Early Upper Palaeolithic personal ornaments and behavioural adaptations


20 December 2018 – Publication

A new paper on Mitoc Malu-Galben by Timothée Libois. Thank you for including the zoo arch data!

Libois, T., Nigst, P.R., Haesaerts, P., Bosch, M.D., Murphree, W.C., Branscombe, T., Noiret, P., 2018. 40 ans des recherches avec Vasile Chirica : Mitoc-Malu Galben. In: Lazarovici, C.M., A. Berzovan (Eds.), Quaestiones Praehistoricae. Studia in honorem Professoris Vasile Chirica. Editura Academiei Române – Editura Istros, Bucarest and Brăila, pp. 53–74. Link

Some fieldwork pictures from Mitoc Malu-Galben

9 September 2018 – Publication

Our paper with André Strauss and Laura Buck for the proceedings of the HEPO workshop is accepted.

Investigating perforation locations in Tritia gibbosula shells from Initial and Early Upper Palaeolithic contexts from Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon). Our goal is to contribute to a better understanding of whether a perforation is the result of natural or anthropogenic processes.

bosch et al_fig 2
Shell thickness model of Tritia Gibbosula.

Bosch, Marjolein D., Laura Buck and Andre Strauss (in press). Location, location, location. Investigating perforation locations in Tritia gibbosula shells at Ksâr ‘Akil(Lebanon) using micro-CT data. PaleoAnthropology

25 June – 10 July 2018 – Research Trip

Thank you to Carolina Mallol and all Paleochar people for welcoming us once again at the Archaeological Micromorphology and Biomarkers  (AMBI) Laboratory, University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. The main aim this time is to work with Glenn Lambrecht to finish Raman spectroscopy and microscope analyses of the pigments found on bones and shells.

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Pigments on Bones and Shells photographs by Glenn Lambrecht

3 May 2018 – Defence

Big day about small shells today. My PhD defence at Leiden University


For an open access copy of my dissertation visit the Leiden University Repository! Or use this Link

15 October 2017 – Publication

Our paper on the seasonality of shellfish exploitation during the Upper Palaeolithic and later periods at Ksâr ‘Akil is finally online in press! Some highlights: We found that intertidal coastal resources had a central role in Early Upper Palaeolithic foraging strategies. We further found evidence for a broadening of the diet from the Initial Upper Palaeolithic to the subsequent Early Upper Palaeolithic in both the mammal and the mollusc assemblages. Shellfish exploitation occurred throughout the year for most of the Upper Palaeolithic, suggesting site-occupation was also year-round either continuous or in intervals. For more details see:

Bosch, Marjolein D., Marcello A. Mannino, Amy L. Prendergast, Frank P. Wesselingh, Tamsin C. O’Connell and Jean-Jacques Hublin (2018). Year-round shellfish exploitation in the Levant and implications for Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer subsistence. JAS: Reports 21 (2018) 1198–1214: DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.08.014 Link


5 October 2017 – Publication

The burial of a adult male and that of two adolescents buried together at Sunghir, Russia (~34.000 years ago) are well-known for their extraordinary complexity and rich material culture. The skeletons are adorned with thousands of ivory beads among other objects which, according to Randall White, are shaped and manufactured in identical ways between graves. Genomic evidence presented in the paper reveals that although the beads and other objects suggest that these individuals had a shared cultural tradition were buried more or less at the same time, they did not share close ancestry. At most they were second cousins which suggests that although on a daily basis they were living in small groups, mating networks reached beyond these groups allowing to avoid inbreeding. Similar patterns are seem in modern-day hunter-gatherers. For more information please see:

Sikora, M., Seguin-Orlando, A., Sousa, V.C., Albrechtsen, A., Korneliussen, T., Ko, A., Rasmussen, S., Dupanloup, I., Nigst, P.R., Bosch, M.D., Renaud, G., Allentoft, M.E., Margaryan, A., Vasilyev, S.V., Veselovskaya, E.V., Borutskaya, S.B., Deviese, T., Comeskey, D., Higham, T., Manica, A., Foley, R., Meltzer, D.J., Nielsen, R., Excoffier, L., Lahr, M.M., Orlando, L., Willerslev, E., (2017). Ancient genomes show social and reproductive behavior of early Upper Paleolithic foragers. Science DOI:10.1126/science.aao1807 Link

For a summary of the work please see on the University of Cambridge webpage.

