Université de Strasbourg

2023 Annual Symposium

Friday 26 January 2024, 15:00-17:00
Salle de conférence | MISHA | 5 allée du Général Rouvillois, Strasbourg (access)

The symposium is open to the public and the lecture will be given in French. A video of the event will be available on this webpage soon.

Homo sapiens meets Neanderthal

The keynote speaker at the symposium is the palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin (Collège de France, Paris), known for the importance of his discoveries in the field, notably that of the oldest Homo sapiens in Africa and his hypotheses on the geographical dispersion of the species, as well as for his ability to synthesise data from cutting-edge technologies. At the symposium, Professor Hublin will discuss the complex interactions between biology and culture that mark human evolution, especially in relation to Homo sapiens and the Neanderthals.Affiche

The symposium was postponed from 16 November 2023, due to Professor Hublin's being awarded the 2023 Balzan Prize on that date.


15:00 Opening wordsThomas Ebbesen, ISIS, Director of USIAS
15:15 Introduction - Frédéric Colin, ArcHiMedE, Marc Bloch Chair, USIAS
15:25 Keynote lecture - Jean-Jacques Hublin, Collège de France, Paris
16:30 Discussion
17:00 Reception

Keynote lecture - Homo sapiens meets Neanderthal

Over the last half million years, several human groups differentiated themselves in the Old World. The two best known are the Neanderthals, who emerged in the western part of Eurasia, and Homo sapiens, whose evolution occurred mainly in Africa. Our species has on several occasions spread outside Africa, towards the Near East, and palaeogenetics has shown that the first contacts with Neanderthals took place very early on.

The dispersal and fluctuating demographics of Palaeolithic populations appear to be essentially linked to environmental causes. However, around 50,000 years ago, a new phase of expansion that was disconnected from climatic determinants began. This led to the disappearance of all the archaic forms of humanity that lived in Eurasia, and to a single human species taking over the entire planet. This period was characterised by major biological and cultural changes, but the whys and wherefores of this disappearance remain among the most hotly debated issues in palaeoanthropology.

Research carried out in recent years has revealed a more complex scenario than was long thought. In Europe, at a time of significant climate change, small groups of migrants settled in outlying regions. On a continental scale, the two species coexisted for several thousand years. Locally, new genetic exchanges took place, but these remained limited. These early pioneer populations of Homo sapiens were themselves wiped out by later and more numerous settlements that arrived at the westernmost tip of Europe. Through the cognitive changes that were observed, we catch a glimpse of the complex interactions between biology and culture that mark human evolution.

Biography - Jean-Jacques Hublin

Jean-Jacques Hublin. ©Jean-François Robert/moddsJean-Jacques Hublin holds the Chair of Palaeoanthropology at the Collège de France, where he also heads the Palaeoanthropology research group at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology (CIRB).

After having worked as a researcher within the CNRS - the French National Centre for Scientific Research (1981-1998), he became full professor at the University of Bordeaux (1999-2004). In 2004, Professor Hublin established and subsequently headed the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany). He has taught, in the United States, at the University of California at Berkeley (1992), Harvard University (1997), Stanford University (1999 and 2011) and at Leiden University in the Netherlands (2010-2020). Since 2021, he has been Professor at the Collège de France, holding the Chair of Palaeoanthropology. He is co-founder of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE), of which he was president from 2011 to 2020.

Jean-Jacques Hublin has played a pioneering role in the development of virtual palaeoanthropology. The study of the evolution of Neanderthals, and of the manner in which our species, Homo sapiens, expanded across the planet, has played a central role in his career. He has also devoted numerous studies to the evolution of the brain, and to growth and development in hominins. To address these issues, he has conducted field research in Europe and North Africa and has published over 350 scientific articles.

He is a Knight of the French Legion of Honour and was awarded the royal Wissam Al-Kafaa Al-Fikria, the Moroccan Order of Intellectual Merit, by His Majesty Mohamed VI. He was awarded the Fyssen International Prize in 2021 and the Balzan Prize in 2023. In 2023, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences.

Photo : ©Jean-François Robert/modds

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