Study suggests three waves of Homo sapiens migration across Paleolithic Europe

According to a recent study published on May 3, 2023, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ludovic Slimak of the CNRS and University of Toulouse III, France, the first modern humans migrated across Europe in three different waves during the Paleolithic era.

Despite extensive archaeological evidence, many questions remain unanswered regarding the arrival of modern humans in Paleolithic Europe and their interactions with the native Neanderthal populations. To shed light on this, Slimak conducted a comparative analysis of stone tool technology across western Eurasia, documenting the early human activities in the region.

The study mainly focused on examining tens of thousands of stone tools from Ksar Akil in Lebanon and Grotte Mandrin in France, which recently revealed the earliest Homo sapiens migration into Europe dating back 54,000 years. By analyzing the precise technical connections of these tools with the earliest modern technologies in the continent, the author identified a similar sequence of three technological phases in both regions, indicating the presence of three separate waves of Homo sapiens migration into Europe.

The paper provides evidence for three distinct waves of early migration of Sapiens in Europe from the East Mediterranean coast. The image shows three technical traditions of each of these Sapiens migrations. Phase 1, around the 54th millennium, is represented by the Neronian/Initial Upper Paleolithic; phase 2 by the Châtelperronian/Early Upper Paleolithic around the 45th millennium, and phase 3 by the Protoaurignacian/Southern Early Ahmarian around the 42nd millennium. Credit: Ludovic Slimak, CC-BY 4.0 (

By examining the trans-Mediterranean technological connections of stone tool technology, researchers have been able to offer a new perspective on the pattern of human arrival in Europe and its relations with the Levantine region. This has enabled a clearer understanding of the sequence of events as Homo sapiens migrated across the region and gradually replaced Neanderthals. Further investigation of these apparent phases of human migration will undoubtedly help establish a more accurate picture of the history of human migration into Europe.

In fact, the study conducted by Ludovic Slimak of the CNRS and University of Toulouse III, France, suggests that the previously accepted timeline of Homo sapiens arrival in Europe is incorrect. Until 2022, it was believed that the first Homo sapiens migration into Europe occurred between the 42nd and 45th millennium. However, this study shows that the first sapiens migration was actually the last of three major migratory waves to the continent, fundamentally rewriting what was previously known about the origin of sapiens in Europe.

Furthermore, the Chatelperronian culture, which was originally attributed to Neanderthals, should actually signal the second wave of Homo sapiens migration in Europe. This has significant implications for our understanding of the cultural organization of the last Neanderthals and highlights the need for continued research in this field.

Source: Public Library of Science

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