Principal Investigator: Prof. Jean-Jacques Hublin
The Paleoanthropology research group studies human evolution from a multidisciplinary perspective and by combining traditional field research with cutting-edge laboratory analysis. Through our external collaborations, we combine anthropology and archeology with other natural and social sciences to study how hominin biology, culture and ecology interacted during the Pleistocene and early Holocene in the structuring of various aspects of human evolution: speciation and extinction, the evolution of brain and neurocranial shape, bone growth patterns and dental development, variability in internal bone structure and its relation to behaviorally induced stress, human paleodemography and mobility, evolution of technology and cultural transmission, adaptation, subsistence, landscape use, response to environmental changes, etc. We are interested in issues specific to regions and time periods of interest, but also those that are broader in scope, and related to long-term evolutionary processes. In our approaches, we test hypotheses and formulate new ones.
We have three main objectives. One consists of confronting innovative methods of analyzing the fossil, archaeological and paleoenvironmental archives with anthropological, biological, evolutionary, social, economic and even philosophical theories. In doing so, we are guided by the very spirit of the Collège de France, where the emphasis is placed not on the acquisition and dissemination of data, but much more on creative engagement in the acquisition of knowledge "in the making". Our second goal which is related to the first is to provide truly paleoanthropological and paleoarchaeological models based on our data (instead of just applying theories of other social science to our field), which may be useful to biological and social sciences studying contemporary phenomena. Our third objective is to make the products of our research (publications and results obtained in excavated sites and explored landscapes) useful to the public and in particular to local communities. They are intended to become resources for education and information on the past human condition in the environmental context, which could have positive effects on the development of further environmental policies in the places where we work.
The research group leads and collaborates in a significant number of international field and laboratory projects in Africa, Europe and Asia. Thanks to these projects, we can place particular emphasis on training students in the most recent excavation, prospecting and laboratory techniques. Supported by numerous external collaborations, our research focuses on paleoproteomics, various isotopic analyses to study diet, mobility, climate and the paleoenvironment, the extraction of ancient DNA, the analysis of dental tartar residues, the environmental archives of speleothems, zooarchaeology, stone and bone technologies and their experimentation, archaeobotany, geoarchaeology, remote sensing, etc. Our research topics and ongoing projects are listed below.
- Origins, expansion, and comparative anatomy of Homo sapiens and related species.
- Evolution and development of hominin skull, brain, and dentition.
- Hominin cultural evolution and the evolution of human adaptation in the paleoenvironmental/paleoclimatic context.
- Dating the key events in hominin biogeography, as well as behavioral and technological innovations (with our external collaborations).
- Behavior and demise of the late Neanderthals in western Europe.
- Ancient DNA and genetic contribution of archaic species to the emergence of Homo sapiens (with our external collaborations).
- New methods of analysis of hominin fossils and their artifacts.