Sunghir burial

Credit: José-Manuel Benito Álvarez via Wikimedia Commons

4–7 October 2017 – EU-Beads Workshop, Cambridge


The EU-Beads Project workshop ‘Early Upper Palaeolithic personal ornaments and behavioural adaptations’ (Cambridge, 4-7 Oct 2017) brought together some of the key-researchers in the field of Palaeolithic ornamentation. The workshop consisted of several public papers and roundtable discussions addressing current debates in the field. These included raw material selection and manufacture processes of beads, the use of ochre and other minerals as secondary pigmentation, use-wear analysis, symbolism and socially mediated behaviour, and modern human dispersals. The participants’ discussions especially focussed on best-practice and novel methodologies to study beadwork. The workshop culminated in the viewing and discussion of the shell beads from Ksâr ‘Akil, Lebanon, one of the largest shell bead assemblages in any Palaeolithic site. The format as well as the presented research stimulated in-depth discussions among participants. This was welcomed by the participants and the idea arose to continue such focussed and intense workgroup-like meetings in the future.

See here for the Workshop program: EU-Beads workshop programme and summary


The workshop is part of the H2020 MSCA-IF “EU-Beads” Project and funded by the DM McDonald Grants and Awards Fund and the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie program (EU-Beads project grant no 656325).EU-beads workshop short

16 June 2017 – Change of name: Tritia (Nassarius) gibbosula 

the shell
Its official – well it is on the WoRMS website – my beloved Nassarius gibbosulus changed its name (well Aissaoui et al. 2017 did that). The new name: Tritia gibbosula. Thank you to Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer for highlighting this change at our HEPO workshop last April in Tel Aviv.

12 June 2017 – Cambridge

Hard at work at the Grahame Clark laboratory for Zooarchaeology in Cambridge! Thanks to Jess Rippengal for the nice picture!

zooarch lab Cambs

13–15 May 2017 – Conference: Les Gravettiens leur creation matérielle et spirituelle, Iasi, Romania

This conference on Gravettian material and culture was organised by Vasile Chirica of the Romanian Academy of Sciences, Iasi section. Three days of presentations, discussions, seeing artefacts and a visit to the Upper Palaeolithic site of Mitoc-Malu Galben.

My contribution: “De l’usage du mammouth : l’accumulation osseuse de Grub-Kranawetberg”. 

French slides made possible by Alice Leplongeon and Pierre Noiret, for which my everlasting gratitude! Merci!

27 April to 2 May 2017 – Study trip to Leiden

Just a short trip to Leiden for a series of project meetings. Thankfully there is also some time to explore a sandy shore for once. Oh boy was it cold!


25 March – 10 April 2017 – Research Trip

Of to Tenerife to visit once again the Archaeological Micromorphology and Biomarkers  (AMBI) Laboratory. The in the mean time finished lab, under direction of Carolina Mallol, is made possible by the ERC-funded Paleochar project. There are four main scientific aims to visit this time around: 1) To start the “red stains” project, 2) to start looking for use-wear on the archaeological specimens, 3) to collect additional thanatocoenoses of Columbellidae to verify my results in the “perforation location” project, and 4) to give an invited talk.

The red stains project, one of the three sub-projects in EU-Beads, investigates the distribution, chemical composition, and intentionality of red pigments found on the archaeological remains (bones, stones, and shells) from Ksâr ‘Akil. Collaborators in this project (so far) are Carolina Mallol and Glenn Lambrecht. Carolina and Glenn above….red pigments below.

Starting the use-wear project mainly involved an initial squint through one of Carolina’s microscopes on the lookout for wear-facets, abrasions, and of course red pigments.

For the “perforation location” project I needed another modern death assemblage or thanatocoenosis from a rocky shore containing Columbellidae. With this I want to verify the natural breakage and perforation data I collected last year. Initially, I wanted to collect from another rocky shore. Unfortunately Columbellidae proved not to be present in sufficient quantities on most beaches we visited. In the end we revisited last-years beach and were rewarded with a great sample of shells.

