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Anthropology Unit

Anthropology Unit | University of Geneva

Katja Douze

Adjointe Scientifique III et Collaboratrice scientifique II

The focus of my research aims to unveil past behaviors and Human Evolution based on stone tool assemblages from the African Palaeolithic. I am a specialist of the Middle Stone Age period (ca. 300’000-20’000 years ago), which is known for the emergence of Homo sapiens, their first developments and their first diffusions within and out of Africa. More recently, I broadened my research to the end of the Early Stone Age (ca. 500’000 -250’000 years ago) and the beginnings of the Later Stone Age (ca. 30’000-15’000 years ago) in order to understand the mechanisms of behavioral changes over the long term.

My research is deeply rooted in the interaction of multidisciplinary approaches applied on the archaeological record. Past behavioral transitions are triggered by multifactorial processes, in which environmental (i.e., climate, availability of resources), socio-economic (i.e., innovation, group structure, demographic pressure), and biological changes (ie. genetics, adaptation) play important roles.


Current projects

I lead my research in different regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, including Western, Southern and Eastern Africa and I collaborate with institutions from across the continents as part of my international research network. I am also an active member of the international CoMSAfrica working group, which has the intention to construct a unified, systematic and replicable methodology for archaeologists working on stone tools in the African Middle Stone Age to enhance trans-regional comparisons. The SNF (grant # IZSEZ0_186545) funded the second international CoMSAfrica meeting that I organized at the University of Geneva in 2019.

Due to the uneven availability of data for these ancient periods, archaeological fieldwork is an essential part of my work and I am currently involved in several projects in different parts of Africa.

On West Africa

My main project is currently on West Africa, in the framework of the project “Human population and Paleoenvironments in Africa” led by Prof Eric Huysecom. I am coordinating the different research themes on the Palaeolithic occupations of the Falémé River Valley in Senegal, from the oldest hominin occupations to the replacement of hunter-gatherer populations by ceramic producers.

I am currently excavating and studying two new and well-preserved Acheulean sites in Senegal, on which an important dating program is ongoing. These sites will have a significant impact on the scientific community since Acheulean sites are largely unknown in this region as compared to the rest of Africa. I lead the study of the oldest dated Middle Stone Age site of West Africa in Senegal, dated to ca. 125’000 years ago. The combined approach on archaeology, phytoliths, geomorphology and geochronology applied to this site is at the forefront of research in our field. I am also supervising the study of more recent Middle Stone Age sites of the Falémé River Valley, on both stone tool remains and pigment use, which show unprecedented data for this region in Africa.

On the Horn of Africa

I work on Ethiopian sites since 2007 and occasionally on sites in Djibouti and Somaliland.

For my PhD, my work included the study of several Ethiopian sites dated between ca. >280’000 and 100’000 years ago (Gademotta and Kulkuletti), which are among the few reference sites for the beginnings of the Middle Stone Age in Africa. As an expert of Middle Stone Age technology, I contributed to the study of Laas Geel Shelter 7, in Somaliland, by showing the persistence of Middle Stone Age technical traditions into the Holocene.

Since 2008, I am involved in the “Later Stone Age sequence in Ethiopia” project coordinated by Prof François Bon from the University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès and Ato Assamerew Dessie from the Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage. In this framework, I am finalizing the study of different sites I excavated in the Ziway-Shala basin, in the main Ethiopian Rift Valley, dated to the end of the Middle Stone Age, between ca. 40’000 and 26’000 years ago, marking the transition to the Later Stone Age. I am collaborating in the “Environmental Conditions and Settlement dynamics in the Horn of Africa during the Holocene” project in which I study the Late Pleistocene lithic remains found by Dr. Isabelle Crèvecoeur form the University of Bordeaux 1, in the sepulchral site of Hara Idé 3, Djibouti. I am currently co-writing several regional syntheses on the patterns of changes characterizing the transition from the Middle to Later Stone Age in the Horn of Africa.

