João Zilhão

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 has been the focus of my research for the last 20 years, leading to fieldwork at several sites: (a) the Lagar Velho rock-shelter (Portugal) and its burial of an early modern human child with diagnostic Neandertal features (evidence for interbreeding at the time of Neandertal/modern contact); (b) the Almonda karst system (Portugal), whose archeology spans half-a-million years and includes such important fossils as the 400,000 year-old Aroeira 3 cranium; (c) the Pestera cu Oase (Romania), site of Europe’s oldest modern humans; (d) Cueva Antón and Cueva de los Aviones (Murcia, Spain), with the earliest known use of personal ornaments, 115,000 years ago; (e) several caves in Iberia, France and Italy where U-Th dating of associated speleothems showed rock art to be >65,000 years old. These early artists were Neandertals, whose behavioral modernity and late persistence to the south of the Ebro drainage remain my main areas of interest.

Selected publications

– ALBA, D. M.; DAURA, J.; SANZ, M.; SANTOS, E.; YAGUE, A. S.; DELSON, E.; ZILHÃO, J. — ‘New macaque remains from the Middle Pleistocene of Gruta da Aroeira, Portugal’, «American Journal Of Physical Anthropology», 168, 2019, 3-3.

– NABAIS, M.; ZILHÃO, J.The consumption of tortoise among Last Interglacial Iberian Neanderthals. «Quaternary Science Reviews», 217, 2019, p. 225-246

– HOFFMANN, D. L.; STANDISH, C. D.; GARCÍA-DIEZ, M.; PETTITT, P. B.; MILTON, J. A.; ZILHÃO, J.; ALCOLEA-GONZÁLEZ, J. J.; CANTALEJO-DUARTE, P.; COLLADO, H.; de BALBÍN, R.; LORBLANCHET, M.; RAMOS-MUÑOZ, J.; WENIGER, G.-Ch.; PIKE, A. W. G. — Response to Aubert et al.’s reply ‘Early dates for ‘Neanderthal cave art’ may be wrong’ [J. Hum. Evol. 125 (2018), 215–217]. «Journal of Human Evolution», 135, 2019, article 102644.

ZILHÃO, J.Tar adhesives, Neandertals, and the tyranny of the discontinuous mind. «Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA», 116 (44), 2019, p. 21966-21968.

– SANZ, M.; RIVALS, F.; GARCÍA, D.; ZILHÃO, J. —  Hunting strategy and seasonality in the last interglacial occupation of Cueva Antón (Murcia, Spain). «Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences», 11, 7, 3577 – 3594.

Selected research activities

Fieldwork at La Boja (Mula, Murcia; Middle and Upper Paleolithic), Ardales (Middle Paleolithic cave art) and the Almonda karst system (Lower Paleolithic to Early Neolithic)