& some old friends 🙂


Last but not least…The talk:

AMBI talk poster

19–22 March 2017 – Perforation location project meeting

A couple of days of project meetings with my awesome collaborators Laura Buck and André Strauss, bringing the shell-scanning project to a new level. The main aims of the project meeting were to 1) disseminate our results so far within the group, 2) learning new skills to be able to work with the processed shell scans, and 3) to discuss the current and future aims. The first pristine shells (borrowed from the Naturalis mollusca collections) have been scanned (Laura) and processed (André). So that I could compare them to modern death assemblage – or thanatocoenoses – data of Nassaridae (data derived from: Bouzouggar et al. 2007) and Columbellidae (new collection – Tenerife, March 2016). We did this to see if we could find a correlation between the respective species’ biomechanical properties (e.g., shell thickness and curvature) and damage resulting from being exposed to an active beach environment. The next step is, of course, to compare these data with the damage and perforation locations recorded on the Ksâr ‘Akil specimens. The initial results have been presented at the HEPO Workshop (Tel Aviv, 6–8 March 2017). Archaeological specimens are being scanned to fulfil the second part of our project.

Cr 2 Montage Thickness edit white

10 March 2017 – “Site seeing”

Road trip! This time Elisabetta Boaretto and Omry Barzilai take us to see some of the amazing Negev sites: highlight is definitely Boker Tachtit a site mentioned so often in the same sentence as Ksâr ‘Akil….and of course vice versa!


8 March 2017 – “Site seeing”

Excursion as part of the Earliest ornaments workshop here some highlights: the amazing Mt. Carmel sites …


… Manot Cave! …

& Sightseeing tour and workshop dinner at Acco!

6–8 March 2017 – Workshop: Humans’ Earliest Personal Ornaments: Symbolism, Production & Distribution 

No workshop can be successful without the active participation of the attendees. Thank you all for sharing your research and for the many inspiring discussions!


6–8 March 2017 – Workshop: Humans’ Earliest Personal Ornaments: Symbolism, Production & Distribution 

HEPO participants announcement poster

4 March 2017 – The Eastern Mediterranean coast

A dream come true.

My first visit to the Eastern Mediterranean Coast with Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer, Philip Nigst, and Ofer Bar-Yosef. Thank you all for a truly lovely afternoon full of nice discussions and many discoveries!


Nov–Feb – Many thanks to the NHM Vienna, Department of Prehistory for mammoth support!  

30 October 2016 – Marie-Curie Ambassador event at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas! Pictures & Impressions

We had a great time both with the introduction of no less than 10 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Projects currently conducted in the Social Sciences here in Cambridge and with the hands-on activities afterwards. The talks showed the diversity of the interesting things people in HSPS are working on. I could not agree more with the feedback of one of our guests when he said that he “really appreciated the skilful ‘speed dating’ of so much impressive research”. Thank you all for coming!

30 October 2016 – Marie-Curie Ambassador event at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas!




14 October 2016 – Presentation

I was invited to give a talk in the Palaeolithic Mesolithic Seminar Series in Cambridge. A great opportunity to present and discuss the most recent data on Ksar Akil with archaeologists from Cambridge! Thanks to Andreas Nymark for the invitation!


29 September to 1 October 2016 – Workshop

Current approaches and new directions in lithic analysis: defining, identifying and interpreting variability

Alice Leplongeon organised a great workshop in the framework of her Marie Skłodowska- Curie Project PleisTechnoVar! The many high-quality presentations and good atmosphere led to interesting discussions on all aspects of lithic analysis.


26 September 2016 – Publication

Our publication on the fieldwork in Mitoc-Malu Galben (in Romanian) is out! Have a look at: Link

Noiret, P., Chirica, V., Haesaerts, P., Vornicu, D. M., Bodi, G., Branscombe, T.,  Libois, T., Bosch, D. M., Nigst, P. R. (2016). Nouvelles recherches de terrain à mitoc-malu galben 2013-2015. In V. Cirica & C. Ichim (Eds.), Les aurignaciens. Leur création matérielle et spirituelle. Actes du colloque international de iasi (28-31 janvier 2016) (pp. 13-49). Targoviste: Editura Cetatea de Scaun

19 July 2016 – Return of the shells
the shell

Always sad to say goodbye to my little shell friends! But happy that they got back safe and sound at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center before the big renovation. Thanks Jeroen Goud and Bram van der Bijl  for the loan!

5 July 2016 – Shell measuring marathon

I have been lucky to have a series of modern shells on loan from Naturlais Biodiversity Center, they have been µCT-scanned as planned and it is almost time to return them to the Netherlands. But first there is some measuring to be done, as they say in the Netherlands: “Meten is weten!”. As always, thank goodness for Harold Dibble & Shannon McPherron, for inventing E4 (freely available at: it makes data entry so much faster!

