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Grantee Spotlight: Rebecca Miller

Grantee Spotlight

Rebecca Miller is a researcher at the University of Liege. She was awarded a Leakey Foundation research grant during our spring 2015 cycle for her project entitled “The Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition at Trou Al’Wesse (Belgium).” Her co-investigators are John Stewart and Keith Wilkinson.

Rebecca Miller Rebecca Miller

Trou Al’Wesse (literally ‘cave of the wasp) is a narrow cave of approximately 30m length in the Liège province of Belgium. The Leakey Foundation funded part of the project is the completion of our investigation of the terrace fronting the cave. This terrace sequence ranges from the Late Mousterian to the Middle Neolithic. We will be excavating the lowest two units – the Late Mousterian (Unit 17) and the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition (Unit 16) – that underlie the Early Upper Paleolithic (Unit 15). These three units formed during the period from ca. 50,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago. Our primary interest in this part of the sequence is to obtain new archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data that will help us to understand the nature of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition, a period when Neanderthals were disappearing and modern humans arrived in Europe.

Our objectives are:

  • Clarify the chronology of human occupations by obtaining AMS radiocarbon dates on bone and charcoal and OSL dates of the sediments, which will contribute to our understanding of the timing of Neanderthal extinctions and the arrival of anatomically modern humans in this part of North-west Europe
  • Identify climatic and environmental changes that would have affected humans, particularly in terms of the availability of plant and animal resources in cold and more temperate phases
  • Compare the behavior of Neanderthals and modern humans at this site and in the regional context in order to understand their strategies for adaptation.

We will be analyzing the stratigraphy to reconstruct site formation processes, the lithic assemblages to evaluate procurement strategies and tool production techniques, and faunal analyses to address both behavioral aspects (hunting/butchery, bone tool production/use) and paleoenvironmental and climate change.

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