Joao Cascalheira

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Algarve, U. do

Grant number

Gr. 9729

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Cascalheira, Dr. Joao, U. of Algarve, Faro, Portugal - To aid research on 'Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans at Escoural Cave (Southern Portugal)'

Preliminary abstract: This project aims to study Neanderthal extinction and their replacement by Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) in southwestern Iberia. Current models for the replacement suggest 3 possible scenarios for the transition timeframe (c. 30-42,000 years ago) in regions located south of the Ebro basin: 1) the regions were abandoned by both populations; 2) Neanderthals persisted alone; or 3) AMH were also present, spreading into the region soon after they arrived in northern Iberia. Testing these alternative hypotheses and characterizing the regional conditions under which the replacement took place are the main goals of this project. For this we propose to use a high-resolution approach to the archaeological, geological and paleoecological records of the Escoural cave (southern Portugal). Previous work in the cave (early 1990’s) revealed a stratigraphic sequence with an important set of Neanderthal occupations as well as material and artistic (rock art) evidence for the presence of very early AMH occupations, which remain largely unkown and anticipate that the site might yield key-information to test current models on the transition. Wenner-Gren funding will be applied to start an interdisciplinary approach to the excavation of Escoural that will provide new absolute data on the timing of the transition, and new archaeological data on the organization of Neanderthal and early AMH adaptations. The expected outcomes will contribute to theories about a major development in human evolution, offering a unique opportunity to help resolving long-standing debates about both populations, such as the dispute on the extent and nature of early symbolic behavior, the meaning of the absence of transitional industries in southern Iberia, or the impact of climate and environmental conditions during and immediately before and after the transition.