ERC Starting Grant

An ERC to study the press-fitting of tools in the Paleolithic period

In Research Press releases

Veerle Rots, a FNRS Research Associate in prehistoric archaeology, has just received an ERC Starting Grant for his project "Evolution of stone tool hafting in the Palaeolithic". Worth €1.2 million, this highly coveted scholarship, but also very selectively awarded by the European Research Council, will enable the researcher to better understand the evolution of the press-in of stone tools during the Paleolithic period, an indicator of the evolution of human cognitive and technical capacities as well as of their livelihood strategies. Three doctoral researchers and two post-doctoral fellows will join Veerle Rots in this project.


he question of the press-in of tools during the Paleolithic period has proved important in recent years because of its interpretative potential for understanding technological and cognitive developments. Indeed, being able to assemble a stone tool and an organic material handle in a more efficient entity reveals a certain expertise and the evolution of human intellectual capacities.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for researchers to have traces that allow them to determine the appearance of the press-fitting and its evolution. The main reason is related to the poor preservation of the organic matter from which the handles are made. However, new techniques have emerged. And microscopic analysis methods for identifying the use of stone tools have also shown their relevance for the analysis of press-fitting marks.

In his doctoral thesis, Veerle Rots was able to establish criteria for distinguishing between tools held in bare hands and those attached to a handle, as well as the different methods of fitting. These results open up new possibilities for interpretation.

The aim of the ERC project is to carry out a systematic large-scale functional analysis of a number of key sites in order to generate new essential data on:

  • The appearance, evolution, regional and chronological variability of press-fit technology and its effect on tool morphology and standardization;
  • The functional significance of the changes observed during the Paleolithic period;
  • The variability in subsistence strategy, hunting technology, use and fitting of tools, spatial organization,...

The project starts from a European perspective and will gradually include a comparison with the Middle East and Africa. Emphasis will be placed on the transition period from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in Europe, taking into account the many changes that occurred at that time and the emergence of modern man.

ERC Starting Grant

ERC Grants are major instruments deployed by the European Research Council to fund research projects in Europe. The procedure, extremely selective, selects only the best researchers and research projects of the highest level, combining audacity and competence to tackle new research avenues likely, in the event of success, to substantially enrich knowledge.

There are 5 types of grants: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants, Synergy Grants and Proof of Concept

Sarting ERC grants are designed to help young researchers (2-7 years of experience since completing their PhD) with a very promising scientific record and excellent research proposal

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