On South Africa

In the framework of my four years (March 2013- Dec. 2016) of Post-Doctoral research at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, I worked on key sites for the Southern African Middle Stone Age. I was hosted by Christopher S. Henshilwood, Professor at the Chair of "The Origins of Modern Human Behavior" and worked at Blombos Cave (ca. 105-90’000 years ago) and Klipfrift Shelter (ca. 62-59’000 years ago) as well as on the ca. 150’000 years old layers of Bushman Rock Shelter (PI: Dr Guillaume Porraz and Dr Aurore Val).

My current involvement continues on the site of Blombos Cave in collaboration with Prof Christopher S. Henshilwood. I am leading a new study on specific stone tools potentially used in relation with the transformation of red pigments.

Lecturing on african palaeolithic and stone tool studies

I am involved in the curriculum of both Bachelor and Master degrees in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Geneva, specifically on Palaeolithic studies, from the first tool productions (ca. 3.8 million years ago) to the later hunter-gatherer societies (ca. 10’000 years ago). I also teach the theory and practice to study stone assemblages, which could be applied to any geographical area and any time period. I train Swiss and African students on the field. I am also involved in the supervision of students at the bachelor, master and PhD level at the Anthropology Unit.


  • Douze, K. (2021). [Review of:] john J. shea: Prehistoric stone tools of eastern africa: A guide. African Archaeological Review, doi:10.1007/s10437-020-09417-3
  • Douze, K., Lespez, L., Rasse, M., Tribolo, C., Garnier, A., Lebrun, B., . . . Huysecom, E. (2021). A west african middle stone age site dated to the beginning of MIS 5: Archaeology, chronology, and paleoenvironment of the ravin blanc I (eastern senegal). Journal of Human Evolution, 154(102952) doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2021.102952
  • Mayor, A., Douze, K., Bocoum, H., Cervera, C., Champion, L., Glauser, D., . . . Huysecom, E. (2020). Archéologie dans la falémé (sénégal oriental) : Résultats de la 22ème année du programme «Peuplement humain et paléoenvironnement en afrique». SLSA annual report 2019 (pp. 197-224). Zurich: Tamedia.
  • Rasse, M., Lespez, L., Lebrun, B., Tribolo, C., Chevrier, B., Douze, K., ... & Camara, A. (2020). Morpho-sedimentary synthesis and archaeological occurrences in the Faleme Valley (80-5 ka; east Senegal): continuing occupations during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Quaternaire, 31(1), 71-88.
  • Douze K., Igreja M., Rots V., Cnuts D., Porraz G., 2020. Technology and Function of Middle Stone Age Points. Insights from a Combined Approach at Bushman Rock Shelter, South Africa. In: Groucutt H. (eds) Culture History and Convergent Evolution. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer, Cham.
  • Sanchez-Mazas A., Mayor A., Poloni E., Douze K., … & Hubert Van Blyenburgh, N., 2019, Afrique 300'000 ans de diversité humaine: catalogue de l'exposition, Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle et Université de Genève.
  • Will, M., Tryon, C., Shaw, M., Scerri, E. M., Ranhorn, K., Pargeter, J., McNeil, J., Mackay, A., Leplongeon, A., Groucutt, H. S., Douze, K., Brooks, A. S. (2019). Comparative analysis of Middle Stone Age artifacts in Africa (CoMSAfrica). Evolutionary Anthropology 8(2): 57-59.
  • Douze K., Delagnes A., Wurz S., Henshilwood C.S., 2018, Characterization of changes within the Howiesons Poort lithic sequence of Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa. PLoS ONE 13(11): e0206238.
  • Douze K., Delagnes A., Rots V., Gravina B., 2018 , A reply to Sahle and Braun’s reply to ‘The pattern of emergence of a Middle Stone Age tradition at Gademotta and Kulkuletti (Ethiopia) through convergent tool and point technologies’ [J; Hum. Evol. 91 (2016) 93-121]. Journal of Human Evolution 125:207-214.
