ICArEHB recently achieved a breakthrough by securing three prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) postdoctoral fellowships. This achievement reinforces the Centre’s commitment to promoting excellence in interdisciplinary research in the field of Archaeology and Human Evolution.

The three researchers who received the grant are:

Isaac Ogloblin with proposal PUMA: Paleolithic Underwater Micro-Archaeology will be supervised by Vera Aldeias in ICArEHB, and Dan Cabanas at Rutgers University (USA).

Our current knowledge about human evolution is biased toward terrestrial data whereas some crucial information is stored in sites that are now submerged since the terminal Pleistocene. In dry-land archaeology, the combination of micro-evidences (through paleobotanical, geoarchaeological, and experimental data) has revealed new information. My project aims to explore the applicability of these approaches for the investigation of submerged Paleolithic sites by tackling two main questions:1) What kind of microarchaeological materials are preserved in submerged Paleolithic sites? 2) Why do anthropogenic micro-remains (e.g., phytoliths, Ash pseudomorphs) preserve in submerged sites? With the new set of techniques (phytolith morphotype and taphonomy, mineralogical and elemental analysis on thin sections) and knowledge (experimental archaeology, Paleolithic period) to be learned as a Global Fellow at Rutgers University (USA) and in the Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human Behaviour at the University of Algarve (Portugal), I will provide a new methodological background needed to investigate submerged Paleolithic sites.
The combination of micro-geoarchaeology to detect submerged Paleolithic sites and experimentation to explain their preservation will yield highly relevant results. The exploitation of new evidence off the continental shelf will open unique ways for the scientific community while providing the base to protect our cultural heritage from sea-level rising and the exploitation of the seabed. This project will turn me into a unique transdisciplinary and versatile underwater archaeologist at the forefront of archaeological science advances, with a breadth of expertise. I will share practices with marine scientists, paleobotanists, geoarchaeologists, and underwater archaeologists in multiple periods and regions, hence preparing for my employment in tenure positions in the fields of archaeology and marine science.

Lucía Cobo Sánchez, with proposal BITES: Beyond Bones: Integrating Statistics and Machine Learning Tools into Archaeological Evidence to Decode Neanderthal-Carnivore Scenarios will be supervised by João Cascalheira in ICArEHB.

The relationship between humans and their natural environment has significantly shaped our evolutionary history. Carnivores in particular, our main competitors in many past ecosystems, likely had a profound impact on hominin behaviours. Neanderthals, potentially more carnivorous than other hominin species, present an intriguing focus. Were the relationships between Neanderthals and carnivores primarily rooted in rivalry, mutual avoidance, or subtle survival adaptations? How did they impact Neanderthal niche exploitation? Can changes in these interactions shed light on Neanderthal disappearance? Archaeological sites yield thousands of animal bone fragments with traces of Neanderthal and carnivore consumption that offer valuable insights into this coexistence. Yet, these data remain underexploited, due to the challenges derived from interpreting complex mixed taphonomic processes. The BITES project aims to reconstruct Neanderthal-carnivore interactions using targeted quantitative methodologies, which are tailored to detect patterns previously unattainable with traditional approaches. Employing both multivariate statistics and machine learning, I will initially accurately quantify hominin and carnivore relative activities across four Middle Paleolithic sites in Iberia set in different environments. Subsequently, reusing literature data, the project will build statistical and machine learning models to identify the main interaction type in previously studied sites, including scavenging, avoidance, and competition for prey. Lastly, the project will explore any environmental, spatial, or temporal shifts in these interactions and their potential correlation with settlement patterns and the eventual disappearance of Neanderthals. The findings derived from bridging cutting-edge methods with ancient data promise to reshape our perspective of Neanderthal ecological behaviour and adaptive strategies, introducing fresh, integrative approaches in Paleolithic research.

Armando Falcucci, with proposal RStone: Population interconnectivity and technological trajectories in southern Africa during the MIS3 through replicable lithic analysis will be supervised by Nuno Bicho in ICArEHB, and Justin Pargeter at New-York University (USA).

Our species emerged from gene flow between structured populations across various regions of Africa. This process entailed intermitted events of coalescence and fragmentation, visible in late Pleistocene archaeological records through changing patterns of lithic technological similarity. In this framework, the MIS3 (59–28 ka) is a particularly intriguing period because archaeologists working in southern Africa have hypothesized that the marked regional variance in lithic technology is ascribable to cultural fragmentation and reduced information exchange among dispersed populations. However, it may also stem from the lack of a replicable system for recording and statistically analyzing lithic traits. The RStone project seeks to address this research challenge by pursuing three primary objectives. Firstly, it will develop a standardized method for recording lithic traits through comprehensive replicability experiments. Secondly, it will utilize this established recording system to collect novel lithic data from seven well-dated MIS3 stratigraphic sequences across Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa. Finally, it will conduct a quantitative inter-site comparison to explore techno-typological similarities and differences and determine whether the observed variance follows a pattern of isolation by distance or if other factors, such as geological constraints, played a role in shaping the way in which human foragers produced stone tools. This research will yield valuable open-source tools implemented in the R programming language and high-resolution datasets. In line with open science practices, RStone will prioritize the transfer and sharing of these resources, with a particular focus on engaging young African researchers. The extensive collaboration network will ensure a robust dissemination of results while positioning the fellow as a key figure in exploring the intricate interplay between human cultural diversity and population dynamics during the Pleistocene.

This year’s annual MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships call has attracted considerable interest from the research community, with 8,039 proposals submitted. MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowships enhance the creative and innovative potential of research-ers holding a PhD and who wish to acquire new skills through advanced training, interna-tional, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral mobility.

ICArEHB congratulates the recipients as they take this next step on their research journey and remains committed to supporting their endeavors and providing a collaborative and innovative research environment.

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