Multi-scale dimensions of relief in Geoarchaeology: A base for reconstructing Late Pleistocene environments in the Eastern Desert of Egypt

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Scale, spatial and temporal, is one of the most important issues to deal with, when reconstructing former environments and landscapes. Interdisciplinary research such as geoarchaeology is dealing with different disciplines, descriptions and interpretations and therefore often work with varying meanings of specific scales. As geomorphology plays a substantial part of Geoarchaeology (e.g. Fuchs & Zöller 2006, Working Group on Geoarchaeology (WGG) as subproject of the International Associations of Geomorphology (IAG)), concepts of scale from geomorphological perspective are highly recommended when discussing issues of scale in geoarchaeology. Rather than sedimentology, mineralogy or other geosciences dealing with geoarchaeological research questions, geomorphology has a broader understanding in matters of geographical space.

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Felix Henselowsky, PhD Candidate in Project A1.

Based on the classification between the dimension of a landform and their persistence  (after Dikau 1988, Ahnert 1996, Bubenzer 2009), we identify three different levels of observations concerning the identification of landforms: The Microrelief (object dimension between 10-3– 10-1km), Mesorelief (10-1 – 101km) and Macrorelief (101– 103km). Each scale has significant relief forms, e.g. starting from single wadi terraces, specific catchments, and drainage network up to full mountain ranges, all of them with informative values for a specific spatial and temporal scale. In the end, a clear identification of specific scales by integrating also archaeological evidences is given to answer key research questions about landscape evolution, connectivity of regions and corridors for human migration. The talk discusses problems and challenges of this approach for the Eastern Desert as an example of a today´s hyper arid environment.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 11/07/2016, 14:45 h – 15:30 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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Investigating sediment thicknesses with geophysics in the East-African Rift Valley

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When aiming at the reconstructing of the paleoclimate, applied geophysical techniques can assist with the identification and definition of possible paleoenvironmental archives such as sedimental deposits.

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In 2014 and 2015, a group of geophysicists from the University of Cologne investigated

Marc Seidel, PhD Candidate in A2

Marc Seidel, PhD Candidate in A2

three sedimentary basins within the East ­African Rift Valley using 2D transient electromagnetics (TEM) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). Lake Chew Bahir (“Salty lake” in Amharic, approx. 500 m a.s.l.) is a 30 km x 70 km saline mudflat that episodically fills with water during rainy season. According to airborne gravity and seismic reflection data, the thickness of its sedimentary deposits is assumed to be of several kilometers. Therefore, the basin potentially provides sedimentary archives that extend far beyond the Quaternary. The source area of Bisare River is located within the Hobitcha Caldera near Wolaita Sodo in southern Ethiopia. Former sedimentological results indicate a continuous sedimentation process and Tephra layers. The double crater system of the Dendi Lakes is located at Mount Dendi (3,270 m asl) 80 km west of Addis Ababa. First drillings revealed holocene deposits within the lake sediments. Our results indicate sediment thicknesses comprising quaternary sediments.

The recorded data was processed using the software AarhusInv from the Hydrogeophysics Group of the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Here, all data and models are inverted as one system, producing layered solutions with laterally smooth transitions. The models are regularized through lateral constraints that tie interface depths or thicknesses and resistivities of adjacent layers. These inversion schemes are well suited for data taken in sedimentary environments.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 27/06/2016, 14:00 h – 14:45 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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Sedimentological and computer-based investigations on fluvial dynamics within the Ethiopian Highlands

svenja_meyer_blog_ethopia Ethiopia constitutes several unique research sites for understanding human response to environmental change during the Late Quaternary. Diverse environments were created by interacting tectonic and climate regimes and discovery of numerous archaeological records give reason for geoarchaeological research on caves, rockshelters, and surrounding landscapes. Mochena Borago Rockshelter is under study for Late Pleistocene to Holocene occupation of anatomically modern humans and builds the chronological framework for integration of Later Stone Age (LSA) and Middle Stone Age (MSA) assemblages within the southwestern Ethiopian Highlands. 10 km east of Mochena Borago, areas affected by gully erosion at Bisare River site have exposed obsidian raw material outcrops and archaeological (LSA, MSA) assemblages.

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Svenja Meyer, PhD Candidate in X1.

Svenja Meyer, PhD Candidate in A1.

Sedimentological and GIS-based drainage system and geomorphological analyses are conducted to understand actual and ancient fluvial dynamics and archaeological preservation within the catchment of Bisare River in order to reconstruct ancient landscapes. Together with Mochena Borago and Bisare River in the southwestern Ethiopian Highlands, investigations at site Dendi Lake in the central Ethiopian Highlands on archaeological assemblages of all Stone Age periods are carried out. Therefore, the Dendi caldera complex is under study for GIS-based and sedimentological geomorphological mapping and hydrological analyses of the lake in- and outflow for paleoenvironmental reconstruction.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 27/06/2016, 14:45 h – 15:30 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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The lithic raw material economy of the Banat (SW-Romania) during the early Upper Palaeolithic

Estimating modern human dispersal is a tricky task, especially considering the many gaps in our current knowledge of past land use and provisioning strategies. Hence, before something meaningful can be said on such a broad scale, these mechanisms should be understood on the local and regional scales along the assumed migratory routes in Africa and beyond. One such key-area in the early modern human peopling of Europe is the Banat in Southwest Romania, which is home to the famous Oase Cave early modern human remains (± 40 ka cal BP).

