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.