International publication on new methods for studying human behaviour

A special volume of the journal Quaternary International will be published by two IPHES members, a Japanese researcher and a UAM lecturer.

It includes the most significant results of a scientific session co-organised by IPHES researchers as part of a conference held in Japan in 2016.

New techniques such as the spatial analysis of refits (fitting pieces together) have revealed that Neanderthal communities recycled tools.


When a research project focusses on assemblages of remains recovered from an archaeological site, those remains should not be considered as a snapshot of a specific moment in life, but rather as the sum of different events that took place over time. Identifying each of these episodes and studying them in detail to understand what the populations that preceded us were like presents an enormous challenge. To discuss new methods to help achieve this goal, a scientific session was held in 2016, co-organised by researchers from IPHES (Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution) as part of the 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC-8), which was attended by more than 1,000 specialists from five continents.

The journal Quaternary International has now published a volume titled Multidisciplinary approaches in the definition of high-resolution events to interpret past human behaviour: a new challenge in archaeology. The editors are Francesca Romagnoli, currently a lecturer at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), but who at that time belonged to IPHES; Florent Rivals and Manuel Vaquero, who are associated with IPHES; and Yoshihiro Nishiaki from the University of Tokyo.

The volume contains eight articles on the characterisation of high-resolution events in the archaeological record, i.e. moments in human evolution that have been thoroughly documented at archaeological sites and that allow each of these episodes and their primary characteristics to be identified through studies involving wide variety of diverse disciplines. Like imprints, these places accumulate data that specialists then try to collect and interpret.

The articles cover the chronological period spanning from the Middle Palaeolithic (about 100,000 years ago) to the Bronze Age (about 2,000 years ago). A valuable contribution that can be gleaned from this is the observation that the approach taken to analysing events is not related to any specific problem or period but can be applied to any point in prehistory. One of the specific objectives of the publication and of the first conference was to illustrate that the difficulties in studying human behaviour are not specific to the Palaeolithic, but also apply to any subsequent period. As such, the texts compiled in this volume of Quaternary International address the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the Palaeolithic.


Just as there are many different periods in prehistory, there are a wide variety of approaches, methods and records. For example, some studies focus on the lithic industry, such as that recovered at Abric Romaní in Capellades near Barcelona, a Neanderthal settlement dating to some 55,000 years ago, where new methods like GIS (Geographic Information System) analysis and statistical language software have been applied, the use of which has helped to identify areas where Neanderthals conducted specific activities and to locate common areas, which has shed light on the dynamics of these human groups.

Also at the Abric Romaní and as part of the project financed by MINECO (Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness) directed by Manuel Vaquero and Florent Rivals, new techniques like the spatial analysis of refits (fitting different pieces together) has revealed that Neanderthal communities recycled some of their tools, a very good indicator of their economic strategies.

Other approaches to studying the past covered in the volume address the study of a wide variety of archaeological materials. For example, Japanese researcher Y. Nishiaki’s study analyses Neolithic mud structures at a site in Azerbaijan to identify reconstruction events. Another article describing a study by Florent Rivals examines the analysis of dental microwear observed in animal fossil remains, which yields data on diet, and consequently, the seasonality of a site, in this case in the Upper Palaeolithic in Russia.

A particularly interesting contribution due to its novelty is the analysis of rock fragments from caves blackened by smoke. The origin of these remains is the result of the following sequence: human groups make a fire inside a cavity, the smoke from the fire permeates the ceiling in the form of soot, and each occupation (and fire) event deposits a new layer of soot. When a block falls from the ceiling to the ground, it remains in that archaeological level. Microscopic analyses of these layers of soot allow researchers to identify different occupational episodes in the cave. This study was conducted by Ségolène Vandevelde in two Upper Pleistocene sites, one in the south of France (Grotte Mandrin) and the other in Andorra (Balma de la Margineda).


4 women and a destiny: researchers from IPHES carry out research stays in the United Kingdom

The aim is to develop research on different scientific fields such as lithic technology, zooarchaeology and archaeobotany  

Two of the researchers are Marie Skłodowska Curie fellows, the other two researchers have been granted by the Spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte


At the moment, 4 researchers from the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) carry out in the United Kingdom with the aim of developing different lines of research related to lithic technology, zooarchaeology and archaeobotany.

Paola Garcia Medrano, after defending her doctoral thesis in 2011, began a new professional career stage thanks to a Marie Skłodowska Curie grant at the British Museum in London for the development of a research project entitled “Western European Acheulean Project, WEAP “(2017-2019)”. These grant mean a postdoctoral period of training and specialization in foreign research centers, which will bring new capabilities to the researcher and will complete her pre-doctoral training.

Paola García

WEAP involves the development of a unified methodology that allows to compare equally the lithic technology of Western Europe, approximately 300,000 years ago, thus extending the knowledge obtained with the studied sites of the Iberian Peninsula, France and the United Kingdom. In addition, taking advantage of the emergence of new technologies in the documentation and statistical analysis of the data, she tries to overcome the local technological analysis to obtain a wider regional vision of use patterns. For all this, the stay of Paola García Medrano in London is complemented by the collaboration of three other centers: Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris, France), IPHES (Tarragona, Spain) and University of Bradford ( United Kingdom).

Amèlia Bargalló

Amèlia Bargalló Ferrerons is investigating at the Institute of Archeology, University College London since 2017 with a Marie Skłodowska Curie grant. The project that develops is called PREKARN. The purpose of this research is to identify the technical characteristics of the lithic remains resulting from the apprentices knappers in order to track how this process is developed and its transferred to the archaeological record.