  • Mayor A., Douze K., Lorenzo Martínez M., Truffa Giachet M., Aymeric J., Bocoum H., Champion L., Cervera C., Davidoux S., Garnier A., Hajdas I., Lebrun, B., Lespez L., Loukou S., Mokadem F., Ndiaye M., Pelmoine T., Rasse M., Serneels V., Tribolo C., Virmoux C., Walmsley A., Huysecom E., 2018. Dynamiques techniques et environnementales dans la vallée de la Falémé (Sénégal) : résultats de la 20ème campagne du programme « Peuplement humain et paléoenvironnement en Afrique ». Jahresbericht SLSA 2017, 157-256. (PDF)
  • Delagnes A., Schmidt P., Douze K., Wurz S., Bellot-Gurlet L., Conard N., Nickel K., van Niekerk K., Henshilwood C.S., 2016, Early evidence for the extensive heat treatment of silcrete in the Howiesons Poort at Klipdrift Shelter (layer PBD, 65 ka), South Africa. PloS one, 11(10): e0163874.
  • Douze K., Delagnes A., 2016, The pattern of emergence of a Middle Stone Age tradition at Gademotta and Kulluletti (Ethiopia) through convergent tool and point technologies. Journal of Human Evolution 91:93-121.
  • Douze K., Wurz S., Henshilwood C.S., 2015, Techno-cultural characterization of the MIS 5 (c. 105 – 90 ka) lithic industries at Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa. PloS one 10(11): 1-29.
  • Porraz G., Val A., Dayet L., de la Peña P., Douze K., Miller C. E., Murungi M., Tribolo C., Schmid V. C., Sievers C., 2015, Bushman Rock Shelter (Limpopo, South Africa): A Perspective From The Edge Of The Highveld. South African Archaeological Bulletin 70 (202): 166–179.
  • Henshilwood C.S., van Niekerk K.L., Wurz S., Delagnes A., Armitage S., Rifkin R., Douze K., Keene P., Haaland M., & Reynard J., 2014, Klipdrift Shelter, southern Cape, South Africa: Preliminary Report on the c. 65 – 60 000 year old Howiesons Poort levels, Journal of Archaeological Science 45: 284-303.
  • Douze K., 2014. A new chrono-cultural marker for the early Middle Stone Age in Ethiopia: the tranchet blow process on convergent tools from Gademotta and Kulkuletti sites, Quaternary International 343: 40-52.
  • Ménard C., Bon F., Dessie A., Bruxelles L., Douze K., Fauvelle-Aymar F.-X., Khalidi L., Lesur J., Mensan R., 2014. Late Stone Age variability in the Main Ethiopian Rift: new data from the Bulbula River, Ziway-Shala basin, Quaternary International 343: 53-68.
  • Gutherz X., Diaz A., Ménard C., Bon F., Douze K., Léa V., Lesur J., Sordoille D., 2014. The Hargeisan revisited: Lithic industries from shelter 7 of Laas Geel, Somaliland and the transition between the Middle and Late Stone Age in the Horn of Africa, Quaternary Intentional 343: 69-84.
  • Douze K., Asrat A., Pleurdeau D., 2014, Guest Editorial: Changing environments and movements through transitions: Paleoanthropological and Prehistorical Research in Ethiopia: A Tribute to Prof. Mohammed Umer, Quaternary International 343: 1-4.
  • Bon F., Dessie A., Bruxelles L., Daussy A., Douze K., Fauvelle-Aymar F.-X., Khalidi L., Lesur J., Ménard C., Marder O., Mensan R., Saint-Sever G., 2013, Archéologie préhistorique de la partie centrale du Main Ethiopian Rift (bassin lacustre de Ziway-Shala) : contribution à l’établissement de la séquence Late Stone Age d’Afrique orientale, Annales d'Ethiopie 28:261-297
  • Douze K., 2013, Le Early Middle Stone Age d'Éthiopie : Les changements techno-économiques à la période de l'émergence des premiers Homo sapiens. Presses Académiques Francophones, 524 p. ISBN: 978-3-8381-7707-6.
  • Douze K., 2011, L’Afrique de l’est dans la réflexion globale sur le Middle Stone Age, Annales d’Ethiopie 26 : 15-52.
Katja Douze
Katja Douze

Curriculum vitæ (PDF)

University of Geneva
Dpt. of Genetic & Evolution
Anthropology Unit
Quai Ernest-Ansermet 30
1205 Genève
Ph +41 22 379 69 67
Fax +41 22 379 31 94