The PEOPLE project includes a core team at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) in Spain, and an extended team whose members are located in South Africa, Germany, and the USA.

Core team

Michael Toffolo

Principal Investigator

Dr. Michael Toffolo is the PI of PEOPLE. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology (2006) and a Master of Arts in Archaeology (2009) from the University of Padua (Italy), and he was conferred his Ph.D. in Archaeology (2014) from Tel Aviv University, where he carried out his dissertation in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel). He was postdoctoral fellow (2014) at the National Museum Bloemfontein (South Africa), Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellow (2015-2016) at the University of Tübingen (Germany), and Junior Research Chair IdEx (2017-2021) at Bordeaux Montaigne University (France). Currently, he is Ramón y Cajal Researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) in Burgos (Spain).
Dr. Toffolo’s work focuses on the evolution of Homo sapiens in southern Africa during the Middle and Late Pleistocene from a geoarchaeological perspective. He directed excavations in South Africa at Lovedale (Middle Stone Age) and Damvlei (Later Stone Age), and currently directs excavations at Florisbad, Lombards Drift, and Baden Baden 2 together with Dr. Lloyd Rossouw (National Museum Bloemfontein). His research is aimed at reconstructing site formation processes and paleoenvironments based on the study of the microscopic archaeological record, to understand the dispersal and adaptation strategies of the first H. sapiens in the interior of South Africa. In addition, he conducts basic research on the physico-chemical properties of calcium carbonate to develop new analytical methods in the study of prehistoric pyrotechnology.

Felipe Cuartero

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Felipe Cuartero is an archaeologist specialized in the analysis of stone tools with advanced skills in the field of experimental archaeology. He obtained a Bachelor in History (2000) and a Master in Archeology (2004) from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a PhD in Archeology (2014) at the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain). In his research, he has explored some traits in the technology of the Middle Paleolithic of western Europe as the knapping techniques, the recycling and microlithism of stone tools, and the use of lithic points as weapons. He has also participated in research projects in Tanzania and the Republic of Georgia where he has explored the use by ancient hominins of some specific types of tough rocks and the development of knapping methods. One of his main goals with his participation to the PEOPLE project is to recognize through flintknapping experiments how the properties of the local rocks in central South Africa affected the production of local industries during the Middle Stone Age.

Beatrice Bin

PhD candidate

Beatrice Bin graduated in “Science and Technology for Studying and Preserving Cultural Heritage” from the University of Milan (Italy) with a dissertation thesis about the studies conducted with both optical microscopy and electron microprobe on thin sections taken from allochthonous hammers found at a Bronze Age site. After she obtained the Master in “Quaternary, Prehistory, and Archaeology” from the University of Ferrara, with a dissertation about X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) analyses conducted on lithic grinding/pounding tools from the Iron Age. She then obtained a postgraduate degree in Archaeology from the Postgraduate School of the University of Milan, with a dissertation about the study of thin sections of soils from the Bronze Age. Beatrice is currently a PhD candidate in the PEOPLE project, where she the formation and diagenetic processes of Middle and Late Pleistocene archaeological sites in the Free State using micromorphology of sediments and infrared spectroscopy.

Sara Arjomandi

PhD candidate

Graduated in Archeology from the University of Granada (Spain), Sara Arjomandi focused her training on the study of recent prehistory in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. After participating in several excavations in Spain and France, she completed the Master Degree in Physical and Forensic Anthropology at the same University with a research stay at the Centre Européen de Recherches Préhistoriques in Tautavel (France), on digital craniometric comparisons between Homo floresiensis and other hominids from the Eurasian continent. Currently, she is a PhD candidate on Quaternary Geochronology in South Africa in the PEOPLE project, focusing her work on optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to establish a chronological framework of the environmental changes that occurred during the Middle and Late Pleistocene in the central interior of South Africa.

Teresa Moradillo

Project Manager

Teresa Moradillo is the Project Manager of PEOPLE and passionate about science and nature. She obtained a Bachelor in Biological Sciences (2011) from the University of León (Spain), and participated in the Training program in R&D project management (GESTIDI) provided by the Institute for Business Competitiveness of Junta de Castilla y León (2014). She has worked as Researcher in the University of Burgos (2012-2014), R&D Technician (2015-2017), and as European Project Manager and Project Promoter in the University of Valladolid (2017-2019) and the University of León (2019-2021).

