This axis investigates the biotic environment during the Pleistocene and the Holocene, its evolution and its interactions with the physical environment and the humans:

  • Contributing to the debate on domestication and propagation history of animals and plants in Europe, by a combination of traditional palaeontological, archaeozoological and archaeobotanical studies with state-of-the-art analyses (geometric morphometrics, ancient DNA, stable isotopes).
  • Reconstructing the subsistence of past societies. The acquisition, production, distribution and consumption of animal and plant resources are reconstructed on a selection of archaeological sites dating between the Paleolithic and post-medieval times. Various disciplines are involved for the traditional bioarchaeological studies (archaeozoology, macrobotany, palynology, anthracology, analysis of phytoliths and starch grains, anthropology) and this is combined with stable isotope and residue analyses. For the two last millennia, attention is also focused on food as a reflection of social status and identity.
  • Documenting the human impact on the environment through geoarchaeological and bioarchaeological studies. Processes such as deforestation resulting in erosion, overgrazing, overhunting, overfishing, extinctions, invasions, and pollution are analyzed.

Research projects

01/04/2012 to 30/09/2017

CORES: Comparing regionality and sustainability in Pisidia, Boeotia, Picenum and NW Gaul between Iron and Middle Ages (1,000 BC - AD 1,000)

The aim of the project is to approach the concepts of regionality and sustainability in four ancient regions, Pisidia, Boeotia, Picenum and NW Gaul, from 1000 BC to 1000 AD, through the interdisciplinary study of long-term waves of regional change and development in a comparative framework.
01/10/2011 to 30/09/2014

Divergent pathways to early food production and early complex societies: archaeozoological data from northeastern Africa

Through archaeozoological analyses the project aims at demonstrating that possible pathways to food production, resulting in the rise of complex societies and probably the most important development in human history, are very diverse and that the models from Eurasia are not valid in Africa. The role of the natural environment is thereby tested.
01/01/2010 to 31/12/2014

The former occurrence of sturgeon in the North Sea: the contribution of archaeozoology and ancient DNA

Doctoral thesis by Els Thieren at the Faculty of Sciences KU Leuven on the identification of the sturgeon species occurring in the North Sea during prehistoric and historic times. The study material includes both modern and archaeological specimens.
01/01/2009 to 31/12/2018

Prehistoric canids and the early domestication of the wolf

Our group has recently demonstrated the antiquity of this domestication of the dog. The study of canid assemblages from prehistoric sites will allow us to address the importance fossil dogs and wolves had for prehistoric people. We will test different hypotheses to infer the several roles the large canids played in the life of prehistoric people.
01/01/2007 to 31/12/2014

Archaeosciences applied to sites in the Brussels Capital Region

Archaeozoological, archaeobotanical and anthropological analyses on sites from the Brussels-Capital Region in order to reconstruct the former environment, agricultural practices, human diet and health, and funerary practices.
01/01/2005 to 31/12/2014

Archaeosciences applied to sites in Wallonia

Set up of an expert team in archaeosciences dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of sites in Wallonia.The team members assist the archaeologists in the field and, through their lab analyses, assure the reconstruction of the former environment and subsistence practices.The team collaborates to the preparation of publications and exhibits.
01/01/1993 to 31/12/2018

The Pleistocene fauna in Palaeolithic sites: the human-animal connection

Human-animal relationships during the Palaeolithic have often been regarded to be limited to subsistence related issues. Here, we propose to broaden the scope of this human-animal connection and include other dimensions like the hunting of pachyderms and small species, and the spiritual importance of hunted animals.
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