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Department of Human Evolution

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 350
fax: +49 (0341) 3550 - 399

e-mail: streiber@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Tsenka R.Tsanova

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Evolution
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

e-mail: tsenka_tsanova@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de

Research Interests
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

My research is focused on the technical stone equipment of Paleolithic societies from the transitional Middle Paleolithic (MP) to Upper Paleolithic (UP) period approx. between 50-35 Ky BP in the Eastern Balkans (Bulgaria), and partially in other areas (Zagros, Levant, and Sinai). My field work consists of finding, investigating or re-excavating sites from the onset of the Upper Paleolithic when Modern human (Homo sapiens) colonized Europe and replaced the Neanderthals.

I obtained a Master degree in Archeology in 2000 from the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, Bulgaria. My master thesis directed by Svoboda Sirakova, considered the technology and typology of a Gravettian assemblage dating from ca 26 Ky BP from Kozarnika Cave, where I started excavating in the student team in 1996. My interest was naturally oriented to the oldest UP when important biological and cultural transitions took place with the replacement of Neanderthals by our species. The necessity of understanding this interaction and applying up-to-date methods of study motivated me for specialization in Bordeaux in 2000 (DEA degree). In 2006 I acquired a PhD from PACEA-IPGQ, University of Bordeaux 1 in France in co-direction with Michel Lenoir, Nikolay Sirakov and tutoring by Jean-Guillaume Bordes. My PhD thesis contributed to the understanding of Initial/Early Upper Paleolithic techno-complexes in Northern Bulgaria, established links with the known synchronous cultures of Levant, Central Europe and the northern Mediterranean perimeter, and raised unanswered questions about the makers of the ancient UP stone assemblages from Bacho Kiro, Temnata and Kozarnika Caves.

My post-doctoral projects (2007-2008, 2011-2012) involved early Upper Paleolithic bladelets assemblages from Zagros Mountains (Iran) and from Sinai Peninsula. The Iranian assemblages called Baradostian were excavated in 1960s and housed in the USA, while the assemblages from Sinai known as Ahmarian were excavated by Jim Philips and stored in the Field Museum in Chicago.

The lithic collections from Warwasi rock shelters and Yafteh Cave in Central Zagros show initial development of bladelet projectiles technology presumably introduced by Modern human together with techno-typological component typical for the MP. Baradostian assemblages are always located at the base of UP sequences and they are conceptually comparable to synchronous technocomplexes in the Western Eurasia (Ahmarian from Levant and Sinai; Kozarnikian from the Eastern Balkans, and Protoaurignacian in the Western and Central Europe). In the USA I examined lithic collections in four different labs with Harold Dibble, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Frank Hole and Jim Philips.

I worked also one season in South Africa (2008) with Paola Villa on the transition Middle to Later Stone Age and analysed stone assemblages from Border Cave dating from >49 and 49-45 Ka.

Since 2015 Nikolay Sirakov, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Shannon McPherron and me have been jointly leading a project and excavation in Bacho Kiro Cave (Central north Bulgaria) in collaboration between EVA-MPI and NAIM-BAS, Sofia. We have re-opened the excavation from the 1970s directed by J. Kozlowski and B. Ginter with primary goals of clarifying the chronology of the site and finding human remains.

Two contributions published in May 2020 present the results from our excavations and fill a gap of data and knowledge for the beginning of the UP in Europe and the earliest Modern human settlement.  Human remains directly dated were found in a well preserved context with IUP artefacts assemblage. Morphological analysis of a tooth and mitochondrial DNA analysis of 5 other human remains captured by proteomic screening assign all the finds to Homo sapiens, and link the expansion of IUP technologies into the mid-latitude of Eurasia before 45 thousand years ago.

The sister paper reconstructs the chronology of the site with focus on the Initial UP occupation levels, by dating the human remains, worked bones and fauna. This is the largest radiocarbon dataset from a single Palaeolithic site with latest techniques in 14C dating, validating the integrity of the stratigraphic sequence and providing a robust chronological context of the earliest Homo sapiens.

