The UMR Temps

The Research Unit, ‘Technology and Ethnology of Prehistoric Worlds’, UMR 8068 TEMPS, is an archaeology laboratory under the supervision of the Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (UP1), the University of Paris Nanterre (UPN), and in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP). The unit is currently located in the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Mondes (MSHM) in Nanterre.

The central subject of research developed in the unit is past societies, from the earliest Palaeolithic to historical periods. This research focuses on the study of techniques and on a palethnological approach in the broad sense of the term. It embraces the diversity of human groups from contrasted environments (terrestrial, maritime, mountainous, desertic) in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Southern America and the Near East. In other words, in concerns the study of ‘Prehistoric Worlds’, i.e. the Prehistoric past in all its geographic, chronological and cultural diversity. The unit is also strongly committed to teaching archaeology and training in research (Licence-Master-PhD), in both of its partner universities. Doctoral studies take place within the ED112 – Archaeology (UP1) and ED395 – Spaces, Times, Cultures (UPN) Doctoral Schools.


The UMR TEMPS laboratory, created on January 1st 2022, is the result of the merging of two archaeology research units: the Prehistory and Technology laboratory (UMR 7055) and the Prehistoric Ethnology component of the ArScAn laboratory (UMR 7041).

Prehistory and Technology was created on January 1st 1999, under the dual supervision of the CNRS and the University of Paris Nanterre. It originated in a previous research team, the Équipe de Recherche Archéologique n° 28 (ERA 28) of the Centre de Recherche Archéologique. ERA 28 was founded in 1980 by Jacques Tixier, and was initially based in Meudon and later divided between two sites: Meudon and Sofia-Antipolis. Since its creation the laboratory focused on Prehistoric technology: lithic, ceramic and bone, to which metallurgy was added in the 2010s. Driven by an in-depth examination of technical systems, the methodological approach highlighted the informational potential of techniques while forging new concepts and bringing to the fore new avenues of research. In this perspective, the laboratory has become famous for its experimental and ethnoarchaeological reference collections, one of the main scientific orientations of the laboratory since its creation.

Prehistoric Ethnology, under the dual supervision of the CNRS and the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, resulted from an evolution of the laboratory of the same name founded in 1967 by André Leroi-Gourhan. Initially based at the Collège de France and the Musée de l’Homme, and later in the south of Paris (rue de l’Amiral Mouchez in the mid-1980s), the laboratory became a component or the UMR 7041 ArScAn in 1997 at the Maison René Ginouvès in Nanterre. The palethnological approach to human societies represents the core identity of the team’s work, rather than the various archaeological periods and field sites under study. The main topics of research correspond for the most part to André Leroi-Gourhan’s favoured fields of research: technology, dwelling sites, art and funerary practices. In addition, the excavation of prehistoric occupations (Pincevent, Étiolles, Ormesson, Mallaha, Offing, etc.) were, and remain, instrumental as “laboratories” for the reconstitution of cultural traditions and behaviours of past societies. The team members have been leading research in different parts of the world (Africa, Europe, Oceania, Patagonia, Near East), and have developed close collaborations with many international research institutions. In parallel to these chronological and/or geographical approaches, epistemological and historiographical approaches have been developed and, more recently, the valorisation of research.

Many collaborations between these two complementary research teams developed over the course of generations and joint research programs. Consequently, the fusion of the two teams and the creation of a new research unit (UMR) provided an opportunity to build on our achievements and further develop our scientific expertise, all within a specialised pole of Prehistoric research with well-defined methodological approaches, a long history of field experience, mutually supportive teaching and an extensive international network.

2022-2026 scientific project

With its wide chronological and geographical range, the UMR TEMPS covers research topics spanning from the first human populations of Europe to the emergence of cities and writing systems. The scientific architecture of the unit is organised around broad chrono-cultural areas that are crosscut by transverse theoretical and methodological themes:

  • The main research framework of the UMR is composed of three main axes, which correspond to the main chronological and geographical domains investigated via numerous fieldwork programs across the five continents. Two of these correspond to the historical core of both teams united in this new UMR: Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers of Western Europe and societies in the process of Neolithization in the Levant, Africa and Europe. A third, innovative axis has been added, focusing on the maritime societies of Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and South America. In these specific contexts, oral traditions, linguistics and ethnohistory provide valuable sources of information in conjunction with archaeological data to trace and understand specific historical trajectories.
  • Five transverse themes centred on specific theoretical and methodological research questions bring together all the members of the UMR in collective transversal work, regardless of chronological or geographical boundaries. These have been designed on different scales, from individual to collective, from sites to territories, and from short to long term. Three of them address transcultural archaeological issues (technological and symbolic practices, exploitation of the environment and transformation of resources, mobility) based on the foundational methodological approaches of the two teams. The last two themes aim to develop a reflexive examination on the construction of our research practices, their evolution and the transmission of scientific knowledge
  • .A special pole, devoted to the promotion of research, endeavours to promote scientific knowledge to a wider public by linking archaeological research to current societal issues.
  • A reference collection platform renders our collections accessible for educational and scientific use: osteological reference collection, lithic raw materials reference collection, technological experimental collections, etc.