The Earliest Europeans explores the early origins of man in Europe through the perspective of 'a year in the life': how hominins in the Lower Palaeolithic coped with the year-round practical challenges of mid-latitude Europe with its distinctive temperatures, seasonality patterns, and available resources.
Current research has provided increasingly robust archaeological and Quaternary Science records, but there are ongoing uncertainties as to both the earliest Europeans' specific survival strategies and behaviours, and the character of their dispersals into Europe. In short, how sustained and 'successful' were the individual phases of European occupation by Lower Palaeolithic hominins and what sorts of 'human' where they?
Using a season-by-season chapter structure to explore, for example, the contrasting demands and opportunities of winter versus summer survival, Hosfield explores how foods and other resources would vary across the four seasons in quantity and quality, and the resulting implications for hominin behaviours. Text boxes provide the background on key issues, and The Earliest Europeans - A Year in the Life draws on a range of supporting evidence including technology (e.g. the nature of Lower Palaeolithic stone tools; the evidence for organic tools), hominin life history (e.g. the length of infant dependency; the nature of 'parenting'; the implications of different mating models; the Social Brain Hypothesis), cognitive studies (e.g. brain scanning research into possible planning capabilities) and potential bias in the archaeological record (e.g. in terms of what is and isn't preserved). By testing the likelihood of different scenarios by comparing short-term, site-based insights with long-term, regional trends, Hosfield is able to put forward ideas on how our earliest European ancestors survived and what their lives were like.
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Rob Hosfield is Associate Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading. His research has recently concentrated on global patterns in Palaeolithic technology, the evolution of human attentiveness, and the challenges of Palaeolithic survival in mid-latitudes. His many publications include Settlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution: Landscapes in Mind (co-edited, 2015) and Quaternary History and Palaeolithic Archaeology in the Axe Valley at Broom, South West England (co-edited, 2013).