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Ine Léonard, PhD Candidate in B1.

Ine Léonard, PhD Candidate in B1.

Sadly, these fossils are deprived of a reliable archaeological context. Fortunately, three open-air localities, of which two multi-layered, comprise rich lithic artefact records that have been dated to this crucial point in time.

Since organic preservation at these sites is poor, the focus of research is on the lithic artefacts. To establish understanding of the aforementioned mechanisms contained within these archaeological assemblages, the lithic records are evaluated regarding the represented technological strategies, raw materials and cortex relicts. For the raw material provenance study, geochemical –X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy– and petrographic analysis were used to avoid the impediment of country-/language-specific nomenclature. The integration of these data enabled the estimation of the lithic raw material economy of the Banat during the early Upper Palaeolithic that involved a peculiar technological organization of the landscape along with the manifold usage of local and regional raw materials, which corresponded to provisioning strategies ranging from ad hoc to specialized in nature.

Moreover, an interesting relation between the open-air localities and the cave sites could also be inferred, in which the hilly onset of the Carpathian Mountains is preferred for either high-frequentation or long-term occupation, whereas the lower and higher areas of the region were only occasionally visited leaving behind few and fragmented traces – a tendency that has also been observed elsewhere along the fringes of the Carpathian Basin.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 13/06/2016, 14:00 h – 14:45 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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Quaternary fluvial environments in NE Morocco inferred from geochronological and sedimentological investigations

Fluvial terrace formations of the Lower Moulouya River, showing three Holocene terraces as well as three distinct levels of Pleistocene fluvial deposits (view to the north).

Fluvial terrace formations of the Lower Moulouya River, showing three Holocene terraces as well as three distinct levels of Pleistocene fluvial deposits (view to the north).

Melanie Bartz is a PhD student in the C2 project “Early Holocene Contacts between Africa and Europe and their Palaeoenvironmental Context” of the CRC 806 “Our Way to Europe” of the University of Cologne, at the Institute of Geography supervised by Prof. H. Brückner.

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The prehistoric site of Ifri n’Ammar (NE Morocco), a rock shelter dated back to Middle and Late Palaeolithic times and characterised by periodic settling, reveals human activity since 170 ka. Fluvial systems provide direct information for the reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental changes; they also serve as indicators for the regional climate evolution.

Melanie Bartz, PhD Candidate in C2.

Melanie Bartz, PhD Candidate in C2.

In her PhD research, Melanie focuses on two fluvial systems of different scales to reconstruct palaeoenvironmental features in NE Morocco: (i) the ephemeral stream Wadi Selloum in the direct vicinity of Ifri n’Ammar, and (ii) on fluvial terraces of the larger Moulouya River drainage. The major tools to reach this goal are the application of geochronological techniques [luminescence (OSL, IRSL) and electron spin resonance (ESR) dating] as well as sedimentological analyses [e.g. micromorphology, scanning electron microscopy (SEM)].

(i) Wadi Selloum deposits have been dated between 102±8 ka and 1.3±0.2 ka, covering different morphodynamically stable and active phases, respectively. Periods of enhanced aggradation occurred ~100 ka, ~75 ka, ~55 ka, ~21 ka, and ~14 ka, as well as during the Holocene. Fine-grained overbank deposits were distinguished by high amounts of allochthonous minerals, such as quartz, K-feldspar and plagioclase, which indicate aeolian input into the limestone-dominated catchment. Landscape stability is evidenced by a Pleistocene palaeosol and two Holocene soils, characterised by the pronounced formation of soil structure, pedogenic calcite and frequent biogenic pedofeatures.

(ii) The Moulouya River drains an area characterised by crustal deformation during the Late Cenozoic. As a consequence of crustal shortening, contrasting fluvial environments occur on each side of a thrust zone: stacked terraces build up >37 m-thick aggradational deposits in the footwall, while a terrace staircase complex composed of at least three distinct levels form the hanging wall system. SEM analyses revealed a high contribution of fluvially transported mineral grains besides a minor contribution of aeolian input which gives information about the sediment history. ESR dating yielded ages of Early Pleistocene times.

This study provides first insights into the palaeoenvironment around the Ifri n’Ammar rock shelter during the Quaternary. By presenting the first numerical ages of fluvial records in this region, this project is a major contribution to unravelling the landscape evolution in the time of human occupation and even beyond.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 13/06/2016, 15:30 h – 16:15 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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The Wadi Sabra – a contextual approach to the Palaeolithic landscape

Parow-Souchon_Ansab_BlogThe close comparison of four sites in the Wadi Sabra area in Southern Jordan reveals surprisingly different adaptations in terms of lithic production and land use. A general increase in technological complexity with a growing focus on the production of composite tool forms go hand in hand with fluctuating mobility and differing resource exploitation in relation to changing climatic conditions. A short overview about the cultural development of the human groups inhabiting this favourable environmental niche shall be given to reflect the current state of the PhD research project.

