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Archaeology of the late Neanderthals and first Modern humans


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology.


The demise of the Neanderthals and their replacement by anatomically modern humans in Europe are at the core of several heated debates. When did modern humans come into Europe? Are last Neanderthals behavioral changes a testimony of contacts with anatomically modern humans? How much of last Neanderthals innovative behaviors result from independent invention?

In this course, we will pick up some of the most debated papers published in high ranking journals, and discuss these in class. The seminar will enable students to learn more about the major changes in Europe between 45,000-35,000 years ago, and will also get a good insight in “science in the making”.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the state-of-the-art on Neanderthal demise (hypothesis, available data, chronology);

  • Appreciation of how our understanding of the past can quickly evolve, and developing a critical attitude when reading academic papers;

  • From this critical thinking, come up with positive suggestions on what to do next to improve our understanding of Neanderthal demise;

  • Improve abilities to present an argument in a concise way, useful both in academic and non-academic contexts.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Discussions focusing on developing new ideas from critical examination of the published record;

  • Oral presentations. Students will be encouraged and supported to develop skills for clear and concise argument by using 3-minute long oral presentation in Pecha Kucha style, i.e. focusing on being a speaker, and using slides with very little text changing frequently (i.e. 5 to 9 simple slides for a 3-minute talk).

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Preparation for assignments: mini essays and presentations during the seminar from specialised reading (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Oral presentations (50%);

  • Written assignment(s) (50%).

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced in more detail, but may include:

  • D. Radovčić, A.O. Sršen, J. Radovčić & D.W. Frayer, Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina in: PloS one, 10(3), e0119802;

  • M. Peresani, I. Fiore, M. Gala, M. Romandini & A. Tagliacozzo, “Late Neandertals and the Intentional Removal of Feathers as Evidenced from Bird Bone Taphonomy at Fumane Cave 44 ky B.P., Italy” (2011) in: PNAS 108 (10): 3888-3893;

  • N.J. Conard, “A Female Figurine from the Basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in Southwestern Germany” (2009) in: Nature 459, 248–252;

  • P. Villa & W. Roebroeks, “Neandertal Demise: An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex” (2014) in: PloS one, 9(4), e96424.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. M.A. Soressi.