The Subdepartment of Physical Anthropology of the Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology is in the Biology Faculty situated on the Espinardo Campus of Murcia of the University of Murcia in SE Spain. Our Subdepartment telephon is 34-868-88364997, or you can fax us on 34-868-883963. The Professor-in-Charge is Dr. Michael J. Walker (e-mail who came in 1988 from the Anthropology Department at Sydney University, Australia, where had had taught for nearly fifteen years, and before that he had been a tenured Lecturer in Human Anatomy at Edinburgh University, U.K., and junior research fellow at The Queen's College of Oxford University where he gained his D.Phil. in 1973 for research into Murcian Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory, after taking degrees in Medicine, Animal Physiology, and Prehistoric Archaeology.

Michael Walker teaches an optional course unit on "Fundamentals of Biological Anthropology" in the first part of the 5-year Biology degree course. This degree is being replaced by a new 4-year degree. As the new degree is being brought in during 2010-2011, while he gives the old course unit, a new obligatory course unit on “Physical and Biological Anthropology” for second-year undergrads is being taught by his assistant Dr. Josefina ("Finuqui") Zapata-Crespo. She is a Murcia University biologist who gained her doctorate in 2002 for her research on late Roman cemetery populations from the sea-port of Mazarrón on the Murcian coast. Michael Walker gave a course unit on “Human Evolution” in the old degree course, and he will give one of the same name in the new degree course. Dr. Walker also offers postgraduate courses on "Human Ecology: Then and Now", "Problems of Modern Human Origins", and "Palaeoanthropology in Context", in a doctoral programme run jointly between our own Department and the Ecology Department. Murcia University biology graduate Antonio López Jiménez is preparing a thesis on the Pleistocene Rodents at our the Pleistocene hominid and Palaeolithic sites that are the object of our Major Research Project, and biology graduate Juan Ortega Rodrigáñez is preparing a thesis on the skeletal remains from Sima de las Palomas. Assisting with the Palaeolithic material from our sites in the research lab is Murcia University archaeology graduate Mariano Martínez López  and Murcia University assistant lecturer in Prehistory Dr. María Haber Uriarte (codirectors with Michael Walker of the Cueva Negra and Sima de las Palomas excavations) and Murcia University archaeology graduate Matías Campillo Boj.

Every year since 1990 Michael Walker has directed excavation campaigns at Cueva Negra ("Black Cave") of the River Quípar gorge, and every year since 1993 he has also directed excavation campaigns at Sima de las Palomas ("Dove Hole") on Cabezo Gordo hill; both sites are in Murcia province. He has also been Principal Investigator of several publically funded excavation research projects at the sites, as well as heading the Spanish teams in two Anglo-Spanish Joint Actions whose British teams were headed by Dr. Derek Roe, then Professor (now Emeritus Professor) of Palaeolithic Archaeology and Director of the "Donald Baden-Powell" Quaternary Research Centre at Oxford University (where Michael Walker was "Senior Visiting Research Fellow" in 1994-1995) who stays in touch with us.

Our present research endeavour includes important international collaborating scientists, among whom are Professor Erik Trinkaus the Anthropology Dept. at Washington University at St. Louis, Dr. Tom Higham who heads the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University's Research Lab for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA), Dr. Jean-Luc Schwenninger who runs RLAHA’s Optical Sediment Luminescence Unit, Dr. Simon Blockley who undertakes microtephrology research at RLAHA, Dr. Alistair Pike who conducts uranium-series research at Bristol University’s Archaeology Department, Bristol University’s Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology Dr. Joao Zilhao, Dr. Gary Scott who is head of palaeomagnetic research at Berkeley’s Geochronology Centre, Professor Milton Núñez who is Profesor of Archaeology and Chair of the Archaeology Department at Oulu University in Finland, and last but by no means least Dr. Svante Päabo who is Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig and other members of its staff including Adrian Briggs, Johannes Krause, Kornelius Kupczik and Tanya Smith.  

A Spanish government programme to further university research enabled Michael Walker to take up a permanent professorial position at Murcia University in 1988, and shortly afterwards the Subdepartment of Physical Anthropology was established - in what was then known as the Department of Animal Biology and Ecology before the creation in 2002 of the Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology - in order to develop teaching and research on palaeoanthropology in the Spanish region of Murcia which is rich in archaeological sites and their skeletal remains.

