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Archaeology (Research): Human Origins

Human Origins provides an in-depth introduction into the European Palaeolithic record and its wider setting, from the earliest occupation of Europe to the earlier phases of the Upper Palaeolithic. In addition, it focuses on current research in Neanderthal behaviour, with the aim of introducing students to current research questions, methods of analysis and theoretical perspectives in Palaeolithic archaeology.

There are three main strands to research in Neanderthal behaviour in Leiden. The first is the study of the formation, chronology and environments of Middle Palaeolithic sites. The second involves the reconstruction of Neanderthal behaviour, primarily on the basis of stone tools, fauna and spatial patterns. The final strand studies the Neanderthal niche use theory and comparative data from disciplines such as evolutionary ecology, primatology and palaeoanthropology to address differences between the Neanderthal and anatomically modern human record.

In close association with colleagues studying Pleistocene environments, the two-year programme consists of a series of courses, seminars and activities centred around the research of the Human Origins group.
You will obtain a thorough knowledge of the European Palaeolithic record by a mixture of lectures, literature studies and written assignments. This knowledge is further developed in courses dealing with lithic technology, Pleistocene environments and the stratigraphy and ecology of the Mammoth Steppe. You are also expected to participate in the department’s fieldwork.

Excavations are used to train students in Palaeolithic fieldwork and post-excavation techniques. Comparative data and theory from other disciplines such as ethnography, palaeoanthropology and behavioural ecology are discussed in research seminars (one each year) to help you understand the behavioural and cognitive adaptations of members of the human lineage, especially the Neanderthals. It is also in the context of this research that you are asked to develop a research plan for your thesis.

Coordinator: prof. dr. Wil Roebroeks.