Winter term 2019/2020
Summer term 2019
Winter term 2019/2020
Summer term 2019
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.Read more
by Saman Heydari-Guran,
from Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge
In the past four decades, a topic of major interest amongst archaeologists and paleoanthropologists has been the Eurasian Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition. Recently, great progress was made in several domains, particularly Palaeogenetics, which have revealed the complex ancestry of early Eurasians. This progress – including identifying a ghost lineage of Eurasians in the Middle East – is beginning to provide important new biogeographical hypotheses that focus on the Middle East. One key region for this is the Iranian Plateau, which has not been subject to intensive research. The Kermanshah Region (on the West of the Plateau), the interest area for this research, has been recognized as one of the gates into the Iranian Plateau since it is located between the Mesopotamian lowland on the west and the high plateau where many intermountain valleys have provided easy communication routes to the eastern regions. Despite this important strategically position in the West Central Zagros, our knowledge of Palaeolithic occupation there and even in Iran is suffering from the lack of a clear, up-to-date and scientific work on stratigraphy, settlement systems and accurate absolute dating. To overcome some of these problems, after the lack of serious Paleolithic research for many years, the author has recently conducted a Palaeolithic research project including surveys and excavations in the Kermanshah Region.Read more
by Daniel Richter,
from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
Anthropological and genetic data provide multiple lines of evidence for Africa as the place of origin of our species (Homo sapiens). The oldest occurrence is commonly assumed to represent the place of origin and thus East Africa is often considered as the cradle of modern human kind. New anthropological data reveals early Homo sapiens in Northwest Africa in the site of Jebel Irhoud (Morocco). Its chronometric dating with a specific thermoluminescence method is in agreement with direct ESR dating and provides ages older than the East African locations. The earliest numerical dates for the Levallois technique in Africa are now in broad agreement with the development of Homo sapiens. While the origin of our species is older than previously assumed, the region where Homo sapiens developed within Africa is far from clear. A multiregional origin of our species (and Levallois?) is thus quite conceivable.Read more
by Philipp Gunz,
a biological anthropologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His research group studies the evolution of human development with a focus on the evolution of the face and brain.
His research group studies the evolution of human development with a focus on the evolution of the face and brain
The African origin of our own species is well documented by fossils and genetic data of people living today. However, very little is known about the early phase of Homo sapiens evolution, as the fossil and archeological sites are scarce and sometimes poorly dated. Comparative analyses based on high-resolution computed tomographic scans show that these earliest Homo sapiens had distinctly modern-looking faces, but imprints of their braincases indicate an archaic brain shape. These differences might reflect altered neural architecture, however, in the absence of fossil brain tissue the underlying neuroanatomical changes as well as their genetic bases remain elusive. We address this challenging question through a novel interdisciplinary approach that brings together the analysis of fossil skulls, ancient genomes, brain imaging and gene expression.Read more
by Kathy MacDonald,
Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden
Early evidence for hominin activity in north-west Europe occurs in palaeoenvironmental contexts where winter temperatures would have dropped to around freezing. This raises questions about the ecological niche of the early occupants, particularly given the lack of evidence for key solutions to the challenges of seasonal environments. For example, the earliest convincing evidence for anthropogenic use of fire from this region dates to 0.4-0.3 mya. The lack of earlier evidence may reflect limitations to the preservation of traces of fire use or to research into fire. However it may be worth considering the possibility that the earliest occupants of Europe had other ways of dealing with challenges posed by seasonal environments. In this talk I will discuss strategies for keeping warm and fed without fire, drawing on recent comparative reviews of the ethnographic and mammalian record and human biology (MacDonald 2018, Speth 2017). A number of plausible scenarios can be identified, providing support for the view that the relatively late date for regular use of fire may be a real pattern; however testing these scenarios is challenging. Finally, how do these ideas relate to the larger-scale and longer-term pattern of hominin range expansion and adaptation?
MacDonald, K. (2018). Fire-Free Hominin Strategies for Coping with Cool Winter Temperatures in North-Western Europe from Before 800,000 to Circa 400,000 Years Ago. PaleoAnthropology Journal, 2018, 7–26. https://doi.org/doi:10.4207/PA.2018.ART109
Speth, J. D. (2017). Putrid meat and fish in the Eurasian Middle and Upper Paleolithic: Are we missing a key part of Neanderthal and modern human diet? PaleoAnthropology Journal, 2017, 44–72. Retrieved from http://www.paleoanthro.org/journal/volumes/2017/
Date, Time:06/05/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h
by Kaarel Sikk,
from Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education at the University of Luxembourg
Dear participants, please note that the presentation will start at 2 pm!
Settlement patterns are one of the central products of the Stone Age archaeological research. Because of long time spans and scarce information, scientific explanations of the patterns are often limited to defining the areas of the phenomena of interest. A lot of deductions about past communities tend to be speculative and often presented as hypotheses in scientific literature.
We can describe the formation process of settlement patterns as a result of two processes involving human choice: mobility and settlement location choice. Both of those choices vary significantly among different time periods and locations.
In current talk I focus on quantitative approaches exploring the causality of those two choice processes. The mobility has been studied by direct ethnographic and economic observations in contemporary societies ranging from hunter-gatherer to urbanized modes of living. Different patterns of mobility have usually been related to economic requirements of people.
Settlement choice is also studied in contemporary societies but archaeological record displays much more varied patterns because of differing technological, social and demographic situation of people throughout the times. Archaeological sources offer good base material for modelling settlement choice throughout times.
In the talk I give overview of different settlement choice models starting from conceptual ones to regression models used to predict site locations. I also introduce ongoing study using Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) as a simulation technique for exploring formation of settlement patterns.Read more
The Centre for Quaternary Science and Geoarchaeology (QSGA) is pleased to announce its 13th annual colloquium in honour of Martin Schwarzbach.
We would like to extend to you a very cordial invitation to this exciting meeting. This year, our colloquium focuses on recent advances in climate modelling.
We are especially pleased that Sharon E. Nicholson (Institute of Meteorology, Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Science, Florida State University) and Uwe Mikolajewicz (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg) will present their research results.
Registration: We kindly ask you to register by April 8th, 2019:
15.00 – 15.15h: Words of welcome
15.15 – 16.15h: Sharon E. Nicholson
“An overview of the drivers of African climate: dispelling the myths and creating a revisionist view” Abstract
The meteorologist’s understanding of tropical weather and climate has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Nowhere have the changes been greater than over Africa. Many things are still not well understood, including simple questions about the seasonal cycle. Progress in understanding African climate has been hindered by several myths that have been widely accepted. Several of these are discussed in this talk. The main focus, however, is on major changes in our understanding of African climate. These are relevant for paleoclimate studies that strive to produce a meteorological interpretation of findings. A very important change is the question of the ITCZ paradigm for producing the seasonal cycle and modulating interannual variability. This paradigm has numerous shortcomings. Moreover, an historical look at the concept shows that its use over Africa has long been controversial, with many eminent tropical meteorologists harshly criticizing its applicability over this continent. Related to this is the recognition of the importance of mesoscale convective systems and tropical/extra-tropical hybrid systems in production rainfall over Africa. A second major change is recognizing the important role of jet streams and regional circulation systems in governing rainfall variability. Related to this is the inappropriate application of global concepts on a regional basis. A third change is the realization that many teleconnections, such as those to El Niño, are transient in nature. These ideas have greatly improved our understanding of climate variability over Africa but much still remains to be done.
16.15 – 16.30h: Coffee Break
16.45 – 17.45h: Uwe Mikolajewicz
“Simulating the late glacial and the deglaciation with a comprehensive climate model” Abstract
Paleo proxy data indicate strong and rapid climate changes (e.g. Heinrich events or the Younger Dryas cold spell) during the last deglaciation. Here modelling could be very helpful for the interpretation of the proxy data, but the models are not really suited for the simulation of these long time periods, as the boundary conditions (e.g. topography and land sea masks) should not be treated as constant anymore.
A new developed model system consisting of the atmosphere model ECHAM, the ocean model MPIOM, the ice sheet model PISM and the solid earth model VILMA (important for glacial isostatic adjustment) with automatic adaptation of land-sea mask, ocean bathymetry, land orography and river routing designed for long-term simulations is currently in the test phase.
Here results are presented from simulations with different subsystems focussing on the deglaciation. It is shown, that changes in river routing due to retreating ice sheets can explain the occurrence of an abrupt cold event due to a strong reduction of the Atlantic heat transport. Changes in the land-sea mask turned out to be important as well, especially for the late phase of the last deglaciation.
Another focus of the presentation are mechanisms of millennial scale climate variability during the Glacial. In a coupled atmosphere-ocean-northern hemisphere ice sheet model Heinrich events occurred as internal variability. In certain parameter ranges, an atmosphere-ocean model showed long-term fluctuations of the Atlantic overturning which signatures remind of Dansgaard-Oeschger events. The model simulations allow to investigate the underlying mechanisms.
17.30h: Farewell drinks and snacks
Zülpicher Straße 49, Building 310c
Dasselstr./Bf.Süd (tram line 9)
by Eleanor Scerri,
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena
The models and heuristics we use in human evolution deeply affect the way the record is constructed. For many years, debates between classic Multiregional and out of Africa models advanced the state of knowledge regarding human origins. The introduction of molecular methods seemed to resolve the debate by identifying the African continent as the cradle of our species. More recently, however, the discovery of gene flow between Homo sapiens and more divergent hominins showed that the dominant Out of Africa model (OOA) was overly simplistic. As a result, aspects of classic Multiregionalism have been re-ignited. At the same time, there have been concurrent attempts to modify the simple OOA model to accommodate the new evidence. However with ever-richer archaeological, anthropological, genetic and paleoecological data available, are such formulations still useful or are they now constraining the emerging picture of human origins? This talk offers a provocative new view that ultimately transcends the need for overly polemic models and debates that have long affected interpretative approaches.
Date, Time:08/04/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h
by Prof. Dr. Maarten Blaauw
School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast
Reliable chronologies are of key importance for fossil-based studies of past climate, environment and human activity. Only when put on a common time-scale can multiple studies be compared, and can spatio-temporal patterns of past events be properly identified and interpreted. However, producing chronologies is not a trivial task, especially if, as is too often the case, funds for dating are limited.
Many studies rely on ‘classical’ age-modelling techniques such as linear interpolation, to obtain age estimates for dated and undated core depths of sedimentary deposits. This method might be so popular because it often provides pleasingly narrow uncertainty estimates – in fact, the longer the distance between dated depths, the narrower the confidence intervals, so, fewer dates give you a more precise age-model! Recently developed Bayesian approaches produce age-depth models that aim to simulate the sedimentation process, using ‘random walks’ between dated depths that can be constrained by limits on variability in sedimentation. They can also deal with outlying dates.
Using a range of real-world and simulated dated cores, we apply classical as well as Bayesian age-models and compare the precision estimates and measures of accuracy, for cores dated at very low to very high resolution. Our analysis shows that classical age-models tend to be highly over-optimistic, whereas the Bayesian models produce realistic uncertainty estimates and are reliable and robust at an impressive range of dating densities as well as scatter and outliers.Read more