Most of my research has focused on the origin and evolution of symbolic behaviors and complex bone technologies. I have addressed these topics by analysing the earliest instances of bone tool use in Africa and Europe, the process of Neanderthal extinction and colonisation of Europe by Anatomically modern Humans, the first examples of symbolic material culture in Africa, Europe and the Near East, the emergence of cultural boundaries and social inequalities in the Upper Palaeolithic through the analysis of ornaments and grave goods and, more recently, the impact of millennia scale climatic variability of the MIS3-2 on Palaeolithic populations. We know now thank to these researches that Southern and eastern African early hominins possessed two different bone tool traditions and the probable functions in which their bone tools were used.
My work on Neanderthal extinction has questioned accepted scenarios for this crucial population event by proposing a new chronology for the arrival of modern humans in Europe and for the origin of key cultural innovations among the last Neanderthals. This has challenged mainframe views of the cognitive abilities associated to this human type. My recognition of elaborated bone tools and personal ornaments at Middle Stone Age sites from North and South Africa, at Mousterian sites from the Near East, and the work initiated on pigments utilised by neanderthlas has enabled me to question the dominant paradigm of a sudden European origin of modern human cultures and identify the presence of most ancient symbolic traditions in Africa, Europe, and the Near East.
The application of statistical analyses to the geographic distribution of the oldest beadworking tradition of Europe has allowed me, for the first time, to identify clear geographic clines interpreted as reflecting the oldest known European cultural boundaries. By applying novel methods of investigation to grave goods associated to Upper Palaeolithic burials I was able to propose on new grounds the hypothesis that social inequalities were at work among these societies, traditionally considered as egualitarian.
International recognition and diffusion
My publication record includes more than 200 papers, 116 of which published in peer reviewed journals and 62 as first author; 56 of these 116 papers are published in top international journals such as Science, Nature, PNAS, Journal of Human Evolution, PLOSone, Journal of Archaeological Science, Quaternary Science Review, Current Anthroploogy, Journal of World Prehistory, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Evolutionary Anthropology. I am the senior author of 29 of these last papers. I am, in addition the author of 2 monographs and the editor of 4 others. These publications are highy cited as demonstrated by my h-index = 20 (ISI web of Science), one of the highest recorded in my scientific community, the total number of the citations of my work = 1385 (ISI web of Science, Sept. 2009) and my year citation tracker, which shows an almost exponential increase since the beginning of my carreer.
The results of my research have been ecoed several times by review papers in Nature, Science, New Scientist, Science News, Discover Magazineand in hundred of newspapers articles, radio, television programmes, and internet websites around the world. The widely recognised impact of my scientific activities is also demonstrated by the 41 invitations to give keynote speeches and opening lectures at prestigious scientific meetings and the invited professorships I have got at Princeton, George Washington and Wits university. I have myself written 39 papers to popularize the results of my research in journals such as Scientific American, La Recherche, Pour la Science, Science et Vie and given hundreds of interviews to comments on mine or others’ results to journalists of various media.