Frontiers in Archaeological Sciences

Members of the PALEOCHAR team attended the novel Frontiers in Archaeological Sciences meeting held in Rutgers University, New Jersey, on October 25-27th.

Carolina Mallol
Carolina Mallol

Carolina Mallol: What is that Black Stuff? Micro-contextual Investigations of Charred Organic Matter in the Archaeological Sedimentary Record.

Lucia Leierer: A coupled micromorphological and molecular study of combustion structure assemblages at the Middle Paleolithic site of El Salt, Spain.

Lucia Leierer
Lucia Leierer

Rory Connolly: Preliminary results from a Palaeoenvironmental investigation of a Middle Palaeolithic rockshelter in Alicante, Spain.

Rory Connolly
Rory Connolly


A geoarchaeological perspective on human behaviour

Dr Vera Aldeias, a post-doctoral researcher from Max Plank Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, expert fire experimenter and Neanderthal fire analyst, visited the AMBI Lab and gave an inspiring talk entitled On experimentation and site formation: a geoarchaeological perspective on human behavior.

Campus America: current topics in archaeology

One of the Campus America sessions held in Universidad de La Laguna on October 9-20, 2017 wasd evoted to Archaeology, with talks by Gil Tostevin (University of Minnesota) and Carolina Mallol.

Prof. Gil Tostevin in Campus America
Prof. Gil Tostevin in Campus America

Prof. Gil Tostevin gave a lecture about cultural diversity among Neanderthals. Carolina Mallol emphasized the role of geoarchaeology as a pilar of the archaeological discipline and one of the major trends in current Palaeolithic research.


Animal fats and ancient pyro technologies

Dr Tammy Buonasera, member of ERC Paleochar team, gave a talk in Instituto Universitario de Bio-Orgánica Antonio González (IUBO) entitled Animal fats and ancient pyro technologies: reading the residues in archaeological hearth deposits.

Dr Buonasera works on molecular and isotopic studies to characterize animal fats in archaeological contexts.

The aim of these analyses is to determine what these fats are and which animals were consumed.

Through isotopic methods, her research is focused in the study of culinary techniques and the use of fossil fuels.


Dr Buonasera during her talk in IUBO
Dr Buonasera during her talk in IUBO


Summer fieldwork at Abric del Pastor and El Salt sites (Alcoy, Tenerife)

Carolina Mallol, Lucia Leierer and Rory Connolly working in Abric del Pastor

As every summer, archaeological excavations are carried out at Abric del Pastor and El Salt sites (Alcoy, Alicante) from July to the end of August. The work is part of a research project directed by Bertila Galván, Cristo Hernández and Carolina Mallol and funded by the Spanish Ministry Economy and Competitivity (MINECO).

ULL Media is currently preparing a documentary about  our work at the sites. Our goal is to show the general audience the different tasks that take place at a Palaeolithic excavation and the different lines of research that can provide information about the human past.



Experimental fires

The ERC PALEOCHAR teamwork started making experimental fires to provide a reference collection of burnt fats. Dr Tammy Buonasera works on molecular and isotopic biomarkers to characterize animal fats in archaeological context. The aim of these analyses is to determine what these fats are and which animals were consumed.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire

The PALEOCHAR project examines how Neanderthal diet, fire technology, settlement patterns, and surrounding vegetation at a local scale (individual sites) were affected by changing climatic conditions.

Our recent experimental and geoarchaeological work on Palaeolithic fire has led to the discovery of black layers from archaeological fireplaces as invaluable contexts of preserved organic matter. 

The black layers typically documented in Middle Palaeolithic hearths represent the charred ground beneath the fire. Therefore, they can be considered as snapshots of living floors, rich in residues from human activity as well as from soils and vegetation of the natural surroundings.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire

Crucially, experimental data has shown that the average temperatures associated with black layers – below 300°C on average – are high enough for the charring of organic compounds and to make them unappealing to biodegrading soil fauna, but not as high as to destroy their biomarker chemical fingerprints.

Therefore, once charred, organic compounds may preserve well within sediment for indefinite periods of time as long as the sedimentary environment does not undergo strong diagenesis. The PALEOCHAR project will target this important window of organic matter preservation by exploring the black layers of intact Neanderthal fireplaces.

ERC Paleochar experimental fire

10th ERC Anniversary in ULL. Consolidator and Advanced ERC experiences

On June 12thde La Laguna (ULL) held a thematic session focused on Consolidator and Advanced ERC projects, with some practical examples from the fields of archaeology and biophysics. ERC’s national contact point in Spain Esther Rodríguez Blanco and three principal investigators talked about their projects.


Carolina Mallol presented her own experience leading ERC PALEOCHAR at ULL since September 15th, 2015.

In her opinion, this implies a great challenge in management and bureaucracy, executive skills and a lot of flexibility and versatility.

As she explained, achieving an ERC grant requires a very clear idea from the scientific perspective, a very specific work plan and many years of previous work.