Key words: Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Anatomically Modern Humans, Coastal adaptation
This research group focuses on the study of human coastal adaptations with the premise that coastlines, riverine and lake environments have been a crucial focus for human settlement, population growth, dispersal and social complexity from the earliest periods of prehistory, especially after the MIS6, and have functioned as dynamic zones of cultural interaction and social change. The goals of this research unit for the 2015/2020 period are essentially the continuation and extension of the ongoing projects in southwestern Iberia and southern Africa, as well as to initiate new working programs to respond to specific questions about the evolution of prehistoric cultural, social and economic adaptive systems in marine and estuarine landscape settings.
Thus, it is our aim to get a deeper knowledge on the impact of the use of marine resources and coastal ecology in the emergence of cognition complexity, traditionally associated to Anatomically Modern Humans. This will be accomplished through survey and excavation of coastal Paleolithic sites both in Western Europe, mainly Southern and Western Iberia, and Mozambique. In the case of Iberia the fieldwork will also include the survey and excavation of shallow underwater limestone caves, where valuable sedimentary archives of long-term environmental and climatic changes and, potentially, a high number of archaeological remains may exist, that will permit to document human response to the changing coastal environments.
On the other hand and directly related with the first topic, another focus of the group will be the Middle Paleolithic settlement in the Portuguese and southern Spanish coastal strip, particularly in the central Portugal wetlands. The latter were, until very recently, undocumented landscape settings for Neanderthal habitation, and the analysis of the archaeological materials recovered from a series of new sites that have been found in the last years in the region will provide key data, with global scientific impact, for the reconstruction of Neanderthal’s adaptive systems.
Finally, another focus will be the investigation of the time and mode of the appearance of social complexity in the Mesolithic of Western Europe and its association with the construction of a, par excellence, aquatic-related features: shellmiddens. In this topic, the work plan will be guided by the prolongation of the ongoing excavations at the Muge shellmiddens (Central Portugal) and the analysis of the archaeological deposits and recovered materials. The discovery of new shellmiddens through GIS predictive modeling will also be a major objective.