Human Origins Leiden

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

About Us

E-mail Print PDF

IMG 5710_small

The Human Origins group at Leiden University studies the archaeology of hunter-gatherers, from the earliest stone tools in East Africa, 2.6 million years old, to the origin of sedentary societies towards the end of the last ice age. The study of the origin and development of the human niche is a pre-eminently interdisciplinary undertaking, and the University of Leiden accommodates prominent representatives of some of these disciplines. Combination of fieldwork and other types of study has taken members of our group all over the Old World, with our key fieldwork areas at the moment being situated in East Anglia (UK) and the Turkana Basin (see below).

There are three strands to our research of hominin behaviour, which has a heavy emphasis on the archaeology of Neandertals and other (earlier) Europeans.

The first consists of study of the formation, chronology and environments of Palaeolithic sites. Here, we cover the whole Palaeolithic, starting with Jose Joordens’ studies in the Turkana Basin, through the earliest occupants of northwestern Europe (fieldwork at Happisburgh 1, UK, Woerden, NL), Last Interglacial Neandertal activities at Neumark-Nord 2 (Germany) up to and including the archaeology of modern humans (e.g. at the Aurignacian site Breitenbach, Germany).

The second involves reconstruction of early hominin, Neandertal and early modern human behaviour, primarily on the basis of stone tools, fauna and spatial patterns. Earlier projects under this heading included studies of the early Middle Palaeolithic flint assemblages of Maastricht-Belvédère (the Netherlands) and the faunal remains from the German site Schöningen (Voormolen 2008). Currently, much attention is given to the interpretation of the rich record from the Last Interglacial site Neumark-Nord 2, and from the Homo erectus type locality Trinil (Dubois Collection, NCB Naturalis). An interesting new development consist of a comparative study of changes in the archaeological records of Tasmania and southwestern France, in cooperation with Dr Richard Cosgrove (La Trobe, Melbourne).

Studies of the Neandertal niche use theory and comparative data from evolutionary ecology, primatology and palaeoanthropology, for instance to address differences between the Neandertal and anatomically modern human record (e.g. see Elinor Croxall’s project).

We are a small group, with strategic cooperation/partnerships with other institutes within and outside of the Netherlands, for a selection see here. We are also very happy to cooperate with scientists who (officially) retired years ago from their university positions, but are still very active and in some cases, are the sole remaining representatives of once very strong disciplines within the Netherlands (e.g., the micromorphologist Dr Herman J. Mücher)