Selection of
Current Projects

Research | Current Projects

Shovakh Cave, Israel

Shovakh Cave, is a cave located within the Amud drainage system, northern Israel. The cave was originally excavated and published by S. Binford, exposing a sequence of Middle Paleolithic anthropogenic deposits
(ca. ~1.2), with rich faunal and lithic assemblages as well as hearths and a single Neandertal teeth. A renewed excavation at Shovakh Cave in 2016 initiated an interdisciplinary project aimed at studying the adaptations of Middle Paleolithic hominids, radiometrically date the Shovakh sequence and clarify the depositional history of the cave.

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Alapars 1, Armenia

The open-air site of Alapars 1, Armenia, is situated ca. 25 km north  of Yerevan in the Hrazdan River catchment at the foothills of the Gutansar volcano, and immediately adjacent to a rhyolitic obsidian dome. The site revealed a ca. 5 m thick sedimentological and pedological sequence with a succession of three stratified Middle Paleolithic assemblages. The lithic assemblages possibly reflect variations in land-use patterns and mode of occupation. The results of the project fill contribute to a major gap in the understanding of settlement systems during the Middle Paleolithic of the southern Caucasus.

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Kalavan Region, Armenia

Kalavan is located at an altitude of   ca. 1630 m above sea level on the northeastern flanks of the Aregunyats mountains, which dominate the northern shore of Lake Sevan in Armenia. Paleolithic sites are found within a sequence of four river terraces of the Barepat River attributed to the Middle Pleistocene through the Holocene. The long-term archive at Kalavan will provide insights regarding the technological evolution as it relates to environmental variations and hominin population dynamics in the southern Caucasus.

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Rock Art of Gondershausen

The likely Palaeolithic petroglyphs of Gondershausen in the Rhein-Hunsrück county differ in their representation principles significantly from those of the internationally famous examples of Late Magdalenian rock art from the middle Rhine sites of Gönnersdorf and Andernach. This project is dedicated to the comprehensive contextualization of these unique rock art representations.

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Keilmesser of the Balve Cave: tool standardization and hand preference

 

The Balve cave in Westphalia provides detailed insight into the standardization of late Middle Paleolithic tool shapes. Especially the so-called Keilmesser (bifacial backed knives), characterized by their asymmetric shape, allow conclusions to hand preference and to the cognitive and technical skills of the Neandertals of the Last Glacial period.

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Geoarchaeological survey at Meerfelder Maar


High-resolution archives with good preservation conditions, which cover the transition from the Mesolithic to Neolithic hardly exist in Central Europe. After the discovery of the first archaeological finds at Meerfelder Maar, targeted geoarchaeological survey and subsequent coring in the Eifel promise new insights into the environmental conditions of this crucial time period.

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Bridging Barriers

FF “Menschwerdung – Becoming human” has been involved since 2014 in a cooperation with the MOE Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems at Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, People's Republic of China.  The cooperation includes a comprehensive tutorial on the "Archaeology of becoming human" and joint fieldwork in the western Chinese Loess Plateau and on the border to the Tibetan plateau.

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Neumarkt-Nord 2/0 - Lithics


Neumark Nord (NN) 2/0 is an early Weichselian lithic assemblage. This Master thesis will concentrate on the production of blanks and draw a comparison with the assemblage from Neumark Nord 2/2, which dates to the last Interglacial (Eemian). Previous studies concluded that the main goal of blank production at NN 2/2 was obtaining sharp working edges. Furthermore, a preference for natural cutting edges, like those created by frost fractures has been observed in the Eemian assemblage. Here, it will be examined if similar raw material exploitation and blank production strategy also applies for the NN2.0 assemblage.

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Nutritional Stategies

The project investigates the economic behaviour of Early Mesolithic hunters, gatherers and fishers. Here, a palaeo-economic perspective is applied in order to adapt models of economic science for prehistoric societies. Results will enable  a comparison of the variety of economic systems as Early Mesolithic hunters and gatherers and Neolithic farmers and stock breeders.

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Lezetxiki (Northern Spain )

The cave of Lezetxiki (Northern Spain) lies at the centre of the Cantabrian Mountains, strategically located between the Cantabrian coast, the Aquitaine Basin to the Northeast and the Ebro valley to the South. Sites within this karst landscape are often of great significance for our understanding of human behavioural evolution in the northern Iberian peninsula. Bones of hominins identified as Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens, together with their stone artefacts and rich zooarchaeological assemblages (more than 20.000 Pieces) all contribute to our research.

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Neumark-Nord

Neumark-Nord presents a unique archive for the environment and way of life of Neanderthals 120,000 years ago. In the framework of a DFG-supported project, current analyses focus on Neanderthal systems of land use in the interglacial lake-dominated landscape.

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Schöningen

The oldest weapons known world-wide were discovered at Schöningen (Lower Saxony). Throwing spears show that Neanderthals were already skilled hunters of large game 300,000 years ago. High-resolution site features and extensive animal and plant remains document the subsistence strategies of early humans in interglacial surroundings. A project supported since 2013 by the DFG is investigating the depositional history at Schöningen as a basis for modelling Neanderthal settlement processes and modes of subsistence.