Michael Walker first joined an official, multidisciplinary research group of Murcia University, which he now heads ("E0A03, Technology, Anthropology and Ecology in the Quaternary"). Other members include Murcia University tenured Senior Lecturer Dr. Juan-Luis Polo Camacho (Department of Analytical Chemistry, Chemistry Faculty). The research group was joined by Dr. Josefina Zapata Crespo and latterly by Dr. María Haber Uriarte, and it has several official collaborators (the term given to researchers who are not Murcia University full-time staff members), such as geologist Dr. Tomás Rodríguez-Estrella, a tenured Senior Lecturer at Cartagena Polytechnic University's School of Mining Engineering, Geology and Cartography and who previously was a Lecturer at Murcia University). He has undertaken important hydrogeological and geological research concerning karstic processes at the two cave sites with Neanderthal of our major research project (Sima de las Palomas and Cueva Negra). Other collaborators of the research group are archaeologists Miguel San-Nicolás of the Heritage Service of the Murcian regional government’s Directorate-General of Culture, and Mariano López Martínez who directs excavations for a contract-archaeology company and more recently the archaeologist Matías Campillo Boj, as well as the biologists Antonio López Jímenez, Jon Rodrigáñez Ortega and Azucena Avilés Fernández, and also, until his sad death in Autumn 2007, the palaeontologist Dr. Josep Gibert-Clols of the "Dr. M. Crusafont" Palaeontological Institute of the Barcelona Diputación at Sabadell who codirected excavations with Michael Walker at Sima del as Palomas. Despite a quirk of Murcia University regulations that precludes a staff-member from belonging to more than one research group, our group has very close links with researchers in some other of its research groups, e.g. palaeopalynologist Dr. José Carrión-García and geologist Dr. Miguel Ángel Mancheño-Jiménez .

A basic idea behind such a multidisciplinary research group as ours is to provide a space for the meeting of minds - where researchers with overlapping interests but different academic backgrounds can develop their interests while retaining a degree of autonomy, without necessarily demanding that each and every member give exclusive dedication to a single research topic or to a single period of Quaternary time - indeed, the very opposite aim is sought. In line with such an open approach, M. J. Walker's own academic trajectory has involved research aspects in palaeoanthropology, human palaeoecology, palaeoeconomy and prehistory in both the Pleistocene and Holocene, the latter being the period that attracts the majority of prehistorians and palaeoanthropologists in SE Spain.

Our main research endeavour involves an annual summer field season of archaeological excavation at Cueva Negra and Sima de las Palomas, when the collaboration of our younger researchers is fundamental - Mariano López Martínez, Antonio López Jiménez, Juan Ortega Rodrigáñez, Azucena Avilés Fernández, Matías Campillo Boj – who help in running our "Field School for Quaternary Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory of Murcia" for Spanish and non-Spanish student and graduate volunteer helpers from disciplines as different as archaeology and anthropology or geology and biology (recently we have had helpers from Russia, Australia, Canada, U.S.A., U.K. and elsewhere).

Making public our findings is just as important. To that end, we won an award of 300,000 euros, half of which came from the European Commission at Brussels, for a Travelling Exhibition within the European Union, about "Archaic Europeans and Neanderthals: The Homo Project - Hominids, Technology and Environment in the Middle and early Upper Pleistocene", on the initiative of Michael Walker and Maribel Parra (Director of Murcia's Science and Water Resources Museum). The exhibition was first unveiled to the public in October 2001 at the Vienna Natural History Museum and then came back to Murcia city's Science and Water Resources Museum, after which it was on display at Barcelona's "Dr. M. Crusafont" Palaeontological Museum at Sabadell, and during the final quarter of 2002 at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. In February 2003 it opened again to the public at Torre Pacheco in Murcia, and then toured the Spanish cities of Logroño and San Sebastian. In 2004 it returned to Murcia and was on display in the spacious foyer of the Murcia University Library. It is currently at Torre Pacheco in Murcia on permanent loan.


In 2007 the Murcian Region’s government released ten million euros for building a museum for Paleontology and Human Evolution near to Sima de las Palomas at the foot of Cabezo Gordo, in Torre Pacheco municipality. The President of the Murcia Regional Government laid the foundation stone on September 15th 2010.

Here are a few recent scientific publications about our sites. The asterisk means a pdf is on our web-site or soon will be: htttp://

2012 forthcoming M.J.Walker, M.López-Martínez, J.S.Carrión-García, T.Rodríguez-Estrella, M.San-Nicolás-del-Toro, J-L. Schwenninger, A.López-Jiménez, J.Ortega-Rodrigáñez, M.Haber-Uriarte, J-L.Polo-Camacho, J.García-Torres, M.Campillo-Boj, A.Avilés-Fernández: “Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Murcia, Spain): A late Early Pleistocene hominin site with an “Acheulo-Levalloiso-Mousteroid” Palaeolithic assemblage.” Quaternary International. (ISSN 1040-6182) (In a forthcoming thematic issue in 2012 of QI with guest editors M.J.Walker and T.F.G.Higham devoted to the Symposium “Re-thinking Palaaeolithic Chronologies I Europe and the Circum-Mediterranean Region” held on 2nd Sept. 2010 during the 15th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists at The Hague, The Netherlands, 1-5 September, 2010).

