Welcome from the director en ca es

Robert SalaThe Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) is a transdisciplinary institution that promotes advanced research, education and knowledge transfer, and social engagement with science. Therefore, we cross and combine different fields of science (humanities and social sciences, but also geosciences and biosciences) to apply them to the study of human and social evolution. Our aim is to promote knowledge both about ancient human species and human beings today.

The research at the IPHES is organized in three groups and several projects that cover the whole field of human evolution. This includes the reconstruction of the landscapes, their chronology and the shifts in human behaviour.

Our research on human evolution and paleoecology is based on the fieldwork done in major sites, which is critical when reconstructing the past of humans and the ecology. The scientists at the IPHES are responsible for sites such Camp dels Ninots, which are needed for the reconstruction of the Pliocene landscape and the ecology in Iberia; Atapuerca, Orce and La Boella, which show the first human occupation in Europe and its evolution; Abric Romaní, Consagració, Toll and Teixoneres, which give a glimpse of Neanderthals’ behaviour; and Cova Eirós, Valdavara, Casa Corona and Molí del Salt, which give us the opportunity to reconstruct the social evolution of modern humans in Europe and their challenges in relation to ecological shifts.

Our fieldwork is not restricted to the Iberian Peninsula. On the contrary, we are interested in research topics that affect the mainstream of human dispersal all around the world. This is the origin of the research we conduct at the Engel Ela-Ramud basin in the Danakil region (Eritrea) and in Ain Beni Mathar-Guefait (Morocco), both detached for the primitive human dispersion through Africa. Oued Sarrat in Tunisia and N’Gaous-Kef Sefiane in Algeria are important to see what technological innovations were made during the Middle Pleistocene and how humans adapted to the cyclically changing ecosystem of the Maghreb. The Iranian region of Khorramabad shows the evolution of humans and the dispersal of modern humans in the Middle East. Finally, Vallone Inferno in Sicily shows the introduction of Neolithic innovations across the Mediterranean region.

We are now facing the challenge of consolidating the fieldwork research we conduct all over the world to improve our knowledge on the mainstream topics on human evolution and paleoecology. The investigations we carry out on sites that are significant to the reconstruction of human evolution in East Africa, Maghreb, Middle East, Europe, America and of course in the Iberian Peninsula have to continue, improve and increase when possible.

The research groups and projects that build the framework for IPHES investigations cover the main disciplines and topics of paleoecology and human evolution, including the social shifts in human populations that faced ecological challenges. One of those great changes in human behaviour has been the shift from hunter-gatherer economies to domestication. The IPHES is working on this topic on different geographical areas and sites. We are pleased since one of the projects that covers this shift and its relation to ecological pressures has been recently awarded with an ERC Consolidator grant that covers our vocation on social evolution.

Our second commitment focuses on the formation of new cohorts of specialists on human evolution, quaternary and prehistory within the best international standards. The Inter-University Master’s Degree in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution, within the Erasmus Mundus Programme, provides students with the fieldwork, laboratory facilities and research projects necessary for their formation. The IPHES is also participating in the Doctoral Programme in the Quaternary and Prehistory, which completes the education cycle on human evolution. We are proud that the consortium giving university degrees is being converted in a school for studies on our domain.

We at IPHES are engaged in using human evolution as a scientific domain to serve the formation of a scientific culture and a social awareness. Analysing the problems that people have faced in the past has to help current citizens improve their knowledge about human behaviour and solve our current challenges. The IPHES applies this engagement on two levels: universally, by spreading our research; and locally, by forming alliances with public and private partners in our immediate territory. This is what we call socialization: a policy to make human evolution research an active mean for social change and improvement.