CRC-Lecture Dec 2nd by Elham Ghasidian: Southern Caspian Corridor: a biogeographical hominin expansion route

by Elham Ghasidian,
Neanderthal Museum

Recent research on the phylogeny of Neanderthals recognises a division within Neanderthal groups around 150ka suggesting a population turnover is likely to have occurred in the Caucasus. For instance, Neanderthal remains dated ca. 100ka associated with fully fledged Levallois lithic industry were confirmed in the Azokh 1 Cave, at the Lesser Caucasus. This exciting finding, however, raises the questions of whether the Neanderthals impacted on the Southern Caspian Corridor (SCC), which is a geo-ecological continuum of the Caucasus? What role did this SSC play in the world of hominin expansion?

In his expedition to Iran during 1960s, McBurney considered SCC provided the closest and fastest route connecting Europe and Caucasus to the Central Asia and Siberia and any hominin movement from the west might be expected to pass this region en route to the east. In his excavation at Ke’Aram Cave located in SCC he documented Middle Palaeolithic artefacts reminiscent of the Zagros Mousterian which are seen to be closely related to the lithics from Teshik-Tash Cave in Central Asia. McBurney’s conclusion provides grounding for this research project to hypothesize that the SCC, with the dual role of biogeographical corridor of expansion and habitat, witnessed a series of human evolutionary events that occurred at least in MIS 5 and 4 and it aims to go further to suggest the SCC as a potential place of admixture of Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans. The exceptional physiogeographic condition of the SCC provided a milder climatic condition making this region highly attractive as a glacial refugium during the cold episodes of MIS 5 and 4 for different hominins, thereby this research also hypothesizes that contemporaneous MP assemblages from western- and eastern-most areas of the corridor represent a high degree of cultural affinity.

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:02/12/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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CRC-Lecture January 13th by Katharina Neumann & Barbara Eichhorn: Phytoliths as proxy for African palaeoenvironment and human evolution – chances and limits

by Katharina Neumann & Barbara Eichhorn,
University Frankfurt

Phytoliths are solid silica bodies formed in various plant tissues and organs, e.g. in leaves, stems, fruits and seeds. Due to their very durable nature, they are often present in ancient sediments and soils where other plant remains have not been preserved. Therefore they can play an important role for reconstructions of palaeoenvironments and human plant use in the past. Grasses (Poaceae) produce a myriad of different phytolith morphotypes and are therefore well-suited for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, especially in Africa where savannas and grasslands constitute the majority of vegetation types. Woody plants and herbs, on the other hand, often have only very few or unspecific phytoliths and are therefore mostly under-represented in phytolith assemblages. We will discuss potential and limitations of phytolith research in West, Central and East Africa, based on recent case studies.

 

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:13/01/2020, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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Christine Lane: Volcanic Chronologies and Tephra Connections in East Africa

by Christine S Lane,
from Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Reconstructing past spatial and temporal variability of palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironmental change across a continent as climatically diverse as Africa, relies upon comparison of data from widespread and diverse archives. However, generating accurate, precise and independent chronologies for the comparison of detailed and varied palaeo-proxy records is challenging. In Eastern Africa, explosive eruptions of rift volcanoes generate blankets of ash that can be preserved in sedimentary basins over hundreds to thousands of kilometres from their source. Distal tephra (including cryptotephra-) research offers opportunities for direct dating of sediment sequences (e.g. by 40Ar/39Ar methods) and for making precise stratigraphic correlations between archives at single moments in time. Currently however, the volcanic eruption record for the East African Rift is patchy and for tephrochronology to reach its full potential, detailed local to regional eruption stratigraphies are needed. 

