"Neandertals lived in Eurasia for more than 200,000 years and represent the closest relatives of present-day humans. Their study helps us understand what makes modern humans so unique and evolutionary successful. In this project we will provide new data on Neandertal biological and behavioural diversity in Europe, with the hypothesis that their geographic expansion resulted in a regional differentiation of the populations. First, we will assess biological distance between four geographic groups through the analysis of skeletal discrete traits (anatomical variations), which are good indicators of population history but have never been comprehensively analysed on Neandertals. Our scoring procedure includes a novel approach using Computed-Tomography image analysis. Second, we will investigate Neandertal territorial strategies using strontium isotope analysis in teeth. This is a very new field of research, that applies state-of-the art biogeochemial techniques for obtaining information on movements of past humans. We believe that our synthetic approach that combines morphological and behavioural data, in comparison with results of recent paleogenetic studies, will help reveal insights on Neandertal evolutionary history. This project will allow the candidate to expand her scientific knowledge and to acquire new skills in CT-scan imaging and Geographic Information System analysis. Other training events, such as the co-organization of an international workshop, will enhance her leadership abilities and international visibility. The host organization in Madrid includes recognized experts on Neandertal studies and CT-scan imaging. This project will develop a new field of research in Europe and help build a network between several European countries linked by a common heritage, Neandertals, whose fossil remains are curated in European museums and are of interest to academics and the public alike."
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