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Kůlna-Cave

Caves are quite wrongly regarded as the “classic” centres of Neanderthal life. Research at MONREPOS has in no small measure contributed to disproving the fairy story of Neanderthals as primitive “cave dwellers”. However there are exceptions and Neanderthals repeatedly occupied the huge Kůlna Cave (CZ). This is shown by massive accumulations made up of the discarded waste of their prey in an excellent state of preservation. This project analyses the remains of large mammals from Layer 11 of Sector D in order to examine the function and use of caves by Neanderthals within the interglacial landscape.

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Dispersal Routes of Early Humans

The lower Danube Valley occupies a key position for several waves of dispersal of early humans into Europe. Prospecting in the southeastern Romanian loess steppe led to the discovery of the site of Dealul Guran, at 400,000 years old, one of the oldest sites in eastern Europe. Technological analyses of stone artefacts from Dealul Guran provide information on the ways in which these pioneers used the landscape. New prospection focused on locating and dating the ash left by the Campanian Ignimbrite volcanic eruption.

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A Seat at the Carnivore Table

The ability to hunt large animals is regarded as the most important precondition for the initial human occupation of Europe. During the Ice Age the continent was characterized by the alternation of periods of warmth and of extreme cold. As the phases of cold climate became ever longer the composition of the large faunal community and particularly the guild of carnivores underwent marked changes. This upheaval among the hunters opened up a niche for humans, who focused their hunting on large mammals.

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Hunting Weapons

Early hunting weapons have hardly ever been preserved. Only their stone tips are imperishable. However, their recognition and attribution to specific forms of projectile technology are very difficult issues. Minute traces of damage on the stone points may betray whether and how they were used as projectiles.  In experiments carried out in cooperation with the Physikalisch-Technischer Bundesanstalt at Braunschweig projectiles with replicated points were fired off under controlled laboratory conditions and subsequently examined under a microscope. Typical impact damage to the points can then be linked to specific weapon delivery systems and also identified within the archaeological assemblages.

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Taforalt

Settlement remains from the Taforalt Cave (Morocco) reflect fundamental stages in the development of subsistence, use of the landscape and social organisation by early Modern Humans. The discovery of the oldest objects of personal adornment world-wide and the largest Epipalaeolithic cemetery in North Africa brought the Grotte des Pigeons international recognition. Taforalt has been investigated since 2003 by an international project; our focus is on the analysis of the animal remains, which provide us with a picture of developing subsistence strategies and landscape use.

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Lommersum & Breitenbach

Specific subsistence strategies may have secured us the critical selective advantage which allowed Modern Humans to survive while Neanderthals became extinct. Whereas Neanderthal diet has by now been studied quite well the origins of modern human nutrition still remain very much in the dark in Central Europe. This project investigates the animal bones from the open-air sites of Lommersum and Breitenbach.

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Andernach

The settlement remains from Andernach provide the basis of comprehensive investigations into the processes of residentiality and activity, consumption and celebration. The site in the Neuwied Basin was occupied during two phases at the end of the Ice Age, the Magdalenian some 15,800 years ago and at the time of the Federmessergruppen (“Penknife-Point groups”) 13,000 years ago. The well conserved bones and settlement structures preserve evidence for all stages of subsistence, from food procurement to its processing or even storage. Subsistence is preserved here within the context of social conventions and spatial organisation.

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Chronology

Erste Moderne Menschen in Europa

The pioneer phase of Modern Humans in Central Europe represents a key moment for understanding our behaviour. We are establishing a solid chronological framework into which the evidence for behaviour during this period can be ordered. Over the past several years Central European sites of the period have been targeted for 14C dating: Lommersum, Breitenbach, Altwies-Langen-Aaker, the Buchenloch and Magdalena Caves, and the Schwalbenberg site near Remagen.

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Origins of Residentiality

Die Siedlungsstrukturen von Breitenbach

"Residentiality" stands for a revolution in the evolution of human behaviour. For the first time Modern Humans occupied the landscape living in true settlements. At the 35,000 year old site of Breitenbach (Saxony-Anhalt) we are investigating the earliest origins of this residentiality. The excellent preservation of organic remains, the enormous size of the settlement and the specific patterns of spatial organization combine to render Breitenbach a unique site.

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Technology and Mobility

Between 30,000 and 21,000 years ago, the Gravettian is a phase characterized by comprehensive socio-economic changes. The reason for these seems to be the high mobility of these hunters and gatherers. Information on the scale of this mobility is provided by the raw materials used for their stone artefacts. The project examines strategies of raw material use and procurement at the sites of Breitenbach, Maisières-Canal (Belgium), Willendorf II (Austria) und Potocka zijalka (Slovenia).

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Oelknitz

At Oelknitz (Thuringia) people were already living some of the time in village-like settlements by 15,500 years ago. Numerous stone artefacts, bones and art objects were found in well preserved settlement structures. These reveal spatial differences with regard to their associations of finds and artificial pits. Investigations at the contemporary sites of Gönnersdorf and Andernach are closely related. Female depictions of “Gönnersdorf Type” may symbolize shared communication networks and equivalent social organization.

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Abstract Art

The slate plaques discovered at Gönnersdorf bear a great variety of abstract engravings which are now for the first time being systematically documented and analysed. The potential signs and symbols carry information on late Ice Age organizational and communication systems and one emphasis of the study is on the techniques used for depiction.

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