My responsibilities include setting up projects, connecting the local and MPI teams, organizing field work and study sessions, excavating and studying the lithic assemblages. Improvement of lithic study methodology (refits, lithic taphonomy, microfractures, use-wear) and combining the results from the other fields (paleoanthropology, archeogeology, zooarcheology, DNA) is applied to reconstruction of the material culture and behavior of paleo-societies.

My research has been published in Journal of Human evolution, British Archaeological Reports, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ERAUL, Paléo, and Quaternary International.

Curriculum Vitae

Personal Information

Name: Tsenka R.Tsanova
Date of birth: 31 August 1974
Place of birth: Lovech, Bulgaria
Status: Married; 1 child


2006PhD, Prehistory and Quaternary Geology,
Institute of Prehistory and Quaternary Geology (IPGQ)
- University of Bordeaux 1,
Thesis title: The Debut of the Upper Palaeolithic in the East Balkans. Taphonomical and techno-economic analysis of lithic assemblages from Bacho Kiro Cave (layer 11), Temnata (layers VI and 4) and Kozarnika (level VII)
Supervisors: Accos. Prof. Michel Lenoir, Accos. Prof. Nikolay Sirakov.
2001DEA (equivalent Master degree) in Physical Anthropology and Prehistory,
IPGQ- University of Bordeaux 1,
Dissertation title: Techno-typological study of the Gravettian level IVb of Kozarnika Cave (Northern Bulgaria).
1999Masters degree in Archaeology,
New Bulgarian University,
1997Bachelors degree in Archaeology,
New Bulgarian University,

Research Interests, Skills

  • Paleolithic prehistory and anthropology;
  • paleolithic excavations and methodology;
  • prehistoric stone tools technologies;
  • paleoenvironement, natural resources and human adaptation, human migrations, linguistic, ethnology, art.
  • Study of lithic assemblages on different scales:
    • taphonomic, technological, typological and economic analysis;
    • graphical drawings of artifacts- lithic, bone, ceramic etc.

Academic Positions

2015-Research Fellow in Paleolithic archaeology,
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA),
Department of Human Evolution,
2012-2013 Research Fellow in Paleolithic archaeology,
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA),
Department of Human Evolution,
2011-2012 Research Fellow in Paleolithic archaeology
at the Anthropology Department,
The Field Museum for Natural History,
Chicago, Illinois,
2009-2011 Research Fellow in Paleolithic archaeology
at the Department of Human Evolution,
2007-2008 Anthropology Department,
University of Pennsylvania,
USA and Department of Anthropology University of Yale,
Conn. USA.

Own Research Projects, Study of Archaeological Collections

2011-2012 Emergence of Behavioral Modernity: Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Eastern Balkans: Neanderthal-Modern Human cultural transactions. Reconsideration of the Solutrean hypothesis: did the prehistoric Europeans cross the Atlantic Ocean?
2009-2011 Cultural Dynamics for the late Middle Paleolithic and the early Upper Paleolithic in the East Balkans. Taphonomic approach and techno-economic analysis of the lithic collections.
2007-2008 The origins of cultural modernity: techno-economic analysis of lithic industries towards a comparison between reference sequences of the Iranian Zagros and the South-African Drakensberg (80-35 Ka BP).

Participation in other Research Projects

2007-2008NSF (National Science Foundation),
Project: Technological shifts in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa,
led by Prof. Paola Villa
(University of Colorado Museum, USA).
2005-2007Regional Aquitaine Project:
Transitions: d'un monde à l'autre, processus de changements biologiques, culturels et environnementaux,
led by B. Maureille et J.-G. Bordes
(PACEA-UMR 5199, University of Bordeaux 1).
1996-2008 Franco-Bulgarian joint project:
Les manifestations humaines les plus anciennes en Europe du Sud-Est.
Collaboration between the National Archaeological Institut with Museum at the Bulgarian academy of science (NIAM-BAS), Sofia, Bulgaria and the IPGQ- PACEA-UMR 5199, University of Bordeaux I, CNRS, France,
financed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Region Aquitaine,
led by Jean-Luc Guadelli (CNRS-UMR 5199 and University of Bordeaux 1) and Nikolay Sirakov (NAIM-BAS, Sofia, Bulgaria).