Investigations into the presence of visible and non-visible (crypto-) tephra layers within lacustrine palaeoenvironmental records of the mid to late Pleistocene from across eastern Africa are revealing the potential for distal tephra research to (i) increase our knowledge of the history of Late Quaternary explosive volcanism in eastern Africa; (ii) provide age constraints for individual core chronologies, in particular beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating; and (iii) correlate palaeoclimate and archaeological archives within a regional tephrostratigraphic framework. 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:01/07/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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William Gosling: Drivers of Ecosystem Dynamics in West Africa over the last c. 500.000 Years

Dear participants,
Please note: The meeting location has been changed to HS VI / main building / Albertus-Magnus-Platz and will beginn 5 p.m.”

by Prof. Dr. William Gosling
Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics, University of Amsterdam

Over the last half million years global climate systems have undergone significant reorganisation, largely due to changes in the Earths orbital configuration, which has resulted in significant modification of ecosystems. The reconfiguration of climate systems has resulted in changes in temperature and precipitation patterns across the globe. At high and mid-latitudes the impact of these climate changes on ecosystems is predominantly driven by the expansion and contraction of ice-sheets. However, at low latitudes the impact of global climate cycles on ecosystems is less well understood, in part due to a paucity of suitable study sites. Lake Bosumtwi (Ghana, 6oN) was formed around one million years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth. The sedimentary record that has since accumulated within Lake Bosumtwi provides a rare opportunity to explore past ecosystem dynamics in a lowland tropical setting. Here I present evidence obtained from the Lake Bosumtwi sediments, and link it with other datasets, to explore the role of fire, herbivores, CO2, temperature, precipitation, and seasonality in driving ecosystem dynamics (vegetation composition and diversity) around the crater over the last c. 500,000 years.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:14/01/2019, 17:00 h – 18:00 h

Location: HS VI Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne
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Alexander Gerner: Strata- Geophilosophische Notizen zu Sergio Costa

by Dr. Alexander Gerner
Center for Philosphy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
(presentation will be held in English)

Within his talk the German philosopher and theater director Alexander Gerner takes up abstract geology as a complementary perspective: strata as a concept derived from geology and made operational in the human realms’ arts and knowledge development. He will present an atlas of friendship between philosophy, science, art and human technology by means of an observational program presented in the painting series “Strata” and other working images of the artist Sérgio Costa. The presentation will present experimental maps, illustrating an enhanced thinking of the concept „Strata: How are we able to experience long-time change?

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:03/12/2018, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Daniela Holst: Subsistence & resource management in the early Holocene

The profound environmental changes at the beginning of the early Holocene worldwide are accompanied by innovations in human land-use, leading to a sedentary lifestyle and domestication in some parts of the world. The talk focuses on subsistence and land-use strategies in the contemporaneous European Mesolithic. Well-preserved archives allow for high-resolution reconstructions and quantitative assessments of the processing and stockpiling of high return harvests of energy rich foods. The hazelnut-roasting camps of Duvensee in Northern Germany form a prime example of Mesolithic subsistence strategies. Their potential implications on land-use and mobility are discussed in context with new evidences. A future research project on ground stone tools will contribute to the complement of our patchy image of the Mesolithic.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:19/11/2018, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Martin Theuerkauf: From guesswork to maps – recent progress in quantitative vegetation reconstruction

The talk will give an overview of the main current approaches and illustrate their strength and weaknesses in a number of examples. It will then introduce the new ROPES approach. This method does not require pollen productivity as a parameter, and so may overcome major limitations of the present methods. It is suited to extend quantitative vegetation reconstruction into new regions and pre-Holocene periods, and allows analysis of long pollen records that cover several glacial/interglacial cycles. 

By Dr. Martin Theuerkauf from the

Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, University of Greifswald

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Vegetation reconstruction from pollen data, although dealing with counts and percentage values, has long been a mere semi-quantitative field. Pollen percentages do not directly represent past vegetation composition, because plants species produce pollen in very different amounts and with different dispersal patterns. This bias in pollen data is well known since the inception of the field 100 years ago, but correction for a long time relied on ad-hoc informed guesswork.

Today, a suite of methods is available that enable true quantitative interpretation of pollen data. The methods cover different spatial scales: REVEALS for example aims to translate pollen deposition from large lakes into regional vegetation composition. LOVE and Marco Polo reconstruct stand-scale vegetation composition using pollen data from very small sites. The extended downscaling approach and the multiple scenario approach explore vegetation patterns in landscapes using multiple pollen records.

So far these methods are still rarely applied, however, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the underlying parameters pollen productivity and pollen dispersal require elaborate calibration and are hence so far available for some regions only.

Event Information:

Date, Time:05/11/2018, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Paleolithic research in Armenia – eclectic point of view and future directions

Paleolithic research in Armenia by Dr. Ariel Malinsky-Buller, Senior Researcher at the Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution.

