João Zilhão

Universitat de Barcelona (UB)


Prior to current appointment, taught at the Universities of Bristol and Lisbon, as well as, on a temporary basis, Paris I and Bordeaux I. Appointed January 1996 by the Portuguese government to set up the Côa Valley Archeological Park, coordinate scientific research to establish the age of its Paleolithic rock art, and prepare the nomination of the site for World Heritage status (listing date, December 1998). Created and directed the Instituto Português de Arqueologia (IPA), a department of the Ministry of Culture for the supervision of archaeological activity in the country (May 1997-2002). Member of the Executive Board of the European Association of Archeologists (2003-06). Humboldt Foundation Research Awardee (2003-04, University of Cologne) for "past achievements in teaching and research". Recipient of the London Prehistoric Society's Europa Prize (2005), for "significant and enduring contribution to the study of European prehistory". In 2012 profiled in "Science."

Research interests

The Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Europe has been the focus of my research for the last 15 years. This research interest has led to fieldwork at different sites, namely:
(a) The Lagar Velho rock-shelter (Portugal) and its burial of an early modern human child with diagnostic Neandertal features (skeletal evidence of interbreeding at the time of Neandertal/modern contact in Europe);
(b) The Gruta da Oliveira (Almonda karstic system, Portugal), where ongoing work has already exposed 11 m of deposits spanning the ~35-70 ka cal BP interval;
(c) The Pestera cu Oase (Romania), site of Europe’s oldest modern humans;
(d) Cueva Antón (Murcia, Spain), with Mousterian painted and perforated marine shell ornaments that proved the behavioral modernity of the last Neandertals.

My current research focuses on documenting the late persistence of the Neandertals in Iberian regions located to the south of the Ebro drainage and its ecological and cultural underpinnings.

Selected publications

– Eixea A, Villaverde V & Zilhão J 2016, ‘Not Only Flint: Levallois on Quartzite and Limestone at Abrigo de la Quebrada (Valencia, Spain): Implications for Neandertal Behavior‘, Journal of Anthropological Research, 72 (1), p. 24-57.

– d’Enrrico F, Dayet-Bouillot L, García-Díez M, Pitarch Martí A, Garrido Pimentel D & Zilhão J 2016, ‘The technology of the earliest European cave paintings: El Castillo Cave, Spain’, Journal of Archaeological Science, 70, 2016, p. 48-65.

Zilhão J 2016, ‘O Neolítico Antigo de Vale da Mata (Cambelas, Torres Vedras), in Sousa AC, Carvalho A, Viegas C (eds.) Terra e Água. Escolher sementes, invocar a Deusa. Estudos em Homenagem a Victor S. Gonçalves. Estudos & Memórias 9, Lisboa, UNIARQ/FL-UL, p. 97-111.

Zilhão J 2016, ‘Beaker people without beaker pots: the Chalcolithic funerary context from the Galeria da Cisterna (Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal)’, in Del neolític a l’edat del bronze en el Mediterrani occidental. Estudis en homenatge a Bernat Martí Oliver, Serie de Trabajos Varios 119, València, Servicio de Investigación Prehistórica de Valencia, p. 379-386.

Zilhão J, Ajas A, Badal E, Burow Ch, Kehl M, López-Sáez JA, Pimenta C, Preece RC, Sanchis A, Sanz M, Weniger G-C, White D, Wood R, Anglelucci DA, Villaverde V & Zapata J  2016, ‘Cueva Antón: A multi-proxy MIS 3 to MIS 5a paleoenvironmental record for SE Iberia’, Quaternary Science Reviews, 146, p. 251-273.

– Hoffmann DL, Pike AWG, García-Díez M, Pettitt PB & Zilhão J 2016, ‘Methods for U-series dating of CaCO3 crusts associated with Palaeolithic cave art and application to Iberian sites’, Quaternary Geochronology, 36, p.104-119.