News Release

Human dispersal into Iberia

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Excavation at Lapa do Picareiro in central Portugal

image: Excavation at Lapa do Picareiro in central Portugal view more 

Credit: Image credit: Jonathan Haws.

Researchers report evidence of a modern human settlement thousands of years earlier than expected in central Portugal, with implications for the dispersal of modern humans and the replacement of Neanderthal populations. In charting the expansion of modern humans across Europe, previous studies have placed the arrival of the Aurignacian technological and cultural complex in the northern Iberian Peninsula between 43,300 and 40,500 years ago. However, the entry of modern humans into southern and western Iberia was delayed by another 6,000-12,000 years by the presence of Neanderthals. Jonathan A. Haws and colleagues report evidence of an Aurignacian occupation in central Portugal dating from between 41,100 and 38,100 years ago, suggesting that modern humans were likely present in the region far earlier than previously thought; at that time, Neanderthal populations would have been sparse. The results suggest that, following arrival in northern Iberia, modern humans spread relatively rapidly into southern Europe, without a natural border between humans and Neanderthals, as had been previously hypothesized. Depopulation of Neanderthals may have been due to cold and dry periods that disrupted habitats, opening regions into which humans rapidly dispersed. According to the authors, the results suggest a mosaic-like pattern of human dispersal into uninhabited regions.


Article #20-16062: "The early Aurignacian dispersal of modern humans into westernmost Eurasia," by Jonathan A. Haws et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jonathan A. Haws, University of Louisville, KY; e-mail:

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