Many archaeologists associate the appearance of Homo sapiens and modern behavior with the Middle Stone Age of Africa. Over the years numerous models have been developed to explain how and why modern humans left Africa and dispersed throughout the world. The majority of these models are based on skeletal and genetic data as well as climatic data, while paradoxically very few incorporate archaeological data.
Forests have undergone gradual change since their formation after the end of the glacial. Until today, these forests have been influenced by humans for at least eight millennia being gradually transformed into today’s agriculture landscape. However, to the simple disappearance of woodland we have to account with various forest management regimes, which profoundly altered woodlands’ structure and species composition. Continue reading
The eastern Mediterranean Sea (EMS) responds sensitively to orbital and suborbital climate variability and related hydrological changes of the adjacent continents. Recurrent deposition of organic-rich sediment layers (sapropels) is caused by complex interactions between climatic and biogeochemical processes. Disentangling these influences is therefore important for Mediterranean palaeo-studies but also to understand climate links between the EMS and the African Monsoon system. Sapropels are diagnostic of anoxic deep-water phases, which have been attributed to deep-water stagnation, enhanced biological production, or both.
Botanical fossils have long been appreciated and used as proxy data for quantitative climate reconstructions because of the close relationship between plant occurrence and climate. In fact, plant fossils have been in use for quantitative climate reconstructions for about a century now. Over time, increasingly sophisticated methods have been developed for successfully transferring pollen and macro fossil data into climatic information.
The lecture seeks to trace some of the fundamental problems that the comparative social and cultural sciences have had to cope with since their emergence and gradual consolidation, in the course of the nineteenth century. To this end, the lecture adopts a historical line of analysis. This approach is meant to throw into relief the succession of constitutive problems, varying problem solutions, resultant follow-up problems, and the corresponding present-day debates. Continue reading
Hypotheses invoking fossil and archaeological data from the North African Middle Stone Age (MSA) include a gradual, multiregional origin of our species within Africa, an intricate history of within and out of Africa dispersals and the demographically induced origins of complex culture (d’Errico et al., 2009; Gunz et al., 2012; Scally and Durbin, 2012; Harvati and Hublin, 2013; Scerri et al., 2014a, 2014b). However, the North African MSA itself remains poorly understood, despite the implications of these hypotheses.
In contrast with the last few millennia that are characterized by a rather stable climate, the period between 21000 and 6000 years before present experienced a complete reorganization of all climate compartments, e.g. atmosphere, ice sheets and ocean, lakes and rivers. It is only recently that paleotemperature records covering the last deglaciation have become available at a global scale, including tropical sites that are very remote from the main center of variation linked to the melting of former ice-sheets on each side of the North-Atlantic basin. In addition, the dating of these records is now sufficiently accurate and precise to allow meaningful compilation and comparisons with model simulations performed in a transient mode.
The strength of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University has always been the development of state-of-the-art micro-analytical facilities and utilising their unique capabilities to advance earth science research. In recent years, we have established laboratories for laser ablation analysis, a sensitive high resolution micro probe dedicated to light stable isotopes and a single stage accelerator for radiocarbon dating.
Current ecological understanding has recognised that ecosystems are subject to ongoing processes of changing climate, disturbances, and many landscapes have been shaped by humans for millennia. Because the fossil data are able to record multiple generations of a species through time, they can be used as a surrogate for measurement of biotic responses to environmental and disturbance scenarios occurring at different temporal scales (10 to 103 years).
Juan I. Santisteban (Santi) is Lecturer at the Department of Stratigraphy of the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and Rosa Mediavilla is researcher at the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME). Both are sedimentologists and stratigraphers specialized in terrestrial deposits (fluvial and lacustrine) and interested in the integration of multiproxy data in the interpretation of terrestrial basins.