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Nicolas Zwyns


  • Ph.D., Archeology, Leiden University, The Netherlands, 2012
  • M.A., Archeology, University College of London, United Kingdom, 2006
  • M.A., Art History & Archeology, University of Liege, Belgium, 2004
  • B.A., Art History & Archeology, University of Liege, Belgium, 2001


Nicolas Zwyns graduated from the University of Liège, Belgium, in 2004 with a degree in Art History and Archeology. In 2006, he completed a master’s degree in Archeology at University College of London, UK. In 2007, he received a full fellowship (International Max Planck Research School) from the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany to conduct research on the beginning of Upper Paleolithic in Siberia. In 2011, he was awarded a post-doctoral grant from the Fyssen Foundation, and joined the SMP3C at the UMR 5608 TRACES in Toulouse, France, before joining the UC Davis Department of Anthropology.

Research Focus

Professor Zwyns’ interests focus on human paleontology and behavior during the Pleistocene and at the beginning of the Holocene. His research is grounded in a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates the results of genetics and of physical anthropology. As a lithic specialist, he studies the material culture of Pleistocene hominins to address issues related to subsistence strategies, cultural geography, and population dynamics. His work on the peopling of Asia by Modern Humans, Neanderthals and the Denisovans considers late Pleistocene hominins as mobile hunter-gatherers responding to a complex and changing physical geography and environment. As a field archeologist, he participated in numerous Paleolithic excavations from Western Europe to the Tian-shan, including sites in western Russia, in Iran and in Uzbekistan. Since 2011, he has co-directed an international excavation project at the Paleolithic site of Tolbor 16, in northern Mongolia. In 2014, he joined an international team to conduct new research in Ningxia, north China.

Selected Publications

  • Zwyns, N., Viola, B. (2014) L'Asie centrale et le Pleistocene superieur. In: Otte, M. (Ed.) Neandertal/Cro-Magnon: La Rencontre. Editions Errances, Arles, pp.267-295 (in French)
  • Fu, Q., Li, H., Moorjani, P., Jay, F., Slepchenko, S. M., Bondarev, A. A., Johnson, P.L. F., Aximu-Petri, A., Prufer, K., de Filippo, C., Meyer, M., Zwyns, N., Salazar-Garcia, D. C., Kuzmin, Y. V., Keates, S. G., Kosintsev, P. A., Razhev, D. I., Richards, M. P., Peristov, N. V., Lachmann, M., Douka, K., Higham, T. F. G., Slatkin, M., Hublin, J.-J., Reich, D., Kelso, J., Viola, T. B, Pääbo, S. (2014) Genome sequence of a 45,000-year-old modern human from western Siberia. Nature 514, 445–449
  • Zwyns, N., Gladyshev, S., A., Gunchinsuren, B., Bolorbat, T., Flas, D., Dogandzic, T., Gillam, J.C., Khatsenovich, A. M., McPherron, S. P., Paine, C.H., Purevjal, K.E., Stewart J.R. (2014) The open-air site of Tolbor 16 (Northern Mongolia): Preliminary results and perspectives. Quaternary international, 347, pp. 53–65.
  • Kuhn, S. L., Zwyns, N. (2014) “Rethinking the initial Upper Paleolithic,” Quaternary International, 347, pp. 29–38.
  • Zwyns, N. (2012) Laminar technology and the onset of the Upper Paleolithic in the Altai, Siberia. Studies in Human Evolution, Leiden University Press.