The PREKARN project combines experiments with modern humans, high resolution analysis of experimental and archaeological material and computational archaeology. Within the archaeological materials that are intended to be studied we find deposits as diverse as the lithic remains of Abric Romaní (Capellades, Barcelona) or those of Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Burgos), among others, in order to obtain diachronic information about the learning process.

Ethel Allué

Ethel Allué, an IPHES researcher, is carrying out 6-month stay at the Institute of Archaeology (University College of London) thanks to a grant Salvador de Madariaga from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte of Spain. At the Institute of Archaeology, Ethel Allué works with the Archaeobotany group led by Professor Dorian Q. Fuller. The purpose of the stay is to study the vegetation and uses of forest resources in tropical areas with charcoal assemblages of prehistoric and historical contexts in Sri Lanka. This is the first systematic anthracological study carried out on remains from this Asian country and will provide new data on environmental issues and on human behavior related to the successive occupations of Sri Lanka.

Rosa Huguet, an IPHES researcher, is carrying out a 4-month stay at the Department of Archaeology (University of Reading) thanks to José Castillejo’s grant from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte of Spain. There she works with Professor Robert Hosfield, a researcher whose main line of research is the study and reconstruction of the subsistence strategies of the first human groups that inhabited the average latitudes of Europe to the Lower Paleolithic.

Rosa Huguet

The objectives of this stay are two: one of a research nature and another of a teaching nature. Regarding the first one, which intends to exchange knowledge about the differences and similarities of the subsistence strategies of human groups inhabiting northern Europe with those who lived in the more southern areas, as well as in the research methods used to obtain the data from which this information can be obtained.

The second objective is to know the university system and the transmission of knowledge in the United Kingdom. With this purpose, she participates in different academic activities within the Department of Archeology. This experience will enrich her teaching activity in the degree of Social Anthropology and Human Evolution of the Universtitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) of which she is a lecturer on Human Paleocology.

Humans were present in the Philippine islands as early as 700,000 years ago

An international team of prehistorians led by Dr Thomas Ingicco from the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, France, and M. Clyde Shago, from the National Museum of the Philippines discovered the oldest evidences for the peopling of the Philippines by Hominins. Dated to 709,000 years old, the archaeological site of Kalinga (Rizal Municipality, Kalinga Province, Luzon Island) is described in a publication in Nature journal on march 2

All along the Quaternary era (since 2.6 Million years ago), the Philippines have always formed a string of islands isolated from mainland Southeast Asia by deep sea straits. The oldest human presence in the Philippines up to now was 67,000 years old by Homo aff. sapiens (2010). The Kalinga site, excavated since 2014 and dated to 709,000 years by several physico-chemical methods (Electro-spin resonance, disequilibrium in the argon family and in the uranium family, palaeomagnetism), proves that the first colonization was actually ten times older, dating back to the early Middle Pleistocene about 800,000 years before present.

Rhino bones from the archaeological site of Kalinga on which butchery marks have been recovered (©MARCHE, MNHN & National Museum of the Philippines)

The archaeological excavation has delivered several animal remains among which are the monitor lizard, the box turtle, the Philippine brown deer, the Stegodon (a cousin of the elephant) and the rhinoceros which is now extinct in the Philippines since at least 100,000 years. For this latter species, Rhinoceros philippinensis, an almost complete individual was recovered in association with tens of prehistoric stone tools made on anvil. The rhino carcass further shows several butchery marks such as cut marks on the ribs and on the foot bones, and percussion marks to break the arm bones allowing extraction of the marrow. All these archaeological findings are so many indirect proofs for a very old presence of early humans also known as Hominins on the island of Luzon.

The way of arrival of this fauna and these Hominins on the islands at these old times is still under question. While herbivores are known to be excellent long distance swimmers and could have arrived that way to the Philippines during one of the low sea level period, such a hypothesis is impossible for humans. Did another species than Homo sapiens ever mastered sailing skills or was this colonization accidental thanks to natural rafts such as floating mangrove that typhoons occasionally break off, a rare but well documented phenomenon?

The archaeological investigations of the Kalinga site were mainly funded by the French Department for Foreign Affairs, the National Museum of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines and the National Geographic Society.


Ingicco, T., et al., “Earliest known hominin activity in The Philippines by 709 thousand years ago”, Nature (2018).

Tarragona will host the XI Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores en Arqueología

It will take place from 9th to 12th May, at campus Catalunya (URV)

This conference is focused on young non doctors researchers in archaeology and its related disciplines

Registration period is still available and can be formalized here


Tarragona will host the XI Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores en Arqueología (JIA) from the 9th to 12th May and the main topic will be “Migrations, resources and new dynamics”. These conferences will take place at campus Catalunya from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), they are organized by the Associació de Joves Investigadors d’Arqueologia de Tarragona (AJIAT) and members of the Institut Català de Paleocologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC) and Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural (ICRPC) take part of it.


There will be 23 sessions and more than 140 presentations in these conferences. They are focused on young non-doctors researches in archaeology and its related disciplines. The scientific results from their work will be presented and the actual situation of the archaeological discipline will be discussing along with others aspects such the archaeological heritage, its socialization and divulgation, the professional archaeology, gender archaeology, the interdisciplinary in archaeological research, social hierarchy, residential and funerary archaeology, epigraphy, restoration and conservation and the evolution of the landscape and wildlife in archaeology.

The last conferences took place in Burgos, June 2017. During this 10th edition it was noticed that the young archaeology in the Iberian Peninsula seems to be more alive than ever. An example of it is that the assistance for the last editions has been more than 120 young archaeologists coming from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and South America.

These conferences are also sponsored by the Ajuntament de Tarragona, Tarragona Turisme, Beta Analytic, Strati-Arqueogal, CIEMAD and the Asssociació Catalana de Bioarqueologia (ACBA).