ERC project « Quina World »

in pursuit of Neanderthals across Europe
ERC Néanderthal

Brief biography of the laureate

After an initial training in physics, Guillaume Guérin wished to broaden his horizon by turning to archaeology. The combination of these two fields of interest led him to study luminescence dating methods and their applications to the study of Neanderthals. Following virtual experiments on sediment grains and their naturally radioactive environment, interactions with mathematicians led him to develop new statistical tools to better understand the chronology of Neanderthal settlements in Europe. With the help of a better temporal resolution, the question of long-distance interactions and eventually of a European culture among our missing cousins may be adressed. This will allow us to take a fresh look at Neanderthals and better understand the possible differences between “them” and “us”.

ERC Project

Neanderthals disappeared ~40 000 years ago; although they have received significant public and academic attention, their evolution and behavioural diversity remain little known. Quina Mousterian designates a singular Neanderthal lithic industry; it is often associated with specific, large game seasonal hunting (herds of reindeer). Particular mobility patterns and elaborate carcass processing suggest an image of a complex, intriguing cultural entity. Outside its core area (SW France), Quina Mousterian is also mentioned in different parts of Europe. The Quina World project will first aim at testing the hypothesis that a Quina cultural entity existed, i.e. that the occurrences of Quina Mousterian correspond to a short period of time and can thus be attributed to affiliated or connected groups of Neanderthals. An interdisciplinary consortium will then aim at defining the characteristics of the assumed Quina entity, how it evolved in time and potentially diffused in space across Europe. High-resolution OSL dating, based on new Bayesian models allowing cutting-edge uncertainties (~2-3%) for periods beyond the radiocarbon dating range, will be implemented to obtain a tight chronological framework and tie the archaeological recordwith palaeo-environments. Tool production and use, as a function of raw material availability and procurement, will be studied based on a technological and techno-functional approach. The influence of varying climates and environments on the Quina subsistence strategies – approached in terms of both food acquisition and storage – will be deciphered. Palaeoanthropological and genetic studies will aim at defining the biological identity of the makers of Quina Mousterian, and possible human migrations associated with its diffusion. Eventually, the Quina World project will allow discussing the potentially oldest regionalisation and cultural diffusion patterns of Europe, and shed new light on the array and complexity of Neanderthal behaviours.

For more information, see on the ERC "Quina World" site