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Reinvestigating Shanidar Cave

In this Leverhulme Trust funded project (2014 to 2017 £60,754), Dr Tim Reynolds explores the adaptations and behaviour of Neanderthals and Modern Humans against a background of changing climate. The site of Shanidar Cave (in Iraqi Kurdistan) was first excavated in the 1950s by Ralph Solecki, when it yielded evidence for occupation by Neanderthals and modern humans. A number of Neanderthal burials were recovered that showed care for elderly and injured individuals and a claim that one was buried with flowers. This evidence changed our view of the humanity of Neanderthals and made them appear more similar to ourselves than previous theories allowed.

Recent discoveries of interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans and a late date for the spread of the latter into Europe make sites such as Shanidar key to understanding the nature of Neanderthal/Homo sapiens relations and to answering the question of what happened to the Neanderthals. What was responsible for the demise of Neanderthals?

The project, in collaboration with Professor Graeme Barker, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge and Dr Chris Hunt, Liverpool John Moores,  investigates the chronology, ecology and behaviour of both species in the Zagros region and will establish an environmental framework to set the behaviour within. Can responses to climate change, biological responses to it and human demography explain the succession of human types in the region?

Key research areas: Neanderthal adaptation; lithic technological development; the spread of modern humans; modern human adaptation; relationships between different human species; developing and applying new dating techniques; reconstruction of past landscapes and climate.


  • Reynolds, T, Boismier, W., Farr, L., Hunt,C., Abdulmutalb, D.,  & Barker, G. 2016, New investigations at Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan. In Kopanias, K.  and MacGinnis, J. (eds.) The Archaeology of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Adjacent Regions. Archaeopress, Oxford. Pp. 357-360
  • Reynolds, T, Boismier, W., Farr, L., Hunt,C., Abdulmutalb, D.,  & Barker, G. 2015, New investigations at Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan. Antiquity Project Gallery
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