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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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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Beyond out of Africa: the North African Middle Stone Age as a window into human origins

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EScerri

Dr. Eleanor Scerri British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford

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.

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