CRC 806 “Our Way to Europe” – Culture-environment interaction and human mobility in the Late Quaternary


Janina Boeskens


+49 241 80 96053


  Logo of the Collaborative Research Centre 806 2017 CRC 806 - Our Way to Europe

The Collaborative Research Centre 806, for short CRC 806, investigates the population dynamics and dispersal processes of anatomically modern humans from northeast Africa to central Europe during the last approximately 190,000 years. This is approached by a combination of archeological and geoscientific methods in order to understand the relationship between the predominant palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic conditions and the migration and dispersal of Homo sapiens. The CRC is divided into several regional and methodological research projects collaborating between the Universities of Cologne, Bonn and the RWTH Aachen University. The Institute of Geography at the RWTH Aachen University is participating in the so called B1 project, that investigates the “Eastern Trajectory” of Homo sapiens migration into Europe, and the D1 project, which investigates one of the sink regions of this migration in central Europe. The regional focus of the geographical team lies in Jordan, the Middle and Lower Danube Basin, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and northern France. Methodologically, the investigations focus on sedimentological, geochemical, and photospectrometric analysis, accompanied by geochronological investigation at the University of Cologne.


Dispersal of Homo sapiens

The dispersal of Homo sapiens started around 190,000 years before present in Africa and seems to have been interrupted in Levant at least once. The first occurrence of Homo sapiens in the Levant is indicated at about 100,000 years before present by fossil finds, but unaccompanied by major changes in the Middle Palaeolithic material culture. A recent type of Homo sapiens then appears around 46,000 to 35,000 years before present and is only then associated with a genuine Near Eastern Upper Palaeolithic material culture called the Ahmarian. Until today, both the circumstances for this break and a possible interference with already established western Eurasian Neanderthal populations are under discussion.

  Migration of the modern human 2017 CRC 806 - Our Way to Europe Our Way to Europe: Origins (source), corridors of diffusion (trajectories), periphery (sink), and selected key reserach areas.

Around 35,000 years ago the oldest Homo sapiens fossils in Western and Central Europe were found in Romania, but unfortunately these finds were isolated. The oldest unequivocal Homo sapiens fossils in Western and Central Europe found in an archaeological context were dated to around 31,000 years before present. This shows that neither the human type of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic nor the kind of lithic industry associated to the earliest Homo sapiens in Europe are known. This lack of information not only brings up the question about their cultural background, but at the same time hampers archaeological links between the Levantine and European early Upper Palaeolithic industries. Furthermore, it is still not clear whether these earliest anatomically modern human groups were the founders of the European Upper Palaeolithic population, or if later Upper Palaeolithic waves of immigrating Homo sapiens replaced them.

The “sink” region, in particular the Rhine-Meuse Area, is characterized by anatomically modern human presence in two periods. The first colonization of the Rhineland between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago – during the so called Aurignacian – and recolonization phase after the last glacial maximum between 20,000 and 14,000 years before present – during the Magdalenian. Since 2009 several loess-palaeosol sequence in the Rhine-Meuse area, southern Germany and the Harz foreland have been investigated to increase our understanding of the palaeoecological impact on modern human occupation.

Duration 07/2009 - 06/2021
Funding DFG SFB806
Project partners

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Richter Institute of Prehistory and Early History, University of Cologne
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne