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.
To western researchers, the structure of the grasslands ecosystem on the Northwestern Plains of North America is determined primarily by climate as modified locally by topography, drainage, and sediments. The seasonal availability of the different grasses determines the migratory behaviour of bison which, in turn, influences the movement of human populations. Bison ecology and behaviour also determine the patterns of human aggregation and dispersal. Long-term climatic fluctuations, as measured by effective moisture and temperature, influence the net primary productivity of the short grass plains and, by extension, the size of the bison population.
Lake sediments have been found to carry a natural record of many environmental and geological processes which have occurred on time scales of hundreds and thousand years. They are ideal recorders of high-resolution paleo-environmental changes, because of high sedimentary rates and weak physical disturbance.
Archaeological research has developed numerous approaches to trace past human behaviour and its ability to adapt to different or changing environmental and social conditions. Although differences and changes are generally perceived on very broad temporal and spatial scales in prehistory, methods applied to archaeological remains frequently operate on local, momentary scales.