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Colloquium: A Day in the Life of a Neanderthal - New Studies on the Oldest Wooden Sticks of Europe

Event Details:

  • Date:       Thursday 17 October 2019
  • Time:      Starts: 16:00
  • Venue:    The Cyprus InstituteGuy Ourisson Building, Seminar Room, 1st Floor, Athalassa Campus
  • Speaker: Sorin Hermon, Associate Professor, STARC, The Cyprus Institute
* The colloquium will be in English and the event is open to the public.

Live streaming of the lecture will be available on The Cyprus Institute’s YouTube Channel
Live streaming is facilitated by the CySTEM project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement No. 667942.


We all have heard about the Stone Age and its inhabitants, often depicted as more or less humans using more or less tools made of stone. One of the more popular past humans are the Neanderthals, frequently referred in public media as our “closest cousins”. But how really similar or different were they from us, and how these differences and similarities manifested themselves? Physical appearance, language and behavioral aspects may determine whether or not we consider someone similar to us or not; DNA analysis indicate genetic distance between species, while biological studies delineate physical traits of individuals.

However, these investigations can reconstruct only a partial story of our evolution story. Biology can tell us if Neanderthals had the same speech capacity as us – but it does not tell us if indeed they used language in the same way we use today; looking at bone structures and their mechanics, we can say if modern humans and Neanderthals had similar dexterities (but not the mental capacities) in modifying the matter into tools of desire. It is archaeology and its related study of past material culture that can reconstruct behavioral aspects such as social organization, sets of beliefs or cultural traits of humans in the past, by looking at how tools were created, used and discarded and investigating places they have lived or visited for specific purposes.

The lecture will present such a place where early Neanderthals, visiting it more than 170,000 years ago, left behind unique tools in the archaeological record of Europe and the world – the oldest known wooden sticks, used for a variety of tasks. Our team at The Cyprus institute had the privilege and the opportunity to investigate these tools using our most advanced mobile laboratory instrumentation, in collaboration with researchers from the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Protohistory (team led by Dr. Anna Revedin), The Soprintendenza Archeologica (team led by Dr. Biancamaria Aranguren) and University of Trento (team led by Prof. Stefano Grimaldi). We will report here preliminary results of these investigations and their possible implications on the cognitive capabilities of early Neanderthals living in the harsh conditions of drastic climatic fluctuations occurring during interglacial and glacial periods in Europe.


About The Speaker

Sorin HermonSorin is Associate professor at The Cyprus Institute. He conducts research in 3D approaches to the study of the past and big data for knowledge repositories, formal representation of reasoning and argumentation models and development of methodologies in Cultural Heritage research, based on the integration of analytical, digital and imaging techniques.
Sorin is the Director of STARLAB, a mobile laboratory for Heritage Science, with instrumentation for non-invasive chemical-physical measurements, 3D documentation, technical imaging and geo-physics. He is also the past and present principal investigator of several EU grants, totalling more than 3 million Euro over the past 10 years, such as GRAVITATE, V-MUST, ARIADNE, etc.

Current major EU initiatives the group participates in are ARIADNE-PLUS and ERIHS-PP. Sorin is currently supervising three PhD students and is teaching courses at the Science and Technology in Archaeology doctoral program of the Cyprus Institute.


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Additional Info

  • Date: Thursday 17 October 2019
  • Time: Starts: 16:00
  • Speaker: Dr Sorin Hermon
  • Speaker Position: Associate Professor, STARC, The Cyprus Institute

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