Extended team

Lloyd Rossouw

Dr. Lloyd Rossouw is Head of the Florisbad Quaternary Research Department and the Florisbad Research Station at the National Museum Bloemfontein (South Africa). His is interested in phytolith systematics and how phytoliths together with fossil mammal remains from archaeological and palaeontological sites can aid in paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Quaternary. In the PEOPLE project, Dr. Rossouw will direct excavations at Florisbad and conduct field surveys together with Dr Toffolo. He will also analyze phytoliths in soils and fossils collected from new archaeological sites.

Andri van Aardt

Dr. Andri van Aardt is a vegetation ecologist and palynologist, and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of the Free State (South Africa). Her focus is combining modern vegetation ecology with vegetation from past environments. She mostly works in Savanna and Grassland environments where her two fields of interest are combined because of the long-term stability of these areas and the human development that occurred there. Furthermore, these two biomes are also currently utilized by humans to produce food for a growing world population. Dr. van Aardt extracts and studies pollens from sediment samples collected at the sites investigated in the PEOPLE project.

Daryl Codron

Dr. Daryl Codron is an animal ecologist and paleoecologist and Associate Professor at the Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of the Free State (South Africa). His main research interest is how patterns of resource utilization impact on population dynamics and multispecies coexistence in natural communities, and also the macroevolutionary responses of animal lineages to resource use differentiation. A large portion of this work relies on stable isotope analysis of tooth enamel as evidence for niche segregation, niche width, and competitive niche overlap in communities of today, and in the past. Dr. Codron is in charge of analyzing oxygen and carbon stable isotopes in teeth collected at the sites excavated in the PEOPLE project.

Dr. Maïlys Richard is Chargée de Recherche at the CNRS laboratory Archéosciences Bordeaux, Bordeaux Montaigne University (France). Her primary research theme is the chronology of population dynamics in Eurasia and Africa during the Middle and Late Pleistocene, using trapped-charge and uranium-series dating methods. She is also interested in studying diagenesis in dateable material and her work aims at combining dating and characterization methods to improve the timeline of occupations related to Homo neanderthalensis and early Homo sapiens. Dr. Richard is in charge of chronology in the PEOPLE project, and will analyze sediments using luminescence and fossil teeth using combined electron spin resonance/uranium-series dating.

Dr. Michaela Ecker is Emmy Noether Junior Research Group Leader at Kiel University in Germany. Her research interests are in Paleolithic Archaeology and Biogeochemistry, particularly to reconstruct past climate and environments and their impact on human evolution. In the PEOPLE project, Dr. Ecker measures plant lipid biomarker stable isotopes extracted from archaeological sediments to explore local environmental changes through time.

Britt Bousman

Dr. C. Britt Bousman is Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology, Texas State University (USA). His research focuses on the Stone Age archaeology of sub-Saharan Africa and the archaeology of the Southern Plains in the USA. Dr. Bousman has led several fieldwork projects in South Africa, including excavations at Blydefontein and Erfkroon. He is particularly interested in the technological organization of Middle and Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the central interior of South Africa.

Initially trained as a structural geologist, Dr. Josep Parés received a Ph.D. in Geology and Paleomagnetism carried out at the ETH-Zurich. After spending ten years as a Research Scientist at the Spanish Council of Scientific Research, he joined the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan, USA. In 2007 he accepted a position as Full Professor and Program Coordinator at the CENIEH, Spain. Josep has participated in numerous international meetings (AGU, EGU), published more than 130 scientific, peer-review articles and book chapters, and contributed as a principal investigator in more than twenty research national and international projects (MINECO, European Union, National Science Foundation, National Geographic). He has carried out field work in Spain as well as the Appalachians, Rocky Mountains, Antarctica, Tibet and North Africa, and participated in several deep drilling expeditions (ODP and IODP) in the Pacific Ocean. He currently conducts research in archaeological and paleontological sites including Atapuerca, Orce (Spain), and in the circum-Mediterranean area through the use of paleomagnetism combined with absolute age dating methods (luminescence, electron spin resonance, and cosmogenic nuclides). Dr. Parés’ studies are focused in rocks and sediments both to decipher the geomagnetic field behavior in the past and to establish geochronologies based on magnetostratigraphic records. His current research includes coupling this record with rock magnetic cyclostratigraphy, a new application of environmental magnetic parameters to the sedimentary record. The underlying goal is the detection of orbitally forced driven global climate change at millennial or greater scales based on the magnetic mineral concentration variations.