Awards and Grants

2011-2012America for Bulgaria Foundation in the Anthropology Department,
The Field Museum for Natural History, Chicago:
Annual award for research fellow.
2009-2011Max Planck Society and the Department of Human Evolution at MPI-EVA:
Grant for field work project in North Bulgaria.
2003-2006French Ministery of Higher Education and Research:
Award for joint PhD thesis supervision between France and Bulgaria.
2000-2001 French Ministery of Foreign Affairs and the French Institut in Bulgaria:
Annual grant for compleating DEA (Master degree) and joint research project between Bulgaria and France.

Field Work - Excavations

2015-2017 Bacho Kiro cave, North Bulgaria.
Research project: "Settlement of Homo sapiens in Central North Bulgaria, chronostratigraphy and Pleistocene paleoenviroment in the context of the Lower Danube valley".
Scientific cooperation between NIAM-BAS, Sofia and EVA-MPI, Leipzig.
Excavation and 1 season survey in the area.
Field Directors: N. Sirakov and Ts. Tsanova,
Project Directors: J.-J. Hublin and N. Sirakov.
2010-2012Toplitsa cave, Samuilitsa II cave North Bulgaria.
East Balkan Paleolithic Project: Palaeolithic cultures and Pleistocene paleoenvironment in Bulgaria in the context of Middle and Lower Danube regions.
Survey in North Bulgaria and excavations of the caves Toplitsa and Samuilitsa II.
Organized by Ts. Tsanova (MPI-EVA) in codirection with S. Sirakova and S. Taneva- the National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at Bulgarian Academy of Science (NIAM-BAS, Sofia, Bulgaria).
1996-2008 (13 seasons): Kozarnika Cave, Northern Bulgaria.
Franco-Bulgarian joint Project: "The oldest human manifestations in Southeast Europe",
joint project between NAIM-BAS, Sofia, Bulgaria/PACEA-IPGQ- University Bordeaux 1, France,
Directors: J.-L. Guadelli and N Sirakov.
2004Le Piage, Lot, France.
Upper Palaeolithic excavation.
Directors: J.-G. Bordes, F. Ricalens-Le Brun.
2003Pech de l’Azé IV, Dordogne, France.
Middle Palaeolithic excavation.
Directors: H. Dibble, Sh. McPherron.

Caminade, Dordogne, France.
Upper Palaeolithic excavation.
Directors: J.-G. Bordes and A. Lenoble.

Artenac, Charente, France.
Middle Palaeolithic excavation.
Directors: A. Delagne, J.-F. Tournepiche and D. Armand.

1994-1995Devetachkata Cave, Northern Bulgaria.
Neolithic and Palaeolithic excavation, test-pits I, II and III.
Directors: S. Ivanovav(NAIM-BAS, Sofia), M. Stoianov (Historical museum, Lovech).

Conferences, Congresses, Seminaires

2013, March,14: Department of Archaeology & Conservation,
Cardiff University.

