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Origins and Evolution of the Neanderthal Cranial Morphology

Project description

A new look at the Neanderthal cranium

Our closest extinct human relatives, Neanderthals are probably the most studied among all the extinct human groups. This is mainly due to the fossil evidence and the fact that they overlapped with modern humans. It is well documented that the overall anatomy of the Neanderthals differs from that of modern humans. However, the cranial morphology of the first Neanderthals sensu stricto (marine isotope stage 7-6, late MP) has not been fully described using state-of-the-art techniques. The EU-funded NEANDER-TALe project will study the Abri Suard site’s (Charente, France) cranial remains. Specifically, it will use virtual imaging techniques to identify the tempo and mode of apparition of typical Neanderthal cranial features.


Neandertals inhabited Eurasia for around 200 thousand years (between c 250ky and 50 ky ago), in very different ecosystems, in a period with changing climates. They are probably the most studied extinct human group due to the richness of its fossil record, their chronological overlap with modern humans, and because the admixture between both groups has important implications regarding modern human genetic diversity. Their overall anatomy significantly differs from that of modern humans, and concretely the cranium shows a distinct morphology that help to characterise this group. Nevertheless, the way that this human lineage evolved and the origin of this specific morphology is a matter of intense debate in the field of Human Evolution. In this sense, the cranial morphology of the first Neandertals sensu stricto (Marine Isotopic Stage (MIS) 7-6, late MP) has barely been described using state-of-the-art techniques.
Centered on the study of the Abri Suard site (Charente, France) cranial remains, this project aims to study the first Neandertal representatives from a key region. Their cranial morphology will be analysed using cutting edge Virtual Imaging Techniques (VIT). This will allow us, for the very first time, to determine the tempo and mode of apparition of the typical Neanderthal cranial features.
The fellow will receive training on multi-disciplinary state-of-the-art Paleoanthropological and Virtual Imaging Techniques. In turn, he will transfer his expertise in physical and forensic anthropology, as well as in Prehistoric Western Europe human groups. He will expand the analyses VITs to periods not previously explored by the host. In addition, he will foster new collaborations with academic (secondments) and non-academic partners (museums, heritage associations). Altogether, this project guarantees the two-way transfer of knowledge and represents a solid investment of funds from which the fellow, the host institutions and the European society will largely benefit.


Net EU contribution
€ 184 707,84
33000 Bordeaux

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Nouvelle-Aquitaine Aquitaine Gironde
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 184 707,84