Assistant Professor in Archaeology, Leiden University

I am fascinated by the fact that we are the only human species on the planet; meanwhile our genus was flourishing for approximately 99% of our evolutionary timeframe. My main interests focus on the question of the nature and relationship between biological modernity and behavioral modernity. What behavior, if any, contributed to the success of anatomically modern Humans in Europe 30,000 years ago? Which unique behavior, if any, contributed to the demise of the Neandertals and their ancestors who well-established themselves in Europe for more than 300, 000 years? My research produces new data and theorical framework by combining the excavation of major sites in Europe and the analysis of archaeological materials, especially stone-tools and pigments.

My doctoral thesis provided new insight on the behavior of the last Neandertals in Western Europe immediately prior to their potential contact with anatomically modern Humans. I focused on the Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition (MTA) lithic technology from the Perigord area in France, and demonstrated that the MTA must be considered a cultural unit, and that it is the best candidate for the origin of the Chatelperronian. The high predetermination and planning of some of the MTA knapping processes diminish the sharp contrast usually seen between Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic behaviors.

Since 2004, I have led new excavations at Pech-de-l’Azé I (the type site of the Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition), at Jonzac (Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition and Quina deposits), and since 2006 at the site of Les Cottés (the type site of the “Evolved Chatelperronian”, additionally preserving Early Aurignacian occupations).

In addition to the collections that I personally have excavated, I am analyzing industries from the Chatelperronian sites of St-Césaire, and Quincay (in collaboration with Morgan Roussel for the latter site). My major goals for these two sites are to test whether an association exists between the neandertal remains and the Chatelperronian industry present at the site, and to evaluate the proportion of archaic behavior relative to innovative behavior in order to ascertain behavioral changes of the last Neandertals when they possibly came into contact with anatomically modern Humans.

Of additional interest, I am working on Neandertal’s use of pigment to try to understand its function and to determine if pigments were used by Neandertals for symbolic purposes. In my post-doctoral position, at the African Research Institute and Iziko Museum in Cape-town, South-Africa, I analyzed several collections dated to Oxygen Isotope Stage 4 and 5, in particular, the lithic industry from Blombos cave; the oldest anatomically modern Humans site with bone-tools, pigments and beads. Following my post-doctoral position, in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany, I gained employment as Paleolithic researcher at the newly founded French National Institute for Preventive Archaeology, where I am responsible for Paleolithic excavations in the center of France.