Alice Leplongeon

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Archaeology
Associated researcher, UMR CNRS 7194, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris

Research project

Human-environment Interactions in the Nile Valley between 75,000 and 15,000 Years ago in the Context of Modern Human Dispersals


The prehistory of the Nile Valley between 75,000 and 15,000 years ago is key for the understanding of modern human diversity. This period corresponds to a global shift to more arid conditions which regionally translates into the expansion of the Sahara, the lowering of the sea level and the desiccation of some major eastern African lakes. This has important consequences on the behaviour of the Nile and on human populations living in its vicinity. In addition, the Nile Valley is located at the crossroads between Africa and Eurasia, and as such is central to the issues of human dispersals ‘out-of’ as well as ‘back-into’ Africa, documented by genetic studies at that time. These major dispersals have contributed to shape our current biological and cultural diversity. Yet, there is little archaeological evidence for dispersals ‘out of’ and ‘back into’ Africa following the northern route through the Nile Valley. On the contrary, researchers who have worked in the Nile Valley have underlined the unique aspect of the cultural entities in the Nile at that time. The prehistory of the Nile Valley, therefore, appears to be “isolated” from the prehistory of neighbouring regions.


The first objective of this research project is to make a comprehensive review of the current knowledge of the Prehistory of the Nile Valley for the period between 75000 and 15000 years ago, with a specific focus on how archaeologists have approached the archaeological record. This review, including all recent palaeoenvironmental, genetic and archaeological data is a necessary prelude to in-depth discussions of human responses to environmental change and of possible links between technological variability, environmental change and modern human dispersals. Relying on this broader context, the second part of this research project aims to consider the place of the “Wendorf collection”, particularly the stone tool assemblages which have been little or not published, stored at the British Museum. These assemblages are unique as they are coming from contexts, nowadays inaccessible to archaeologists, which therefore represent a large part of what we can rely on to discuss prehistoric archaeology of the Nile Valley. New imagery techniques such as Reflectance Transformation Imagery (RTI) will be used in order to improve the analysis of stone tool assemblages as well as their documentation in the form of an open-access database in collaboration with the British Museum.




Alice Leplongeon is an associated researcher at the UMR CNRS 7194 HNHP of the department 'Homme et Environnement' of the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, France. She holds a PhD in Prehistory from the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris. She was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow (Horizon 2020, Individual Fellowship) at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

She is particularly interested in stone artefact analysis and what changes in stone tool technology may mean in terms of adaptations to a changing environment or contacts between / isolation of populations. Her work focuses on modern human technical behaviours in eastern Africa, the Nile Valley and the Levant during the last 50,000 years. She is a member of several collaborative projects, included the South East Ethiopia Cave Survey Project, and the 'Big Dry' Project, funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR 14-CE31-0023).

Selected publications


'Terminal Pleistocene lithic variability in the Western Negev (Israel): Is there any evidence for contacts with the Nile Valley?', with A.N. Goring-Morris, Journal of Lithic Studies. [forthcoming]


'Technological variability in the Late Palaeolithic lithic industries of the Egyptian Nile Valley: The case of the Silsilian and Afian industries', PLOS ONE [online journal], vol. 12, 2017.


'Current approaches and new directions in lithic analysis: Defining, identifying and interpreting variability', Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, vol. 26, 2017, pp. 145–148. 


'Late Pleistocene and Holocene Lithic Variability at Goda Buticha (Southeastern Ethiopia): Implications for the Understanding of the Middle and Late Stone Age of the Horn of Africa', with D. Pleurdeau & D. Hovers, Journal of African Archaeology, vol. 15, 2017, pp. 202-233.


'Microliths in the Middle and Later Stone Age of eastern Africa: New data from Porc-Epic and Goda Buticha cave sites, Ethiopia', Quaternary International, Changing Environments and Movements through Transitions: Paleoanthropological and Prehistorical Research in Ethiopia A Tribute to Prof. Mohammed Umer, vol. 343, 2014, pp. 100–116.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Computer Science and Engineering
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Biology