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Hanna Parow-Souchon, PhD Candidate in B1.

Event Information:

Date, Time: 13/06/2016, 14:45 h – 15:30 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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Site Catchment Analysis and Ecological Niche Modelling as tools for understanding human behaviour in the Iberian Peninsula during the Upper Palaeolithic

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María de Andrés-Herrero is a PhD student in the C1 project working on Upper Paleolithic settlement history of the Iberian Peninsula. In her PhD she focuses on the site catchment analysis (SCA) of Solutrean and Magdalenian sites in Iberia, with specific attention to the lithic raw materials procurement and hunting strategies of human groups.

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Maria Andrés de Herrero, Project C1

SCA and Least Cost Paths (LCP) in combination with GIS are used to reconstruct general environmental conditions within catchments of archaeological sites in diverse geographical zones. Raw material procurement patterns of sites are compared to the extension and topographic characteristics of the catchment area. Distances, directions, raw material quality and quantity are evaluated. Quantitative data of faunal assemblages of sites and reconstructed faunal composition of their catchment areas are also evaluated by the means of Ecological Niche Modelling (ENM). The combination of both parameters allows new insight in human mobility and patterns of land use in the Iberian Peninsula during the Upper Palaeolithic. This talk will present the possible correlations between the accessibility of raw material outcrops and the density and types of raw materials in archaeological sites to understand the criteria used by hunter-gatherer groups to select the raw materials, as well as the methodology used for developing an ENM.

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A comparison of rock art site distribution in the North and South of Iberia during the Solutrean and Magdalenian

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Viviane Bolin is a PhD student in the C1 project working on Upper Paleolithic settlement history of the Iberian Peninsula.

The settlement history of the Iberian Peninsula during the Upper Palaeolithic was influenced by diverse geographic and climatic conditions. An increase of site density from the early to the late Upper Palaeolithic can be observed – with a higher concentration of sites in the northern regions and in coastal areas of the Peninsula, while the interior and the southern areas were sparsely populated. Only the Solutrean period displays a similar number of human settlement sites in the North and South, as well as an increase of sites in the interior of the Iberian Peninsula (Schmidt et al. 2012).

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Viviane Bolin, Project C1

Viviane Bolin, Project C1

According to literature, a comparable pattern is visible for the distribution of rock art sites. During most of the Upper Palaeolithic periods mainly the northern and coastal areas show a greater artistic expression than the South or the interior of the Iberian Peninsula – with one exception during the Solutrean when an explosion of rock art sites can also be observed in the southern and interior regions (Bicho et al. 2007).

Does a correlation between demographic and artistic expansion exist? To answer this question, a diachronic and spatial analysis of rock art and occupation sites during the Solutrean and Magdalenian in different regions of Iberia will be carried out. Mapping and interpolation of the data with Kernel Density Estimation could reveal changes in site distribution and frequency. This spatio-temporal multivariate approach furthermore provides estimates of relative population densities and reconstructs land-use patterns (Grove 2011).

The objective of this analysis is to determine demographic and artistic centres of human settlements and show the diffusion and mobility of the hunter-gatherer groups during the later periods of the Upper Palaeolithic. Thus, a cross check between different time periods (Solutrean and Magdalenian), different regions of Iberian Peninsula (North and South) and spatial (settlement) and cultural data (art) is possible.

Date, Time: 30/05/2016, 14:00 h – 14:45 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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The Epipalaeolithic occupation of the Eastern Sahara – Aspects of a Colonisation Process

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Jan Kuper is a PhD student in project A2 “Late Quaternary High-Resolution Climate Archives in the Sahara” of the CRC 806 “Our Way to Europe”, University of Cologne (Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology). In his PhD project, he focusses on the Epipalaeolithic occupation of the Eastern Sahara.

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This postglacial reoccupation is a convenient case study to examine a migration process of colonising hunter-gatherers at relatively high temporal resolution. A key advantage of this dispersal is the fact that this population movement cannot be disputed as the desert had been uninhabitable due to hyperaridity during the Late Pleistocene for tens of millennia. Besides generic questions of origin and time, the PhD project aims at investigating why and how people spread to new and unfamiliar tracts of land.

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Jan Kuper, Project A2

Tackling these questions might not only illuminate the prehistory of the Eastern Sahara, but also help to better understand general mechanisms of migration, in particular the colonisation of uninhabited landscapes.

Necessary archaeological and environmental information for this investigation derive from both, primary data (lithic analyses of crucial sites and palaeoclimate results obtained in project A2) and a review of relevant literature. This talk will present an initial attempt to integrate these diverse data into a tentative model for the early Holocene colonisation of the Eastern Sahara.

Date, Time: 30/05/2016, 14:00 h – 14:45 h

Location: Room S12, Seminargebäude (Building 106), Universitätsstraße 37 , Cologne

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