Human Origins Leiden

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Human Origins Leiden

Leakey Foundation funds fieldwork in the Turkana Basin

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sampling measuring and describing paleolake deposits

Josephine Joordens has been awarded a grant of 15.000 Euro to conduct fieldwork in the Turkana Basin, “the cradle of mankind”, in Kenya. Her research aims to shed light on the early history of the genus Homo in the time period around 2 million years ago in Africa. With her team she will apply a novel climate proxy, a combination of magnetostratigraphy and strontium isotope stratigraphy, to refine age control and climatic context of important hominin fossils found in the Turkana Basin. The team consists of experts in geology, paleomagnetics and isotope geochemistry, and collaborates closely with paleoanthropologists and “fossil hunters” Meave and Louise Leakey (Stony Brook University, USA) and Fred Spoor (Max Planck Institute, Leipzig). Fieldwork in this remote and harshly beautiful desert area around Lake Turkana is a privilege but also a challenge. Logistical support is therefore provided by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) founded by Richard Leakey. More information can be found here: Turkana Basin project of the Human Origins Group and Turkana Basin Insitute.


Special Issue of Quaternary International

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A special issue on 'The environment and chronology of the earliest occupation of north-west Europe' has just appeared in Quaternary International (Volume 271, 31 August 2012). The special issue was edited by staff members Katharine MacDonald and Wil Roebroeks.  In the last two decades much has changed in research on the early occupation of north-west Europe, including developments in dating methods, the discoveries of a series of surprisingly early sites through new fieldwork and a range of new research questions. In order to address these questions, a robust chronology and understanding of past environments is required. However, the chrono-stratigraphy of the late Early and early Middle Pleistocene, though much more refined than it was two decades ago, still presents a number of problems. The contributions to this volume are primarily the result of an international conference held in the Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden in 2009 with the aim of addressing this issue. This special issue gives an up-to-date review of knowledge of the chronology and environment, as well as providing new perspectives on hominin occupation and adaptation.

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New article on Neumark-Nord 2 bone collagen shows niche separation between bovids and equids

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Authors: Kate Britton, Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, Wil Roebroeks, Lutz Kindler, Michael P. Richards,

Title: Stable isotope analysis of well-preserved 120,000-year-old herbivore bone collagen from the Middle Palaeolithic site of Neumark-Nord 2, Germany reveals niche separation between bovids and equids

Journal: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Abstract: Herbivores from the Neumark-Nord 2 archaeological site, Germany, were analysed for bone collagen stable carbon (δ13 C) and nitrogen (δ15 N) isotope ratios in order to investigate feeding ecology at this early Last Interglacial (Eemian) shallow-lake site. Of 38 faunal samples selected, 23 yielded collagen, demonstrating remarkable preservation for material of this age. The results indicate clear inter-specific differences in δ15 N and δ13 C values, notably between equids (Equus) and bovids (Bos/Bison), with mean difference Δ15 N of + 2‰ measured in the bovids compared to the equids. The potential reasons for these differences are explored, including physiology, herbivore feeding ecology, biogeography and resource partitioning within the local environment. The data are compared to previously published archaeological data, and modern experimental and ecological data, suggesting that these inter-specific differences are not consistent and therefore unlikely to be solely the product of physiology or habitual forage preference. Data from this study are compared to the local vegetation (as reconstructed from pollen profiles), and it is suggested that these trends are likely the result of niche partitioning at the shallow lake site, reflecting the local diversity in vegetational zones. The evidence for resource partitioning amongst Pleistocene herbivore communities at Neumark-Nord 2 and elsewhere is discussed. This study represents one of the largest data sets for collagen of this age, and the implications for our understanding of Late Pleistocene herbivore ecology, local herbivore community behaviour and hominin palaeodietary studies are explored.

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