21 June 2016 – Zooarchaeology outreach

We were delighted to welcome 6th-form teachers from around Cambridge to the zooarch-lab (and many other archaeology labs), where Jess and Preston talked about how to integrate (zoo)archaeology in 6th-form teaching.

30 May 2016 – University of Cambridge, open-day.

Time to present what we archaeologists…or more to the point what zoo archaeologists… actually do. At the University of Cambridge open-day. Always nice to show some awesome skulls and point out the differences between animals, their bones, their teeth, and how this relates to what they eat!

27 May 2016 – Micro CT scanning

The µCT-scanning of the modern shells is done! Thank you Laura Buck for helping with this. And for the beautiful semi-see-through reconstruction. I love it!

transparent volume rendering.jpg

22–27 April 2016 – Leiden

Another short trip to Leiden to discuss the on-going projects with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center curators! This time the weather is much better.

5–8 April 2016 – AMWG meeting, Orkney

Methods in our Madness: Approaches in Archaeomalacology, Archaeomalacology Working Group Meeting

We had a lovely meeting on Orkney, organized by Annalisa Christie, with presentations on a broad spectrum of topics including shellfish collection behaviour in modern-day hunter gatherers, shell growth, stable isotope (e.g., for season of marine shellfish exploitation and past sea surface temperature reconstructions) and chemical analyses (e.g., colour, carbonate composition) of various taxa, studies on beadwork and trade, subsistence behaviour and landsnail communities. I gave a paper covering a combination of my PhD research and presenting the aims of the EU-Beads project.

In addition, we had a great field trip (or two) to some of the amazing archaeological sites, and beaches that Orkney counts. It was a great opportunity to hear about some of the state-of-the-art research that is being conducted, and to talk to many of the experts in the field.

The Archaeomalacology working group (AMWG) falls under the International Council of Archaeozoology (ICAZ) and holds bi-annual meetings one that co-inside with the 4-yearly ICAZ meeting (the next one will be in Ankara in September 2018), the other one, like the one on Orkney, is a stand alone meeting.

18–30 March 2016 – Beachwork

This should have been a non-scientific holiday…but then there are friends who are also colleagues that built extraordinary labs in exotic places, and of course beaches are known to house large quantities of molluscs…  in short there was enough opportunity to combine good science with good times.


First we visited Carolina Mallol, who is building a new Archaeological Micromorphology and Biomarkers  (AMBI) Laboratory out of the ERC-funded Paleochar project. The lab, designed in a domus-like fashion with a central meetingroom and surrounding lab and work space, is still under construction, but it is spacious and will house some pretty cool equipment (mass-spec & microscope-wise).  In a lab outside blocks of sediment can be processed into thin-sections.

Next for the EU-Beads project I needed a modern death assemblage or thanatocoenoses from a rocky shore containing Columbellidae. I want to use this assemblage to map breakage patterns and natural perforations caused by, for example, wave action and bioerosion. Comparing the signature of the thanatocaenoses with the Ksâr ‘Akil assemblages will allow me to see whether the damage on those shells could equally be natural, or if special shells (for example naturally perforated shells) were collected, or if humans artificially made holes in them. On one of our hikes, we found a perfect rocky beach with my beloved Columbellidae.

On top of this, we have also arranged for a bezoar goat to come and visit (quite permanently) the Grahame Clark Laboratory for Zooarchaeology in Cambridge.

12–13 March 2016 – Cambridge Science Festival

Our booth “Human Evolutionary Studies” ran on both days and was a great success, thanks to Jason Gelis who was in charge of the organisation. We told people about our evolutionary history with the help of casts that were lent to us by the Duckworth Laboratory. Children could reconstruct how Prehistoric stone tools were made and map some of our genes. They could see what an excavation looks like from the inside and discover in what ways some of our present-day behaviour was useful in the past.

4 March 2016 – Workshop funding!

Hurray! Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer and I just got $20.000 from the Wenner-Gren Foundation towards funding our personal ornaments workshop!

This makes it official, our Workshop: Humans’ Earliest Personal Ornaments:  Symbolism, Production and Distribution, will be held 5-9 March 2017, Tel Aviv, Israel.

1 March 2016 – Presentation

I am invited to leads this week’s Human Evolutionary Studies Discussion Group (HESDG). This discussion group led by Rob Foley and Marta Mirazon Lahr is aimed at discussing various topics in Human Evolution in a broad environment with scholars from (amongst others) Archaeology, Anthropology, Linguistics, Genetics, Biology, Medicine, Musicology, and Social Sciences. The theme this lent is: The evolution of human communication: signalling without words Today’s topic: “Signaling with Shells“.