Bulgarian Paleolithic Archeology: state of research and prospects.
2013, February, 13 Laténium, Musée cantonal d`archeologie, Hauterive, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Member of UISPP Commission 8 (Paléolithique supérieur d`Eurasie).
Rapport title: Données actuelles sur le début du Paléolithique supérieur en Bulgarie du Nord. Perspectives.
2011, October, 21The Field Museum, Chicago, USA. Night of Bulgarian Archaeology.
Conference title: The origine of the behavioral modernity. When the Neanderthal meet Modern human, a story of 40 000 years old
2011, March, 17-18Neanderthal Museum, Mettman, Germany.
Workshop: Flakes not Blades: The role of Flake Production at the Onset of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe.
Conference title: Lithic flake production at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in the Eastern Balkans: examples from Bacho Kiro, Temnata and Kozarnika, Bulgaria.
2011, April 26-30Herne, Germany. 53th Hugo Obermaier SocietyAnnual meeting.
Conference title: Bulgarian Paleolithic Archaeology: state of research and prospects
(presented in collaboration with S. Taneva).
2010, June, 3Bordeaux-Les Eyzies, France. XXVIIe Congrès Préhistorique de France,
Session D: The status of the blade production during the Middle Paleolithic; Conference title: À la charnière entre le débitage Levallois et le débitage semi-tournant dans la transition entre le Paléolithique moyen et supérieur en Europe orientale et en Afrique du Nord (80-40 Ka).
Presented in collaboration with E. Spinapolice).
2009, September, 18Riva del Garda, Trento, Italy. 15th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists,
Session: Up-dating the Reasoning on Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Biological, and Cultural Shift in Eurasia. Conference title: Evidence for technological continuity between Middle and Upper Palaeolithic blade assemblages in the Eastern Balkans: The cases of Samuilitsa, Temnata and Bacho Kiro.
2008, March, 26Vancouver, Canada. Society for American Archaeology, 73rd Annual Meeting, Session: Technology in the Middle-Upper Paleolithic Transition.
Zwyns N., Ts. Tsanova, J.-G. Bordes, F. Le Brun-Ricalens, Y.E. Demidenko, S. Shidrang, N. Teyssandier, F. Bon, L. Eizenberg, M. Otte - From the Zagros to the Balkans: Rethinking the bladelet facies of the Early Upper Paleolithic from Yafteh and Kozarnika.
2007, December, 15Florence, Italy. Instituto Italiano di Preistoria e protostoria.
Integrated methodological approches to the study of lithic technolgy.
Session poster: Evolution des cultures au début du Paléolithique supérieur dans l’Est des Balkans. L’exemple de sites de Bulgarie du Nord.
2006, Septembre, 5Lisbonne, Portugal. XVème Congrès de l’UISPP Colloque C86:
Les productions lamellaires au Paléolithique moyen et supérieur. Une perspective diachronique.
Conference title: Entre l’Europe et le Proche-Orient, le début de la production lamellaire dans les Balkans de l’Est : l’exemple du niveau VII de la grotte Kozarnika en Bulgarie.
Bon F., J.-G. Bordes., N. Teyssandier, Ts. Tsanova - From West to East: Rethinking the earliest Aurignacian.
2006, April, 6Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France.
Table-ronde Le phénomène laminaire au Paléolithique moyen et supérieur en Eurasie.
Conference title: La production laminaire au début du Paléolithique supérieur dans les Balkans de l’Est. Les exemples de Bacho Kiro (couche 11) et Temnata (couche VI et couche 4).
2004, March, 31Montreal, Canada. 31th Paleoanthropology Society.
Morin E., Ts. Tsanova, N. Sirakov, W. Rendu, J.-B. Mallye and F. Lêveque - Exploring occupation mixing at Saint-Cesaire using bone refits.
2003, September, 5Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Humanized Mineral World: Towards social and symbolic evaluation of prehistoric technologies in South Eastern Europe Proceedings of the ESF workshop.
Tsanova Ts. Le Gravettien en Bulgarie du Nord : niveau IV b de la grotte Kozarnika.
Tsanova Ts. and J.-G. Bordes. Contribution au débat sur l’origine de l’Aurignacien : Principaux résultats d’une étude technologique de l’industrie lithique de la couche 11 de Bacho Kiro.


2009, October, 20-21Leipzig, Germany, EVA-MPI, Department of Human Evolution:
Scientific Writing Workshop,
organized by Mark Buchanan (Nature, New York) and Justin Mullins (New Scientist’s San Francisco)
2006, October, 18-22Vauvert, Languedoc, France:
Visit to Aurignacian sites and examination of Chatelperronian and Aurignacian lithic assemblages,
organised by University of Bordeaux 1 and the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation préhistoriques du Gard,
led by J.-G. Bordes (Lecturer at University of Bordeaux 1) and Frédéric Bazile (UMR 5059 CNRS, Montpellier).
2003, October, 7-16Valbonne Sophia-Antipolis, France:
Technological Anlysis of prehistoric knapped stone and experimentation,
organised by the CNRS, director: Pierre-Jean Texier (CNRS).

