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Archaeology of the late Neanderthals and first Modern humans in Western Europe


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Bachelor 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. We will focus on papers on which comments have been written, reading and discussing the original paper as well as the comments. 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”.

RMA-students will be asked to go deeper into the understanding of the logic and methods used to support arguments. They will also be asked to improve their capacity to present a scientific argument to non-specialists.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • Knowledge of recent discoveries on the proposed symbolic behavior of the last Neanderthals and first anatomically modern humans in western Europe, and their chronological framework;

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

  • Improving capacity for quick and efficient analysis of a paper;

  • Improving capacity for synthetic and clear presentations.

For RMA-students:

  • Better understanding of methods used to support theories on the demise of the last Neanderthals, and the peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hourse of seminar (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

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


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Student presentations.

Assessment method

For MA-students:

  • Presentations during the seminar from specialised reading (20%);

  • Written mini essays (60%);

  • Participation (20%).

For RMA-students:

  • Presentations during the seminar from specialised reading (20%);

  • Written mini essays (60%);

  • Participation including final presentation (20%).

Assessment deadline

Every written mini essay has to be submitted before the last seminar session.

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

Reading list

To be announced in more detail, but will include:

  • P. Mellars, “The Impossible Coincidence. A Single-Species Model for the Origins of Modern Human Behavior in Europe”(2005), in: Evolutionary Anthropology 14: 12–27;

  • Peresani et al., “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.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

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