Human Palaeoecology in the Plio-Pleistocene

Camp dels Ninots

Principal investigator: Dr Jordi Agustí
Researchers: Dr Deborah Barsky, Dr Robert Sala, Dr Hugues Alexandre Blain, Dr Josep Vallverdú, Dr Bienvenido Martínez, Dr Josep Maria Prats, Dr Antoni Canals, Dr Policarp Hortolà and Dr Oriol Oms.
PhD students: Pedro Piñero, María Luisa Soto, Tsegai Medin and Moncef-Said Mtimet.
Technical staff: Bruno Gómez, Gerard Campeny and Gala Gómez.

The goals of this group are focused on establishing the palaeoecological context of human dispersals during the Pleistocene in the Mediterranean in terms of palaeoclimatic, palaeobiological and behavioural aspects. All three issues, climate evolution, faunal dispersals and techno-cultural evolution, have acted as significant drivers in the different episodes of human dispersal from the Pliocene to Middle Pleistocene.

Palaeoclimatic research

  • We look at correlations between the climatic changes recorded at the oceanic level, the evolution of vertebrate communities, and human settlements.
  • Our chronological span ranges from 2.6 Myr (beginning of the Glacial-Interglacial dynamic in the Northern Hemisphere) to 0.4 Myr (Mid-Bruhnes Event).
  • We approach these questions through work at different palaeontological and archaeological sites:
    • Camp dels Ninots (Upper Pliocene, La Selva Basin, Girona, Spain)
    • Quibas (Lower Pleistocene, Murcia, Spain)
    • Guadix-Baza Basin (Lower Pliocene to Middle Pleistocene, 5.3-0.4 Ma) 
    • Bois-de-Riquet (Lower Pleistocene, 1.2 Ma, Lezignan, Herault, France)
    • Aïn Beni Mattar-Guefeit (Lower Pleistocene, Morocco) 

Palaeobiological research

  • We study the relationships between faunal and human dispersals related to changes in climate during the Plio-Pleistocene.
  • It is very important for us to understand the general directions of the dispersals during the Pleistocene. In other words: Is there a north-south or east-west pattern of dispersal in the faunal distribution changes observed in the fossil record?
  • To answer these questions we focus on the analyses and comparison of the faunal record of several key sites of the Lower Pleistocene in the Mediterranean area and abroad:
    • Dmanisi  (1.8 Ma, Georgia)
    • Oued Sarrat (Middle Pleistocene, Le Kef, Tunisia) 
    • Engel Ela-Ramud Basin (Upper Pliocene to Middle Pleistocene, Eritrea)
    • Guadix-Baza Basin: Venta Micena, Fuente Nueva 3, Barranco León, Huéscar, Puerto Lobo, Solana de Zamborino (Lower-Middle Pleistocene, Granada, Spain)
    • Incarcal (Lower Pleistocene, Banyoles Basin–Besalú, Girona)
    • Barranc de La Boella (Lower-Middle Pleistocene, La Canonja, Spain)

Behavioural research

  • The complex chronological and geographical circumstances of the Plio-Pleistocene seem to suggest different transitions in diachronic periods, and raise several questions:
  1. Did these cultural transitions result from new arrivals of hominins who transmitted their technological innovations to pre-existing populations?
  2. Were some populations with lesser developed technological skills and a simpler social organization replaced by other populations that were more skilled in terms of technological and social behaviours?
  3. Or did these new traditions develop independently in different areas of the Mediterranean from the potential of the morpho-technical variability of the Oldowan traditions?
  • To solve these questions, we consider different archaeological sites ranging from eastern Africa, western Eurasia and the Mediterranean Basin, either managed by IPHES members or studied with the participation of IPHES members in cooperation with the researchers and the centres that lead or manage them:
    • Fejej (Lower Pleistocene, 1.96 Ma, South Ethiopia)
    • Ain Beni Mathar, Guefeit (Lower Pleistocene, Morocco).
    • Dmanisi (1.8 Ma, Georgia). 
    • Bizat Ruhama (Lower Pleistocene, 1.6-1.2 Ma, Israel).
    • Errayeh (Middle Pleistocene, Northwest Algeria).
    • N´Gaous (Middle Pleistocene, North Central Algeria). 
    • Ubeidiya (Lower Pleistocene, 1.6-1.2 Ma, Israel).
    • Bois de Riquet (Lower Pleistocene, 1.2 Ma, Lezignan, Herault, France).
    • Caune de l´Aragó (Middle Pleistocene, 0.69-0.09 Ma, Roussillon, France). 
    • Loira central (Lower Pleistocene – Middle Pleistocene, Loira Basin, France).
    • Guadix-Baza Basin (Lower Pliocene – Middle Pleistocene, 5.3-0.4 Ma). Sites of Barranco León, Fuente Nueva 3, Huéscar, Cúllar and Solana de Zamborino.
    • Calerizo de Cáceres (Lower Pleistocene, Cáceres, Spain
    • Barranc de La Boella (Lower-Middle Pleistocene), La Canonja, Spain