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Biogeographic and cultural adaptations of early humans during the first intercontinental dispersals

Project description

Biogeographical aspects of early human migrations

What do we know about the earliest tool-making hominins? Over the last decade, scientific knowledge has increased, and hominin sites have been found in Africa and China, half a million years earlier than previously believed. A new research approach based on biogeography and adaptive behaviours is needed to understand the complex human colonisation processes across the Old World. The EU-funded BICAEHFID project will create a global synthesis of early human movement dynamics based on the comparison of the world’s longest timeline of early archaeological sites. By using available datasets, the project aims to understand the alternative evolutionary course followed by hominins sharing a common biological and cultural background who took routes with different climatic and biogeographic conditions.


Our understanding of the emergence and dispersal of the earliest tool-making hominins has been revolutionised in the last decade, with sites in eastern Africa and China pushing both events more than half a million years earlier than previously thought. Traditional models linking biological speciation, cultural innovation and migration events with climatic pulses have remained theoretical, and recent discoveries suggest that the picture of the earliest human colonization across the Old World is far more complex, demanding heuristic approaches to understand the biogeography and adaptive behaviours of early humans.

This project will be the first substantive attempt to produce a global synthesis of earliest human occupation dynamics by comparing the world’s longest sequences of early archaeological sites, namely eastern Africa and China. Our objective is to understand the alternative evolutionary trajectories adopted by hominins that shared an overarching biological and cultural background, but who faced different climatic and biogeographic challenges and opportunities.

The ambition of our global-scale objectives is accompanied by the unmatched quality of our datasets and the ground-breaking perspective we will adopt in their study. Fieldwork in the two most renowned sequences in each region alongside a primary study of additional top-quality assemblages in both subcontinents, will be combined with extensive metadata sets to produce comprehensive views of temporal trends and paleoecological patterns. Our state-of-the-art methodological sets (which combine an exceptionally diverse range of disciplines from geochemistry to niche modelling) and ground-breaking analytical perspective (which considers data from micro-stratigraphy to satellite imaging) will enable us to develop new approaches to challenge established paradigms and produce a new picture of the biogeographic adaptations of early stone-tool makers.



Net EU contribution
€ 2 220 396,00
Calle serrano 117
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)