Archaeological excavations in Romania show the life of the first modern humans in Europe

In a new article published in the journal Scientific ReportsLeiden University archaeologist Wei Chu and colleagues report on recent excavations in western Romania at the Româneşti site, one of the most important in southeastern Europe associated with the first Homo sapiens. The site offers important insight into how modern humans adapted to their new European environment.

Many early fossils have been found. Homo sapiens in southeastern Europe, presumably because they first entered the continent via the Balkan Peninsula.

However, few fossils have been found. Homo sapiens associated with cultural remains, which makes Româneşti an important window to observe how the first Homo sapiens Europeans coped with their new environment.

Location of Româneşti | photo Chu et al.

How did he adapt Homo sapiens to this new continent? The researchers discovered that the Româneşti artifacts were geared towards the production of highly standardized chipped stone blades that could have been used as inserts for arrows or spears.

Peculiar grinding wheels may also have been used to straighten wooden shafts, suggesting that Româneşti was some kind of projectile workshop.

The thousands of artifacts, some of which originate from more than 300 kilometers away, combined with evidence of the use of fire in situ show that Româneşti was an important place in the landscape that was repeatedly returned to.

Traces of wear and tear found in lithic artifacts from Românești | photo Chu et al.

Microscopic analyzes of the surfaces of the artifacts show that most of them were not used, suggesting that the site may have been used as a manufacturing site for tools that were later transported off site.

The results of the large lithic assemblages and their high-quality contexts from the new excavations at Româneşti indicate changes in the livelihoods of the Homo sapiens compared to Neanderthals, which helps explain their success.

The next step is to try to deepen the relationship of these first Homo sapiens with the first Neanderthals. Nearby contemporary fossils indicate that the Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred, but we still don’t know what that means in terms of the ways their lifestyles changed for each other and how we can see it in their archaeological remains.


University of Leiden | Chu, W., McLin, S., Wöstehoff, L. et al. Aurignacian dynamics in Southeastern Europe based on spatial analysis, sediment geochemistry, raw materials, lithic analysis, and use-wear from Românești-Dumbrăvița. Sci Rep 12, 14152 (2022).