Current Research

At our member sites and museums, research is still ongoing. Find out about projects here:

Neanderthal Museum, Germany

„Just the tip of the Iceberg?“ - Robin John, MA

Within his PhD at the University of Cologne and under the supervision of Jun.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Maier, Robin John investigates the development of stone projectile points used as inserts in hunting weapons (spears and arrows) during the Upper Palaeolithic (43.000-11.700 BC).

The research project focusses on so-called shouldered points, which initially appear around 29.000 years ago and have been part of the equipment of the last Ice Age hunters on the European continent for almost 18.000 years. They are therefore particularly suitable for examining long-term developments of stone artefacts.

With the help of a programming code called PyREnArA, which was written by John in cooperation with Florian Linsel from the Institute for Informatics at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle (Saale)-Wittenberg, the tips of well-dated sites are selected from the research literature and examined with regard to their metrical characteristics. These features are then used in statistical calculations to reveal trends that traditional methods cannot reveal.

Robin John’s research is funded by the Helga Raddatz Scholarship of the NRW Stiftung.

Neanderthal Museum, Germany

Southern Caspian Corridor: a biogeographical hominin expansion route - Dr. Elham Ghasidian

Due to its location, the Iranian Plateau in southwestern Asia functioned as important crossroads for hominin migrations between Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the far East, thus playing an influential role in the history of human evolution.

Dr. Ghasidian‘s project focuses on Sorheh Rockshelter of southern piedmonts of the Alborz Mountains, located at the intersection of these two realms.

Within this project, the hypothesis that this region was repeatedly populated by different hominins arriving from the north and west, is tested: Neanderthals from Southern Caspian Corridor and Zagros Mountains, and from the south: Homo sapiens from inner parts of the Iranian Central Plateau, during long period of MIS 4-3 towards MIS 2.

Her research will strenghten our understanding of the different hominins who lived on the Iranian Plateau both physically and behaviorally.

View from the inside of a huge cave, where excavations are ongoing
Excavation at Sorheh. Photo: Neanderthal Museum

Neanderthal Museum, Germany

Neanderthals and Us (in cooperation with Erasmus University Rotterdam, NL and Leiden University, NL) - Dustin Welper, MA

The Neanderthal Museum is part of the project "Neanderthals and Us: how the golden age of Neanderthal research challenges human self-understanding” der Erasmus Universität Rotterdam und der Universität Leiden (2023-2026).

The interdisciplinary project combines expertise from Paleolithic archaeology, biological psychology and philosophy to explore how changes in Neanderthal research and Neanderthal representations in creative genres (exhibitions, novels, films, cartoons) challenge our self-understanding as humans.

Over two years, our Citizen panel "Paleo experts" will participate in a total of 6 community meetings. In workshops, discussion groups, creative meetings and Q&A sessions, the members of the "Paleo experts" can actively participate in the research conversation and discuss their ideas, interests and approaches with the researchers.

A young man next to the Neanderthal figurine dressed as a business man inside the museum
Dustin Welper and Mr. 4 Percent. Photo: Neanderthal Museum

MUSE - Science Museum of Trento, Italy

Bears and Humans Project: a new tale of bears and humans in Trentino throughout prehistory – Dr. Nicola Nannini

Due to to the rich archeological records, the Trentino Alto Adige region is an important territory to understand the evolution of the relationship between bears and humans.

In fact, the Alpine territory has always represented the natural habitat of this animal, whose history is tightly intertwined with the evolution of both the landscape and human behaviour ever since the Palaeolithic.

The reseach project focuses on the zooarcheological and taphonomic analysis of bear bones, combined with the application biochemical analyses such as ZooMS (Zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry), isotopic analysis and ancient DNA analysis with the contribution of partner institutions, both italian and european.

The objective is to define the role of the bear during a period of 10,000 years, between the Upper Palaeolithic and the Iron Age, decoding the hunting strategies through experimental paleo-ballistic protocols, the gestures of prey processing and the use of the relative resources.

In addition, the experimental archeology approach together with ethnographical information contribute to the interpretation of archaeological remains and the reconstruction of human habits up to the recognition of a possible symbolic treatment of bones related to bear-ceremonial behaviors.

This research is co-funded by MUSE – Science Museum of Trento and Caritro Foundation.
Prehistoric research at MUSE is supported by Nerobutto srl.

Overlapping faces of a bear and a man
Bears and Humans Project Visual. MUSE

MUSE - Science Museum of Trento, Italy

Humans and freshwater ecosystems: a 10,000-year-long history - Noemi Dipino M.A.

As part of her Ph.D. program at the University of Ferrara, Noemi Dipino investigates the interactions between humans and the complex ecological mosaic that characterizes the Adige Valley since the Mesolithic period, focusing in particular on the Adige River and the resources associated with its waters: from ichthyofauna to beavers, from otters to pond turtles.

According to an innovative mode of interdisciplinary analysis that straddles archaeology and environmental sustainability, the project aims to reconstruct a 10,000-year-long history. Analysing the connection between humans and the freshwater biodiversity from prehistory, when the first exploitation of the Adige valley took place, to the present day, after the river has undergone profound rectification processes.

The protagonist of this research is the fish fauna, studied thanks to a comparative osteological collection at the MUSE zooarchaeology laboratory in Trento, Italy. An important part of the research is the analysis of the seasonality of the investigated sites, done by estimating the age of the fish fauna through the growth rings of scales, otoliths and vertebra. These data will provide interesting insights for the reconstruction of settlement strategies and seasonal mobility patterns implemented by human groups during the Mesolithic.

Noemi Dipino’s research is funded by MUSE – Science Museum of Trento and University of Ferrara.
Prehistoric research at MUSE is supported by Nerobutto srl.

Colored drawing of a prehistoric group walking towards a river bed
Mesolithic landscape in the Adige Valley. Drawing: Mauro Cutrona. MUSE