Skip to main content

High-Resolution Approach in Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites for reconstructing Social dynamic and Technical behaviours

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REAPPAST (High-Resolution Approach in Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites for reconstructing Social dynamic and Technical behaviours)

Reporting period: 2015-07-16 to 2017-07-15

REAPPAST has investigated site formation processes from a new high-resolution, multidisciplinary perspective casting light on socio-economic strategies in southern Europe at the end of the Late Pleistocene. We have tested hypotheses on the temporal relationship between discrete intra-site activity areas as well as on the cultural, social, and economical organisation of human groups based on past human technology. The project was highly empiricist and integrated mathematic models with empirical data.
REAPPAST has addressed two research questions:
1) How did the socio-economic organisation reflect itself in the spatial and temporal organisation of technical activities in Palaeolithic residential camps?
2) Which was the group size in single occupation areas, and with which palaeodemographic implications?
The research was conducted focusing on two main topics that are central in the debate about Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition:
a) The technological behaviour of Neanderthals, with special attention to the relationships between raw materials, mobility, transmission of knowledge, and spatial organisation of the intra-site living spaces.
b) The occupation intensity and the duration of occupation at campsites.
Results have opened new perspectives on reliable archaeological measurement of time uncertainty in Prehistoric sites. We combined traditional and innovative qualitative and quantitative approach in stone tool studies and spatial analysis. Results have significantly contributed to the understanding of socio-economic dynamics at the end of MIS 3 (such as recycling, mechanisms of technological innovations, mechanisms of technological transmission, significance of different degrees of technological investment). Furthermore, results contributed to approach population density and long-term cultural dynamics in relation with the biological changes in Europe happened at the end of Middle Palaeolithic between Neanderthal and Sapiens populations.
The scientific European community has benefited from the data generated during REAPPAST thanks to an ambitious publication and presentation plan. The plan included academic conferences in European leading centres. Furthermore, REAPPAST has provided social benefits thanks to a constant implication of the beneficiary in public conferences and in educational projects aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of research and innovation in human evolution studies.
To answer to research questions, REAPPAST was aimed at specific objectives that have been linked in a bottom-up perspective. Within the Specific objectives the beneficiary has performed several tasks.
1- She has applied high-resolution analysis to stone tool assemblages from several Palaeolithic European sites in a multidisciplinary perspective. The study included morpho-technical and diacritic analysis, Raw Material Unit analysis and refits. Results of the analysis included the reconstruction of productive sequences of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers and the understanding of their socio-economic strategies.
2- She has applied taphonomic analysis to identify site formation processes and distiguish between anthropic and natural agents affecting the intra-site spatial distribution of archaeological remains. Results allowed dissecting archaeological palimpsests and improve the understanding of human behaviour thanks to the identification of the spatial and temporal relationships between technical events.
3- She has investigated technological past behaviour through the study of exploitation of 'secondary' resources such as marine shells in Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherers adaptive capacity was expressed, among other things, by strategy of raw material selection and diversification. The techno-economic behaviour related to apparently less valuable raw materials, including biotic resources, allowed to understand human-environment interaction, cost-benefits strategies, mobility, and technological concepts and innovations.
4- She has applied experimental archaeology. Experimental archaeology has been used to investigate how taphonomic processes affected the spatial distribution of stone tool remains and the consequent rate and long distance displacements of refits. Furthermore, experimental archaeology has been used to investigate modalities and procedures of Palaeolithic raw material axploitation.
5- She has applied GIS, point patterns and geostatistics approaches to generate and test hypotheses about the social interaction between acting individuals in Palaeolithic campsites. Using the integrated approach between empirical analysis of lithic remains and spatial modelling, REAPPAST identified and understant the spatial and temporal causes for density variation on leaving floors in Neanderthal campsites.
An important part of REAPPAST was the training in GIS made at the UCL (UK) and in high-resolution analysis made at the Université de Bordeaux (France). Results were also obtained thanks to several collaborations at the Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès (France), and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) in association with the integration in several research projects developed at the IPHES - Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social.
REAPPAST's results have important implications in paleodemography and in the interpretation of long-term social dynamics in Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. In particular they have imporved our knowledge of changes in socio-economic behaviour during MIS 3, close to the arrival of Anatomically Modern Humans in western Europe. Data produced by REAPPAST are significant for the scientific community and has wider societal implications including the understanding of population movements, the transformation of cultural marks, the relationship between economic strategies and environment.