burgos in September 2014, in which the IPHES (Catalan Institute of Human Palaeocology and Social Evolution) contributed significantly. The editors of this special volume, entitled The first peopling of Europe and technological change during the Lower-Middle Pleistocene transition are all members of IPHES: Deborah Barsky, Marina Mosquera, Andreu Ollé and Xosé Pedro Rodríguez-Álvarez.

Sesion UISPP
The data included is based on discussions which took place during the XVIIth World Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences Congress, held in Burgos in September 2014 – D. Dainat-EPCC-CERPT

The articles included in this volume are the result of the debates that were held by the UISPP Commission “The First Humans in Europe” and which were developed in two specific sessions. The first, entitled “The first peopling of Europe”, dealt with the increasing evidence for “core-and-flake” lithic assemblages dating to the late Lower Pleistocene (between 1.4 and 1.2 million of years ago) in Europe. The second, entitled “Technological change during the Lower-Middle Pleistocene transition in Europe”, revealed new data attesting to the existence of archaeological sites with assemblages attributed to the first European Acheulean, some of which are in excess of 800.000 years old. This new evidence raises debates since this technological tradition is generally believed to have been generalised in Europe only after 500.000 years ago.

(Left) General view of excavations at the Bois-de-Riquet arqueological site at Lézignan-la-Cèbe (France). (Right) Detail of the fossil-rich archeological level US2 of this site. (Photos: D. Barsky).

The volume contains 15 papers, 13 of which offer new data on already known sites or exposes entirely new data about recently discovered sites, with a chronology ranging from the end of the Lower Pleistocene (around 1.5 million years) to the mid-Middle Pleistocene (around 300.000 years ago). These papers reveal crucial information regarding the first human settlements in Europe and the appearance of the first European Acheulean. The sites included in the volume are: Kermek (Ciscaucasia), Bois-de-Riquet (Lézignan-la-Cèbe, France), Pirro Nord (Italy), Barranc de la Boella and La Cansaladeta (Tarragona, Spain; directed and studied by members of IPHES), as well as La Noira (France), Alto de Picarazas and Valle del Ebro (Spain) and La Ficoncella and Atella (Italia).

In addition, the volume includes two contributions presenting theoretical approaches, one of them focuses on the mechanisms of technological transitions, and the other on introducing computational modelling to illustrate the arrival of the first hominins into Western Europe.

Bibliographical reference

Barsky, D., Mosquera, M., Ollé, A., Rodríguez-Álvarez, X.P. (Eds.) 2016. “The first peopling of Europe and technological change during the Lower-Middle Pleistocene transition”, Quaternary International, vol. 393.

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