The project

Why late earliest occupation of Western Europe?

  • Principal Investigator (PI): Moncel Marie-hélène, Director of research, CNRS-MNHN
  • PI’s host institution: CNRS, Centre National de la recherche scientifique, France
  • Proposal duration in months : 60 months

The project aims to question human migrations and peopling: why the earliest hominins did occupy Western Europe later than other portions of Eurasia? Early Hominins, conquered Eurasia, long before Modern Humans, the single Homo species living now on the earth. They conquered Eurasia along a rapid “Out of Africa” movement but left Europe empty during almost 1 million years. Western Europe did indeed face environmental constraints. This subcontinent is in a remote corner of Eurasia but other large Eurasian peninsulas are dead-ends as well. Certainly, Western Europe mixture of various environments and topographies did change a lot over time and the succession of climates, then causing favorable territories for human occupations to fluctuate. However, archaeology in Asia and the Levant shows that hominins did overcome variable climatic conditions and geographies. Investigating why Western Europe have remained out of the “Oekoumen” for so long is our research proposal LATEUROPE, that we base over datasets of interdisciplinary and behavioral materials enriched by future fieldworks in several specific sites and biomes on the key period before 500 ka. This will question at the local, regional and continental scale, the environmental, geographic and climatic conditions of Europe as compared to the rest of Eurasia and the characteristics of the hominin occupations and behaviours, or/and if a minimum degree of cognition was required to thrive in these lands. Databases will input multiple scenarios combining migration patterns and internal evolution mechanisms, using conceptual modeling and spatial agent-based simulations. This formalized combination of modeling and field methodologies is an epistemological advance for bringing interdisciplinarity to reality, allowing us to deeply question the ability of Homo species to adapt themselves to harsh environments, to face environmental shocks and changes on a long term scale.