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Wenner-Gren Funded Research in the News

February 20, 2007

Dr. Daniel Adler is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. His ongoing research in the southern Caucasus investigates the nature of Neanderthal-modern human interactions and Neanderthal extinction. Dr Adler is a two times recipient of Wenner-Gren funding for his archaeological research. His dissertation research "Late Middle Palaeolithic Patterns of Lithic Reduction, Land-Use, and Mobility in the Southern Caucasus," at Harvard University was funded in 2002 and he then continued to receive a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to support his work on the "The Mashavera Gorge Palaeolithic Project".

Results from this collaborative research in the Georgian Republic suggest that Neanderthal-modern human coexistence in the southern Caucasus was probably very short, and the major behavioral edge allowing modern human populations to grow at the expense of the Neanderthals was a cultural one, namely their ability to establish larger extended social networks and exploit larger territories. These behaviors in and of themselves likely elevated individual and group fitness, affording a considerable competitive advantage. From a purely ecological perspective Dr. Adler argues that the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in the southern Caucasus represents the replacement of one top predator (Neanderthals) by another (modern humans), with little discernable shift in the predator-prey hierarchy, the medium¬large game hunted, or their seasons of exploitation. In terms of resource and niche preference he suggests that local Neanderthal and modern human populations were sympatric to the point of exclusion.

Results for this research were recently published in Current Anthropology in February 2006 and was recognized by Discover Magazine as #7 in its "Top 100 Top Science Stories of 2006," January 2007 issue. Click here to read the Discover Magazine Article.

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