Neanderthal Virtual Bone Histology

deciphering hominin growth rates, activity and environmental adaption


ENIGMA is a cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research project with partnerships across multiple research institutes in Europe, including Italy, the United Kingdom, Croatia and Slovenia. Click below to found out more about the research topic


The ENIGMA project has partnerships with multiple researchers and specialists across multiple research institutes in Europe. Click below to find out who they are


ENIGMA is on a roll with numerous research, training and outreach activities. We update our page regularly. If you want to stay up to date with the current activities, click below to find out more.


We establish bone preservation state


We establish Neanderthal growth rate, ageing and maturation through bone histomorphometrics

Physical Activity

We examine Neanderthal bone remodeling parameters as a proxy for physical activity and environmental adaptation


We design strategies to valorise the 3D modelling of fossil bone microstructure for museum and outreach purposes in commercial settings

About Us

The ENIGMA project is a 2.5 year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) funded by the European Union as part of Horizon Europe. The project is hosted by Elettra Synchrotron Trieste and is led by Dr Simone Anna Maria Lemmers. It is a combination of research project with secondments at Kent University in the UK and Rome Sapienza in Italy and a non-academic placement at the Palaeotec company ZOIC. 

Within this project, ENIGMA combines advanced X-ray μCT and spectroscopy techniques (synchrotron- and lab-based), with principles of bone biology, to investigate detailed aspects of Neanderthal bone histomorphometric parameters of growth, development and adaptation, and compare this with conventional histology on modern human tissues.

This project is highly innovative and ambitious by applying for the first time multi-scale 3D X-ray imaging techniques (synchrotron- and lab-based phase-contrast CT) to a large sample set of Neanderthal remains on such a scale that statistically relevant conclusions can be drawn. The novelty and ambitious approach lie in employing bone histology to assess Neanderthal life history and adaptive strategies while having access to the largest sample of Neanderthal skeletal remains discovered thus far and the cutting-edge imaging and spectroscopy techniques at a 3rd generation synchrotron facility

Copyright Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste

Interdisciplinary aspect

ENIGMA adopts an interdisciplinary approach by merging bone biology and principles of life history evolution with advanced physics to acquire ab-based and synchrotron radiation computed microtomography data for characterising biological tissues, and conventional histology to validate findings with modern tissues. Furthermore, it incorporates synchrotron spectroscopy techniques to assess preservation status and knowledge on taphonomy and post-depositional processes, meaning the effect of long-term burial of hard tissues and the influence of degradation processes on the characterization possibilities of microstructures.


Bone biology and Human Life History Evolution




VALORISATION of research data in public outreach

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