Armenia is situated in the Southern Caucasus at the geographical intersection of Africa and Eurasia. The geography of the Armenia posed major challenges and opportunities for Palaeolithic hunter gatherer populations, with its mosaic of distinct ecological niches, large temperature gradients, and strong seasonal fluctuations across elevation gradients. This, in turn, make Armenia an ideal natural laboratory for testing models of climatic impact on hominin settlement patterns and population dynamics. The lecture will present two on-going projects in two eco-geographic regions within Armenia. The first is Kalavan 2, a Middle Palaeolithic open-air site located at 1630 masl on the northern slopes of the Areguni Mountains north of Lake Sevan. The second area is close to Ararat village at around 700 masl. Preliminary results and future directions of research will be presented in the lecture. 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:02/07/2018, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

Location: Kleiner Hörsaal der Geologie (310a), Zülpicher Straße 49, Cologne

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Heinrich Events: An Unintentional Discovery And Its Possible Consequences for the future

In the mid 80ties an environmental impact assessment in relation to deep-sea dumping of medium-to-high level radioactive waste was carried out in the eastern margins of the Mid Atlantic Ridge next to the Bay of Biscaye. In one of the box corers recovered for radionuclide analysis a volcanic rock was found that triggered interest because of an unexpected geochemical feature on its surface. Subsequent investigations on the bordering sediment layer revealed hints on a massive ice rafting event possibly released from rapidly collapsing circum-Atlantic ice shields. The search for more of these events in numerous sediment cores exhibited a total of 11 layers since the end of the Saalian/Illinoian glaciation (OIS 6/5 to 2/1). The six events identified in the period OIS 4 to 2 indicated oceanographic conditions in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean that were different to those that prevailed during most time of this glacial period. Later, several authors proposed mechanisms that could have triggered the collapses, e.g. the Binge-Purge model (MacAyeal, 1993) or, access of relatively warm water to the grounding lines in conjunction with isostatic movements (Bassis, 2017).

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One of the consequences of rapid ice shield collapses is sea level rise. Paleo data report rates of up to several meters per century over a period of several centuries. The process described by Bassis et al. resembles to what nowadays can be observed along the ice margins of Greenland and the Antarctic where (man-made) warmed ocean water attacks the grounding lines. If this initiates something like a Heinrich event this is of widespread consequence for coasts, from displacement of populations to marine pollution.

Research on past Heinrich events is important for understanding the future developments of the existing ice shields and climate change.

Event Information:

Date, Time:18/06/2018, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

Location: Kleiner Hörsaal der Geologie (310a), Zülpicher Straße 49, Cologne

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Interglacial Diversity in the Mediterranean Basin, Insights from Central Italy Continental Carbonates

The Apuan Alps (central Italy).

Past interglacial periods can be seen as a series of natural experiments characterized by different boundary conditions (e.g. seasonal and latitudinal distribution of insolation, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, extent of continental ice sheets), with different consequent effects on the character of climate change. Past interglacial are keys to understand past but also future-climate, because they represent potential analogues of the present warm period (Holocene) and offer the unique possibility to investigate the background of climate variability in which human-induced modifications operate, and to clarify their role in the natural sequence of events.

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Continental carbonates (speleothem and lacustrine sediment) from the Mediterranean basin represent invaluable archives of past climate. Particularly, oxygen stable isotope composition of these deposits responds sensitively to variations in regional hydrology. This information can be complemented by the study of others properties (e.g. elemental and mineralogical composition), to obtain more detailed information on local environmental changes. In this talk, several case studies from central Italy lakes and caves are presented.  They cover the Last Interglacial (ca. 130-90 ka), and the interglacial corresponding to the marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 19 (ca. 790-760 ka), considered the best orbital analog of the Holocene over the last million of years. All the presented records have independent, radiometric chronologies thanks to uranium-thorium dating of speleothem and to Argon/argon dating of volcanic ash layers interbedded to the lacustrine sediment. Climate evolution, hydrological response and millennial-scale variability are evaluated, and the potential link with the extra-regional and global climate is discussed.

Event Information:

Date, Time:07/05/2018, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

Location: Kleiner Hörsaal der Geologie (310a), Zülpicher Straße 49, Cologne

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