João Zilhão

Universitat de Barcelona


Prior to current appointment, taught at the Universities of Bristol and Lisbon, as well as, on a temporary basis, Paris and Bordeaux. 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 20 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 fieldwork exposed 13 m of deposit spanning the ~35-105 ka interval; (c) the Pestera cu Oase (Romania), site of Europe's oldest modern humans; (d) Cueva Antón (Murcia, Spain), with its Mousterian painted/perforated Pecten shell. My current focus lies on documenting the behavioral modernity of the last Neandertals and the ecological and cultural underpinnings of their late persistence in Iberian regions located to the south of the Ebro drainage.

Selected publications

- Isern N, Zilhão J, Frot J & Ammerman AJ 2017, 'Modeling the role of voyaging in the coastal spread of the Early Neolithic in the West Mediterranean', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 114 (5), p. 897-902.

- Daura J, Sanz M, Arsuaga JL, Hoffmann DL, Quam RM, Ortega MC, Santos E, Gómez S, Rubio A, Villaescusa L, Souto P, Mauricio J, Rodrigues F, Ferreira A, Godinho P, Trinkaus E & Zilhão J 2017, 'New Middle Pleistocene hominin cranium from Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal)', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, vol. 114, no. 13, 3397–3402.

- Hoffmann DL, Utrilla P, Bea M, Pike AWG, García-Diez M, Zilhão J & Domingo R 2017, 'U-series dating of Palaeolithic rock art at Fuente del Trucho (Aragón, Spain)', Quaternary International, 432, p. 50-58.

- Pike AWG, Hoffmann DL, Pettitt PB, García-Diez M & Zilhão J 2017, 'Dating Palaeolithic cave art: Why U-Th is the way to go', Quaternary International, 432, p. 41-49.

- Zilhão J, Anesin D, Aubry Th, Badal E, Cabanes D, Kehl M, Klasen N, Lucena A, Martín-Lerma I, Martínez S, Matias H, Susini D, Steier P, Wild EM, Angelucci DE, Villaverde V & Zapata J 2017, 'Precise dating of the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Murcia (Spain) supports late Neandertal persistence in Iberia', Heliyon, 3, e00435.

Selected research activities

Participation in fifteen scientific conferences held during 2017 with presentation or co-authorship of oral communications (16), posters (2) and/or keynote addresses (2). Eleven invited lectures at academic institutions in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and United Kingdom. Twelve weeks of archeological fieldwork at the site La Boja (Mula, Murcia, Spain). In October 2017 found by ResearchGate to be that month's most read author in Archaeology.