An Examination of Human Thermal Environments in the Upper Palaeolithic of Central and Eastern Europe
University of Liverpool
Professor Anthony Sinclair
Professor Matt Grove
Research on human physiological responses to thermal stress highlights limitations in our ability to cope with the cold. As endotherms, humans can induce certain biological defensive mechanisms in reaction to cold exposure, but our lack of body hair presents significant challenges for effective thermoregulation.
The origins of human thermal environments are beginning to be discussed in the literature, with growing appreciation that hominin species in high latitudes needed technological adaptations such as clothing and shelter. Computational analysis comparing climatic reconstructions and site distributions from the Upper Palaeolithic demonstrates that communities from this period regularly operated in areas that required additional thermal protection, reinforcing the necessity of these adaptations.
Whilst the decay of organic matter has prevented more than speculative research for earlier species of humans, we see a range of archaeological evidence for modern humans’ use of these technological adaptations throughout Europe during the Upper Palaeolithic. These include evidence of shelter, in the form of wooden or mammoth bone constructions, and clothing through the appearance of needles, imprints of textiles, and bead placements in graves.
This PhD aims to use a combination of ethnographic analysis, computational and experimental methods to explore how Upper Palaeolithic people in Eastern and Central Europe altered their immediate environments to cope with thermal stress.
My research interests mainly focus on how early humans living in high latitude responded to and survived harsh climatic conditions. Prior to the commencement of this PhD, I have focussed mainly on Neanderthals and their clothing.
I find reconstructions of past climates particularly interesting, and exploring how humans responded to these feeds into my general research questions.
Baker, P.H., Scott, C.B., Gethin, P., Sinclair, A. (2021) ‘Birch Bark Glue and its Potential Use in Neanderthal Clothing: A Pilot Study,’ EXARC (2021/4), Persistent Identifier:
Clothing the Caveman: Recent Insights in Middle Palaeolithic Clothing.
University of Liverpool, Evolutionary Anthropology Seminar Series (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8H-TQ0gu60&t=43s)
Baker, P., Needham, A. (2023) What did Neanderthals Wear on their Feet? An Experimental Archaeological Investigation of Neanderthal Footwear, EAC13 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJUqtHrke10)
Baker, P. (2023) If the Shoe Fits: Assessing Neanderthal Footwear Requirements, Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2023
Baker, P. (2022) If the Glue Fits: Investigating the Use of Adhesives in Middle Palaeolithic
Clothing, NOPE Conference 2022
Master of Ceremonies at EXARC’s EAC12 Online Conference (March 2021)
Master of Ceremonies at EXARC’s EAC13 Hybrid Conference (Torun, Poland)