22 December 2015 – Publication

Our reply is out! We appreciate the opportunity to address the criticisms raised by the Oxford team through proper scientific channels. This paper, published so near the end of the year is a well-earned Christmas present!

Bosch, Marjolein D., Marcello A. Mannino, Amy L. Prendergast, Tamsin C. O’Connell, Beatrice Demarchi, Sheila M. Taylor, Laura Niven, Johannes van der Plicht and Jean-Jacques Hublin (2015). Reply to Douka et al.: Critical evaluation of the Ksâr ‘Akil chronologies. PNAS 112 (51): 1. doi/10.1073/pnas.1520412112. Available here. Or click on this link.

KSA shells PNAS

For those who would like to read more about the Ksâr ‘Akil chronology and the debate that arose from our paper earlier this year please see:

Bosch, Marjolein D., Marcello A. Mannino, Amy L. Prendergast, Tamsin C. O’Connell, Beatrice Demarchi, Sheila M. Taylor, Laura Niven, Johannes van der Plicht and Jean-Jacques Hublin (2015). New chronology for Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) supports Levantine route of modern human dispersal into Europe. PNAS 112 (25): 7683-7688. also freely available on the PNAS website, or follow this link.

Douka, Katerina, Thomas F. G. Higham and Christopher A Bergman (2015). Statistical and archaeological errors invalidate the proposed chronology for the site of Ksâr ‘Akil. Available here.

10 December 2015 – Publication

Bosch, Marjolein D., Frank P. Wesselingh and Marcello A. Mannino (2015). The Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) mollusc assemblage: Zooarchaeological and taphonomic investigations. Quaternary International 390 (10 December 2015): 85-101 doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.07.004

To see the publication please follow this link.

9 December 2015 – Visit of Andrei Sinitsyn


Between 6 and 10 December Andrei Sinitsyn (Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, Russia) was in Cambridge for the Art and Brain: How Imagery Makes Us Human Conference. After the conference we had the opportunity to look over the Ksâr ‘Akil shells that have just arrived from Leiden and discuss the differences between the Early Upper Palaeolithic shell ornaments at Kostenki and Ksâr ‘Akil.

17 November 2015 – Presentation

the shell

Every other Tuesday during term time the Grahame Clark laboratory for Zooarchaeology holds a labmeeting. This time I am invited to introduce the EU-Beads project.

13 November 2015 – micro CT scanning

Friday the 13th is a good day! I spent some time with Laura Buck (ADaPt Project, Cambridge University), who kindly µCT-scanned shells of some of the modern-day mollusc species that just arrived from Naturalis. And boy, do they look pretty!


3–10 November 2015 – Ksâr ‘Akil material arrives

So exiting, the loans arrived!

26–30 October 2015 – Leiden

I am back in Leiden this time for a week to select the material that I will be studying for the next two years. A week long I am busy in “the tower” (the storage depot of Naturalis Biodiversity Center) going through hundreds of boxes with bones, stones, sediments, and of course many shells. My visits to Leiden are always a highlight. The people are welcoming and extremely helpful. I am able to spend hours in their depots given complete freedom and a helping hand when needed…for example the time when I managed to actually lock myself in…Ronald Pouwer to the rescue!  Also, the view from the 15th floor is amazing! Thank you all at Naturalis especially: Natasja den Ouden, Frank Wesselingh, Jeroen Goud, Bram van der Bijl, and Ronald Pouwer for making everything possible! Now I only have to wait until the boxes with my loans arrive in Cambridge.


2 October 2015 – Leiden

Just one day into my project and I am already in Leiden, The Netherlands, to visit the Naturalis Biodiversity Center where the Ksâr ‘Akil faunal material from the 1930s and 1940s excavations is stored. I meet with curators Ronald Pouwer, Natasja den Ouden, and Frank Wesselingh to discuss the practicalities of studying the Ksâr ‘Akil molluscs and vertebrates. It was one short and cold trip, but definitely worth it! I’ll be back soon…


1 October 2015 – Introducing EU-BEADS!

the shell
The next two years I will be looking at personal ornaments and their role in the Palaeolithic in the framework of my H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship called EU-Beads. The shell on the photo is a perforated Nassarius gibbosulus from Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon), the archaeological site I will be working on.



All photographs ©EU-BEADS Project unless otherwise stated.