Human Palaeoecology in the Plio-Pleistocene


Camp dels Ninots

Title: Human Paleoecology in the Plio-Pleistocene (PalHum)
Coordinator: Dr. Hugues-Alexandre Blain.
Call: Ajuts per donar suport a les activitats dels grups de recerca de Catalunya (SGR 2017-2019)
Funder: Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR)
Period: 01/01/2018 - 30/09/2021
Reference Code:
2017 SGR 859
 Dr. Jordi Agustí, Dr. Deborah Barsky, Dr. Gerard Campeny Val-llosera, Dr. Antoni Canals, Dr. Bruno Gómez de Soler, Dr. Policarp Hortolà, Dr. Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro, Dr. Tsegai Medin, Dr. Josep Maria Prats, Dr. Robert Sala & Dr. Josep Vallverdú.
PhD students: Mohamed Azaza, Josep Francesc Bisbal-Chinesta, Mihailo Jovanović, Madhavi Kuneriath, Moncef-Said Mtimet, Avinandan Mukherjee & Almudena Martínez Monzón.
Support to research staff: Bernat Sentis, Marta Fontanals, Elena Moreno Ribas, Dr. Monica Fernández-García & Miguel Ángel Soares Remiseiro.
Collaborations: Dr. Iván Lozano-Fernández, Dr. Pedro Piñero, Dr. María Luisa Soto Quesada, Dr. Sandra Bañuls Cardona, Dr. Souhila Roubach, F.J. García Vadillo, Ángel Blanco Lapaz, Francisco Javier Luengo Gutiérrez, Adrià Escudé, Estefania Titton & Akinbowa Akintayo.

PalHum focuses on establishing the context of human migration in the Mediterranean area during the Pleistocene from three different approaches: 1. global climate changes as a forcing factor on hominin dispersal timing and mode; 2. the coevolution and interactions of hominids and carnivores and their implication for dispersal/subsistence, and 3. the study of technological behaviours (Acheulean vs. Oldowan) and their implications for population replacement and/or cultural transmission across the Mediterranean. All three aspects, techno-cultural innovation, climate evolution and associated faunal interactions have acted as significant drivers in the different episodes of human dispersal from the Pliocene to the Middle Pleistocene.

Then, in addition to these objectives, PalHum formalized a fourth objective for the new period (2017-2019): investigating the social and economic impact of our scientific research at Barranc de la Boella (La Canonja, Tarragona) and Camp dels Ninots (Caldes de Malavella, Girona).

Thus, the research topics are as follows:

    1. Human and faunal dispersals during the Quaternary: Timing and Mode

  • Pliocene and Pleistocene Eurasian faunal dispersals
  • Biochronology of the first hominid remains into Mediterranean area and abroad
  • First human settlements in Eurasia, Northern Africa, and the Horn of Africa
  • The Paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic context of first hominid dispersal

    2. Hominines-Carnivores interactions

  • Hominids-Sabertooths coevolution (Meganteron whitei)
  • Hyenas-Hominids interactions (Pachycrocuta brevirostris, Crocuta crocuta and Hyena hyena)
  • Interaction with social carnivores (Lycaon lycaonoides)

    3. Early Technological Behavior (Oldowan vs. Acheulean)

  • Stone Tools (Raw Materials, Lithic Technology, Use-Wear/Residue Analyses)
  • Information Systems in archaeo-paleontological sites: social and spatial behavior
  • Dispersal/Transmission of techno-cultural innovations

    4. Heritagization of the archaeo-paleontological record

  • Non-formal scientific education in geosciences and the archaeological record as a source of public engagement with science for younger audiences
  • Monitoring the cultural team, including how to communicate or transfer archaeo-paleontological contents in order to build sustainable infrastractures

We approach these questions through our work at different paleontological and archaeological sites (underlined when led) from Eastern Africa to Western Eurasia and the Mediterranean Basin:

  • Pliocene: Camp dels Ninots (Spain), Baza (Spain).
  • Early Pleistocene: Barranco León and Fuente Nueva 3 (Spain), Quibas (Spain), La Boella (Spain), Bois de Riquet (France), Pirro Nord (Italy), Aïn Beni Mathar and Guefaït Basins (Morocco), Oued Sarrat Basin (Tunisia), Ternifine (Algeria), Dmanisi (Georgia), Bizat Ruhama (Israel), Engel Ela-Ramud Basin and Danakil Depression (Eritrea).
  • Middle Pleistocene: Cova dels Xaragalls (Spain), Santa Ana Cave (Spain), N’gaous (Algeria), Caune de l’Arago (France), Azokh Cave (Nagorno Karabagh).

Concerning knowledge transfer, PalHum is consolidating and strengthening the ongoing activities related to heritage valorisation of paleontological and archaeological sites, both in Catalonia and abroad.

On one hand, the research group is leading, together with the local and provincial administrations, the scientific advice and contents of the tourist route and the construction of the visitor centre around the paleontological site Camp dels Ninots. These activities are co-funded by the Strategic Tourism Plan for Catalonia 2013-2016, Heritagization Plan of Catalonia and the City Council of Caldes de Malavella.

On the other hand, the group is also leading the heritagization process of the archaeological site Barranc de la Boella, which has become part of the “TurisTic en família” project within the Research and Innovation Strategy for the Smart Specialisation of Catalonia (RIS3CAT), incorporating local and provincial administration stakeholders (Ajuntament de La Canonja, Diputació de Tarragona). This project allows PalHum to give advice, provide contents and monitor the design of a prehistoric experience to boost cultural tourism, contributing to the development of the economy of Costa Daurada, an important family tourism destination of the province of Tarragona.

Furthermore, the group continues to provide advice and updated contents to the new Centro de Interpretación de los Primeros Pobladores de Europa (Orce, Granada), co-funded by FEDER, with their research findings related to the archaeological sites of the Guadix-Baza Basin (Granada, Andalusia). Finally, at an international level, the group is following on with the research and knowledge transfer collaboration for the development of the National Museum of Georgia and Université Mohammed Premier Oujda for the valorisation of the Dmanisi archaeological sites and the archaeological heritage of Eastern Morocco, respectively.