I have been doing archaeological fieldwork in Portugal since 1993. My research interests focus on prehistoric human land-use and decision-making as part of a socio-natural process. I use a multi-scale approach to understand how past humans, especially Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans in Europe, interacted with their environment.
Currently, I am conducting a 3-year collaborative NSF-funded project titled, Long Term Accommodation to Climate Change, a study of Neanderthal adaptation to extreme climate variation during the last ice age.The project brings together an international team to recover high-resolution archaeological, geological and paleoecological records from the excavation of Lapa do Picareiro, a cave in central Portugal. The project is designed to address the fundamental question: do temporal variations in Neanderthal land use, demography, technology, and diet represent responses to extreme climate shifts during the last ice age? The ultimate goal is to determine why Neanderthals went extinct and were replaced by modern humans. Lapa do Picareiro is a unique site, with about 10m of sediments spanning 50,000 years of human history. We just finished the 23rd season of work at the cave with previous funding by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Archaeological Institute of America, the National Geographic Society and the University of Louisville. In 2018, we discovered an early Aurignacian level that shows modern humans arrived in the region several thousand years earlier than previously thought. The finds also demonstrate that modern humans dispersed rapidly across Europe from their arrival in Bulgaria 46,000 years ago to Portugal by about 40,000 years ago, or even earlier. We are now expanding the excavation to dig deeper into the Neanderthal occupation layers. This latest work will continue through 2025.
In addition to my work in Portugal, I recently began a projects in Mozambique and Sudan with colleagues from ICArEHB (www.icarehb.com). These are collaborative, multi-disciplinary efforts funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and Fundação para Tecnologia e para Ciências (FCT) in Portugal. The goal of both projects is to investigate the Middle Stone Age archaeology of early modern humans. In Mozambique, we will continue our work supported by a 5-year ERC grant to Prof. Nuno Bicho of the Universidade do Algarve (Portugal). This project focuses on two areas: one, near Massingir along the Elephant River, and a second along the Save River in Sofala province. The Save River valley holds great promise where we discovered an extensive Later Stone Age site, Zimuara, in 2019. The site dates to 40,000 years ago, making it the oldest LSA site in Mozambique. In 2023, we spent six weeks excavating Zimuara and conducting pedestrian survey in the valley. We are planning to return in 2024.
With FCT support to Prof. Nuno Bicho, we began a three-year archaeological survey in January 2023 looking for MSA sites in the Kerma region near the 3rd Cataract of the Nile River in Sudan. This first phase was in partnership with Prof. Matthieu Honegger of the Université de Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and colleagues. We located dozens of new MSA open air sites and tested two sites located on the Jebel el-Azrag, a volcanic plug that dominates the surrounding landscape. We also tested a rockshelter with Kerma, Neolithic, Mesolithic, and MSA occupations.
Since 2018, I am a Member of Commission 8, Upper Paleolithic of Eurasia, Union Internationale des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques (UISPP).