*2011 in press M.J.Walker, M.V.López-Martínez, J.Ortega-Rodrigáñez, M.Haber-Uriarte, A.López-Jiménez, A.Avilés-Fernández, J.L.Polo-Camacho, M.Campillo-Boj, J.García-Torres, J.S.Carrión-García, M.San Nicolás-del Toro, T.Rodríguez-Estrella: “The excavation of buried articulated Neanderthal skeletons at Sima de las Palomas (Murcia, SE Spain).” Quaternary International (ISSN 1040-6182) (In a forthcoming thematic issue in 2011 of QI devoted to the Symposium “Up-dating the Reasoning on Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Biological,and Cultural Shift in Eurasia” held on 18th Sept. 2009 during the 15th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists at Riva del Garda, Trento, Italy, 15-20 September, 2009)

2010 in press M. J. Walker, J. Zapata, A. V. Lombardi, E. Trinkaus, “New evidence of dental pathology in 40,000 year old Neandertals.” Journal of Dental Research (ISSN 0022-0345)

*2010 (published on-line in early digital edition in December 2010; print version will appear in 2011) M.J. Walker, J.Ortega Rodrigáñez, M.V.López Martínez, K.Parmová, E.Trinkaus: “Neandertal postcranial remains from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Murcia, southeastern Spain.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology (ISSN 0002-9483).

*2010 M.J.Walker, A.V.Lombardi, J.Zapata, E.Trinkaus: “Neandertal mandibles from the Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo, Murcia, southeastern Spain.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 142: 261-272 (ISSN 0002-9483)

*2010 published on-line  M.J.Walker, M.López Martínez, M.Haber Uriarte, A.López Jiménez, J.Ortega Rodrigáñez, A.Avilés Fernández, M.Campillo Boj: “La Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo en Torre Pacheco y la Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar en Caravaca de la Cruz: Dos ventanas sobre la vida y la muerte del Hombre Fósil en Murcia.” Acta Científica y Tecnológica  (Madrid, Asociación Española de Científicos) The print version will be published in two parts, in either volumes 17 and 18, or 18 and 19 of the journal (ISSN 1575-7951). The colour illustrations are fine, so please open it even though the text is in Spanish:, or you can go to and then click on Artículos de Interés Científico.

*2009 Walker, M.J.:  “Chapter 7. Long–term memory and Middle Pleistocene `Mysterians´,” pp. 75-84 in Beaune, F.L.Coolidge,  T.Wynn (eds), Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution. Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 0521746116)

2004 Walker, M.J., Gibert, J., Eastham, A., Rodríguez-Estrella, T., Carrión, J.S., Yll, E.I., Legaz, A.J., López, A., López, M., Romero, G. "Neanderthals and their landscapes: Middle palaeolithic land use in the Segura drainage basin and adjacent areas of southeastern Spain". In Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Palaeolithic and Middle StoneAge Vol. 2, ed. by N.J. Conard. Chap. 14, pp. 461-511. Tübingen: Kerns Verlag, “Tübingen Publications in Prehistory 2”.

2004  Walker, M.J, Gibert, J. Rodríguez, T., López, M., Legaz, A. and López, A.: “Two Neanderthal Man sites in Murcia (SE Spain): Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo and Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Quípar”. In M. Toussaint, C. Draily y J-M. Cords, eds., Premiers hommes et paléolithique inférieur. Human origins and the lower palaeolithic. Sessions générales et posters. General sessions and posters. Actes du XIVe Congrès UISPP (Union International des Sciences Préhistoriques et Protohistoriques), Université de Liège, Belgique, 2-8 septembre 2001. Acts of the XIVth UISPP Congress, University of Liège, Belgium, 2-8 September 2001, pp. 167-189. Oxford, Archaeopress, “BAR International series 1272”.

2003 Carrión, J.S., Yll, E.I., Walker, M.J., Legaz, A.J., Chain, C., López, A. "Glacial refugia of temperate, Mediterranean and Ibero-North African flora in south-eastern Spain: new evidence from cave pollen at two Neanderthal man sites".Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 119-129.

2001 Walker, M. J. "Excavations at Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar and Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo: two sites in Murcia (south-east Spain) with Neanderthal skeletal remains, Mousterian palaeolithic assemblages and late Middle to early Upper Pleistocene fauna". In A Very Remote Period Indeed. Papers on the Palaeolithic Presented to Derek Roe, ed. by S. Milliken and J. Cook, pp. 153-159. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

1999 Walker, M.J., Gibert, J., Sánchez, F., Lombardi, A.V., Serrano, I., Gómez, A., Eastham, A., Ribot, F., Arribas, A., Cuenca, A., Gibert, L., Albaladejo, S., Andreu, J.A. "Excavations at new sites of early man in Murcia: Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo and Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar de la Encarnación". Human Evolution 14: 99-123.

1998 Walker, M.J., Gibert, J., Sánchez, F., Lombardi, A.V., Serrano, I., Eastham, A., Ribot, F., Arribas. A., Sánchez-Cabezas, J-A., García-Orellana, J., Gibert, L., Albaladejo, S., Andreu, J.A. "Two SE Spanish middle palaeolithic sites with Neanderthal remains: Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo and Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Murcia province)". Internet Archaeology 5 (autumn/winter 1998) <>.  You might be able to get access to it for free provided you are an accredited reader at a major library that subscribes to it (most major universities and public libraries in the U.K. subscribe).