Nicolas Zwyns

Nicolas Zwyns Portrait

Position Title
Associate Professor

203 Young Hall
Office Hours
Fall 2023: Tuesday 10.30-12.30 pm and by appointment


  • 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


I graduated from the University of Liège, Belgium, with a degree in Art History and Archaeology (2004) and I completed a MA at University College of London (2006), UK. I received my PhD degree after working on the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in Siberia in the Department of Human Evolution, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany (2007-2012, the Leipzig School for Human Evolution; the University of Leiden). In 2011, I was awarded a post-doctoral grant from the Fyssen Foundation, to work with the UMR 5608 TRACES in Toulouse, France. I joined the UC Davis Department of Anthropology in 2012.

Research Focus

I am a field archaeologist specialized in lithics, but I often integrate data from paleoenvironmental, genetic and of physical anthropology studies to address issues related to subsistence strategies, cultural geography, and population dynamics during the Pleistocene. Working on the peopling of Asia by Modern Humans, Neanderthals and the Denisovans, I consider late Pleistocene hominins as mobile hunter-gatherers responding to a complex and changing physical geography and environment. I participated in numerous Paleolithic excavations from Western Europe to the Tian Shan, including sites in western Russia, in Iran, or Uzbekistan. Since 2011, I am the co-director of an international excavation project in the Ikh-Tulberiin Gol, north Mongolia. I also participate in international projects on the Paleolithic of north China (Ningxia Province) and on the tool use by capuchins in Panama. Since 2018, I am co-directing excavations at the Trou al' Wesse Cave in Belgium (Liege Province) to investigate Neandertal and Early Homo sapiens occupations.


  • Zhang, P., Zhang, X., Zhang, X., Gao, X., Huerta-Sanchez, E., & Zwyns, N. (2022). Denisovans and Homo sapiens on the Tibetan Plateau: dispersals and adaptations. Trends in ecology & evolution, 37(3), 257-267.
  • Gallo, G., Fyhrie, M., Paine, C., Ushakov, S.V., Izuho, M., Gunchinsuren, B., Zwyns, N. and Navrotsky, A. (2021). Characterization of structural changes in modern and archaeological burnt bone: Implications for differential preservation bias. PloS one, 16(7), p.e0254529.
  • Zhang, P., Zwyns, N., Peng, F., Lin, S.C., Johnson, C.L., Guo, J., Wang, H. and Gao, X. (2022). After the blades: The late MIS3 flake-based technology at Shuidonggou Locality 2, North China. Plos one, 17(10), p.e0274777.
  • Rybin, E.P., Paine, C.H., Khatsenovich, A.M., Tsedendorj, B., Talamo, S., Marchenko, D.V., Rendu, W., Klementiev, A.M., Odsuren, D., Gillam, J.C. and Gunchinsuren, B. (2020). A new Upper Paleolithic occupation at the site of Tolbor-21 (Mongolia): Site formation, human behavior and implications for the regional sequence. Quaternary International, 559, pp.133-149.
  • Zwyns, N. (2021). The initial upper paleolithic in Central and East Asia: blade technology, cultural transmission, and implications for human dispersals. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology, 4(3), 19.
  • Zwyns, N., Paine, C.H., T., Bolorbat Talamo, S., Fitzsimmons, K.E., Angaragdulguun G, Lkhundev, G., Odsuren D, Flas, D., Dogandzic, T., Doerschner, N., Welker, F., Gillam, J.C., Noyer, J.B., Bakhtiarya, R.S., Allshouse, A.F., Smith K.N., Khatsenovich, A.M., Rybin, E.P., Gunchinsuren B, Hublin, J.-J. (2019). The Northern Route for Human dispersal in Central and Northeast Asia: New evidence from the site of Tolbor-16, Mongolia. Scientific Reports, 9:11759.
  • Lin, S., Fei, P., Zwyns, N., Guo, J., Wang, H., Gao, X. (2019) Detecting patterns of local raw material utilization among informal lithic assemblages at the Late Paleolithic site of Shuidonggou Locality 2 (China). Archeological Research in Asia, 17, 137-148.
  • Zwyns, N., Lbova, L.V. (2019) The Initial Upper Paleolithic of Kamenka site, Zabaikal region (Siberia): A closer look at the blade technology. Archeological Research in Asia, 17, 24-49.
  • Barrett, B., Monteza-Moreno, C., Dogandzic, T., Zwyns, N., Ibanez, A., Crofoot, M.C. (2018) Habitual Stone-Tool Aided Foraging in White-Face Capuchins, Cebus Capucinus. Royal Society Open Science 5 (8).