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Advanced Archaeology of the Late Neanderthals and First Modern Humans


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMA Archaeology programme or the conditional RMA Archaeology track.


Neanderthals are the best known extinct hominins, both for their biology and for their cultures. Considering that they lived in Eurasia from more than 350,000 years ago, it is unclear why they disappeared at about 40,000 years ago when anatomically modern humans spread into Europe. Several recent discoveries, including some presented as evidence for Neanderthal’s symbolic behaviour, recently added fuel to the debate on the Neanderthals' cognitive abilities.

This course will provide an opportunity to improve your understanding of the current state-of-the-art on the major changes in Europe 40,000 years ago. Because the demise of Neanderthal has been at the core of a heated academic debate for many years, this course will also provide a good insight into “science in the making” and a direct appreciation of how our understanding of the past can quickly evolve.

Lastly, this course will also focus on training you to deliver arguments that are short and to the point.

RMA-students will be asked to go deeper into the understanding of the logic and methods used to support arguments during each class. Specifically, they will be asked to pay special attention to accurately use the specialised vocabulary.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of some of the issues currently debated in the field of human origins about Neanderthal behaviours, Neanderthal demise and the peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans;

  • Skills. This course will help students to improve their ability to:
    -sort large amounts of complicated information, and organise it in a meaningful way;
    -present an argument in a clear and concise way;
    -develop their ability to think critically when reading scientific papers.

  • Ability to assess and evaluate different theories and how these affect archaeological reasoning;

  • Ability to quickly combine and assess the opinions of others, evaluate different theories, and use these to formulate original/innovative new directions of research;

  • Start and stimulate discussion.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Classes will be divided into:
1. oral presentations of the readings by the students, and feedback from the instructor;
2. a discussion focusing on critically examining the nature of the scientific evidences and interpretations published in the specialised literature.

You will be encouraged and supported to develop skills for clear and concise argument by using 3-minute long oral presentations in Pecha Kucha style, using slides with little text changing frequently.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Assignments: presentations and short essays based on additional reading (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Oral presentations (50%);

  • Written assignment(s) (50%).

Individual grades can be compensated.
Only the written assignment can be retaken.

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

Reading list

To be announced in more detail, but may include:

  • Radovčić, D., A.O. Sršen, J. Radovčić & D.W. Frayer, 2015. "Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina" in: PloS ONE 10(3), e0119802;

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

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

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


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. M.A. (Marie) Soressi.


Compulsory attendance.