Language Skills

  • Bulgarian: mother tongue
  • French: read, spoken and written - fluent
  • English: read, spoken and written - fluent
  • Spanish: read and spoken - fluent, written
  • Russian: read and understands
  • German: basic conversation, studying


This publication list is currently beeing updated. The process will be finished in a few minutes.


 Tsanova, T. (2008). Les débuts du Paléolithique supérieur dans l’Est des Balkans. Réflexion à partir des études taphonomique et techno-économique des ensembles lithiques des grottes Bacho Kiro (couche 11), Temnata (couche VI et 4) et Kozarnika (niveau VII). BAR International Series 1752.


 Sirakov, N., Tsanova, T., S. Sirakova, S. Taneva, I. Krumov, I. Dimitrova and N. Kovacheva (2007) - Un nouveau faciès lamellaire du début de Paléolithique supérieur dans les Balkans. Paléo 19 (Le Gravettien : entités régionales d'une paléoculture européenne; Table ronde - Les Eyzies - juillet 2004) pp. 131-144.


 Guadelli J.-L., N. Sirakov, S. Ivanova, S. Sirakova, E. Anastassova, P. Courtaud, I. Dimitrova, N. Djabarska, P. Fernandez, C. Ferrier, M. Fontugne, D. Gambier, A. Guadelli, D. Iordanova, N. Iordanova, M. Kovatcheva, ¬I. Krumov, J.-C. Leblanc, J.-B. Mallye, M. Marinska, V. Miteva, V. Popov, R. Spassov, S. Taneva, N. Tisterat-Laborde and T. Tsanova (2005). Une séquence du Paléolithique inférieur au Paléolithique récent dans les Balkans : la grotte Kozarnika à Orechets (Nord-Ouest de la Bulgarie).
In : Données récentes sur les modalités de peuplement et sur le cadre chronostratigraphique des industries du Paléolithique inférieur et moyen en Europe. Vol. 7 p., 9 fig., 2 tab. Rennes, 2003, 22-25 September, BAR International Series S1364, Oxford.
 Morin E., T. Tsanova, N. Sirakov, W. Rendu, J.-B. Mallye and F. Lévêque (2005). Bone refits in stratified deposits : testing the chronological grain at Saint-Césaire. Journal of Archeological Science 32 : 1083-1098.


 Tsanova T. and J.-G. Bordes (2003). Contribution au débat sur l’origine de l’Aurignacien : Principaux résultats d’une étude technologique de l’industrie lithique de la couche 11 de Bacho Kiro. In: The Humanized Mineral World: Towards social and symbolic evaluation of prehistoric technologies in South Eastern Europe Proceedings of the ESF workshop, Sofia - 3-6 September 2003. (Ts. Tsonev & Montagnari Kokelej eds.), ERAUL XXX.
 Tsanova T. (2003). Le Gravettien en Bulgarie du Nord : niveau IV b de la grotte Kozarnika. In: The Humanized Mineral World: Towards social and symbolic evaluation of prehistoric technologies in South Eastern Europe Proceedings of the ESF workshop, Sofia - 3-6 September 2003. (Ts. Tsonev & Montagnari Kokelej eds.), ERAUL XXX.


 Sirakova S., T. Tsanova (2002). Lithic Gravettian assemblage from the contact zone IV a et IV b from Kozarnika cave. Reconstruction of the reduction technological prosses. Annals of the Bulgarian Academy of Science., Sofia (in Bulgarian).
 Ivanova S., N. Sirakov, H. Laville, V. Popov and T. Tsanova (2002). Novi danni za Srednija i Kusnija paleolith v Karlukovskija karst- peshtera Skandalna (Nouvelles données concernant les Paléolithique moyen et supérieur dans le karst de Karlukovo). Annuary of Department of Archaeology-NBU-IAM, Vol IV-V, Sofia 7-29, Sofia.


 Ivanova S. and T. Tsanova, 2001. Cultural and Chronological identity of the lithic industry of Pobitite Kamani (North-East Bulgaria). Annals of Bulgarian Science Academy, Sofia (in Bulgarian).