Research projects in Europe and the Middle East
Research students
Middle and early Upper Palaeolithic site distribution patterns and landscape adaptations in southeastern Europe

Undertaken by Dr. Dimitra Papagianni

This is the main research project I am undertaking in the course of my British Academy post-doctoral fellowship (2000-2003). I examine Middle and early Upper Palaeolithic site distribution patterns and landscape adaptations in southeastern Europe.

Southeastern Europe, located on one of the most obvious passageways for the dispersal of human migrants from Africa into Europe via the Near East, is of crucial importance to the issue of the origin of modern humans, late surviving Neanderthals and the interface between the two populations. The area's topographic and climatic diversity also makes it a unique 'laboratory' for examining the range and flexibility of Neanderthal adaptive strategies, behavioural complexity and cognition. Despite its potential, southeastern Europe has not been a focal area of Palaeolithic research. By examining site distribution patterns and landscape adaptations in part of this region in my Ph.D., I showed that the Middle Palaeolithic inhabitants of northwestern Greece moved in a pre-scheduled manner between locations that, due to their natural setting, offered access to a variety of animal, plant, water and raw material resources. Building upon this work, I now seek to identify local mobility patterns across southeastern Europe and to examine their relationship to patterns of environmental variability across space and time.

My methodology is based on a combination of original fieldwork (surface surveys and/or excavations) and analyses of remains of lithic technology (both undertaken by myself) with a re-examination of the existing evidence. My work involves fieldwork and study of museum collections in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece and Romania.

The AHRB Acheulian Biface Project

The Acheulian represents the first truly global scale occupation of the old world by hominids. This projects aims to investigate the nature of this occupation by considering its most distinctive aspect, the manufacture of handaxes and cleavers. As such it is based partly on the pioneering work on bifaces undertaken by Derek Roe in the 1960ís and more recently at Olduvai. By applying his methods as well as a number of novel techniques made possible by the use of digital photography, the project aims to develop a better understanding of the Acheulian world. Directed by Professors Clive Gamble and Derek Roe, research is undertaken by Doctor Gilbert Marshall and Miss Vicky Elefanti. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board and is due to be completed by February 2001.

The aim of the project is to investigate the Acheulian world at the continental scale, and in particular to document changes in artefact form and raw material use when set against a simple latitudinal model of ecological productivity. Research has been undertaken on collections from England, Morocco, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions were chosen on the basis of the number of assemblages available for study as well as diversity in raw materials and site location. 

A total of fifteen collections comprising 3500 bifaces have been investigated so far. Using automated tracing software written in conjunction with the department of Electronics and Computer Science here at Southampton, metric data have been generated using digital photographs taken of handaxes and cleavers from collections in the four regions. In addition, the digital images are providing the basis for more complex shape description and matching as well as symmetry measures. Along with digital photography, artefacts have been traditionally described in terms of raw materials, chaîne opératoire, working intensity and use wear.

Along with the analysis of the bifaces themselves, the project has provided a useful pilot study of digital acquisition, storage and dissemination of archaeological data. Examples of the images and the measurement software will be made available for use on this website in the near future. 

Maps courtesy of used with permission