Paleoanthropology is one of the wings of the Institute for Archaeological Science, as well as one of the working groups of the Leibniz institute "Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment"

The Paleoanthropology working group has a broad spectrum of research interests, focusing on the analysis of archaeological and fossil human skeletal remains through the development and application of cutting-edge methods. Research projects range from bioarchaeology, paleopathology and forensics; to human evolution, paleobiology and classification.

Paleoanthropology team members are also active in the field, including in survey and excavation work in Greece, Lebanon, Italy and Bulgaria. 

The Paleoanthropology team has strong collaborative connections to the State Office for Cultural Heritage Preservation Baden-Württemberg focusing on the study of human skeletal remains from South-West Germany, as well as to the Archaeology Institutes of the University of Tübingen; as well as to the Museum of the University of Tübingen (MUT) and the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. 

Equipment and resources

Tübingen paleoanthropology is home to an important Human Osteology collection, used for teaching and research purposes, as well as to state-of-the-art equipment housed in our Imaging and High-Resolution Computer Tomography Laboratories.

In addition to conventional methods in osteoarchaeology, the Paleoanthropology team at the University of Tübingen has a strong methodological focus on quantitative approaches conducted within the broad framework of Virtual Anthropology. These include geometric morphometrics, trabecular bone architecture analysis, as well as the newly developed Tübingen University Validated Entheses-based Reconstruction of Activity (V.E.R.A.) method for reconstruction of past habitual behavior. 

Selected Major Research Projects

DFG Center for Advanced Studies "Words, Bones, Genes, Tools: Tracking Linguistic, Cultural and Biological Trajectories of the Human Past’"

PIs: Jäger, Harvati
Inaugurated in 2015, this DFG Center for Advanced Studies is led by Prof. Gerhard Jäger (Linguistics) and Prof. Katerina Harvati (Paleoanthropology). The Center aims to help establish the theoretical foundations for the cross-disciplinary field of bio-cultural coevolution by pushing the limits of cooperation between traditional disciplines. The center is a forum for interdisciplinary discussion, bringing together scholars from the relevant fields to exchange ideas and develop common research questions and methodological approaches. 


PI: El Zaatari
REVIVE is an ERC Consolidator project awarded to Dr. El Zaatari, running from 2021 to 2026. It focuses on investigating the Pleistocene cultural and hominin fossil record from Lebanon through both the analysis of existing collections as well as planned new fieldwork. 


PI: Harvati
FIRSTSTEPS is an ERC Advanced project, awarded to Prof. Harvati and running from 2022 to 2027. Its focus will build on research conducted in Greece in the framework of Prof. Harvati’s previous ERC projects PaGE and CROSSROADS, taking a regional perspective and focusing on late Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens migrations in South-East Europe. It is conducted in partnership with Prof. Benazzi, University of Bologna, and in collaboration with multiple international institutions across the region. 

DFG Project Early Human Adaptations in Megalopolis

PIs: Harvati, Tourloukis
The project aims to analyse the faunal and cultural material from sites in the Megalopolis basin, Greece, with the aim to reconstruct hominin behaviour and adaptation diachronically. 

Pathways to Language

PI: Fröhlich
The project “Pathways to language: The role of communicative plasticity in joint action coordination” is funded by a Freigeist Fellowship of the Volkswagen Foundation, awarded to Dr. Fröhlich and running from 2022 to 2028. It focuses on the proximate factors driving communicative plasticity in the social action coordination of chimpanzees, orang-utans and humans, using a multimodal and multi-level approach. It will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Caroline Schuppli (Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior) and Prof. Dr. Andrea Migliano (University of Zurich).

Major completed projects

ERC Consolidator project CROSSROADS

PI: Harvati
CROSSROADS was conducted from 2017 to 2022. It concentrated on the earlier parts of the Paleolithic in Greece and aimed to address hypotheses about the earliest human settlement of South-East Europe. A major focus was the development of a chronological and paleoenvironmental framework for the Lower Paleolithic in Greece, as well as the re-analysis of existing human fossils. CROSSROADS was conducted in collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Culture, the Universities of Athens and Thessaloniki, the Museum of Anthropology of the School of Medicine, University of Athens, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens; as well as multiple other international institutions.

DFG Project "Nutrition and physiological stress among paleolithic non-adults"

DFG Project "Paleolithic injury patterns: investigating different trauma frequencies in Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans"

ERC Starting Project PaGE

PI: Harvati
The PaGE project, (2012-2016) in collaboration with the Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Southern Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, conducted systematic, long term field exploration of selected localities in the Southern Balkans in order to help close the important research gap in European paleoanthropology and test our hypotheses about dispersals, refugia and systematics of European hominins.

Aliakmon Paleolithic/Paleoanthropological Survey Project

The Aliakmon survey was a three-year project (2004-2006) aiming to locate new paleolithic sites and paleoanthropological / paleontological deposits along the river terraces of the river Aliakmon, in the Grevena area, North-Central Greece. It was conducted as a collaborative project between the Max Planck Institute and the Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology (Southern Greece) under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and directed by Katerina Harvati and Eleni Panagopoulou. The purpose of this research was to add crucial evidence from South-Eastern Europe, and particularly from the Southern Balkans, to shed light on the questions of the timing, route of dispersal and identity of first human colonizers of Europe