Human Origins Leiden

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Human Origins Leiden

Pleistocene Rhine–Thames landscapes

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Hijma, M. P.; Cohen, K. M.; Roebroeks, W.; Westerhoff, W. E. & Busschers, F. S., 2012. Pleistocene Rhine-Thames landscapes: geological background for hominin occupation of the southern North Sea region. Journal of Quaternary Science, 27 (1), 17-39.

This paper links research questions in Quaternary geology with those in Palaeolithic archaeology. A detailed geological reconstruction of The Netherlands' south-west offshore area provides a stratigraphical context for archaeological and palaeontological finds. Progressive environmental developments have left a strong imprint on the area's Palaeolithic record. We highlight aspects of landscape evolution and related taphonomical changes, visualized in maps for critical periods of the Pleistocene in the wider southern North Sea region. The Middle Pleistocene record is divided into two palaeogeographical stages: the pre-Anglian/Elsterian stage, during which a wide land bridge existed between England and Belgium even during marine highstands; and the Anglian/Elsterian to Saalian interglacial, with a narrower land bridge, lowered by proglacial erosion but not yet fully eroded. The Late Pleistocene landscape was very different, with the land bridge fully dissected by an axial Rhine–Thames valley, eroded deep enough to fully connect the English Channel and the North Sea during periods of highstand. This tripartite staging implies great differences in (i) possible migration routes of herds of herbivores as well as hominins preying upon them, (ii) the erosion base of axial and tributary rivers causing an increase in the availability of flint raw materials and (iii) conditions for loess accumulation in northern France and Belgium and the resulting preservation of Middle Palaeolithic sites.

 

 

A coastal perspective on the earliest occupation of north-west Europe

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An article coauthored by Human Origins staff members K.MacDonald, J.C.Joordens and W.Roebroeks and colleagues K.M.Cohen (Utrecht) and P.L.Gibbard (Cambridge) has just been published online in Quaternary International.  Recent discoveries from Pakefield and Happisburgh (Britain) have provided clear evidence for a relatively early hominin occupation of north-west Europe, before ∼0.5 Ma based on the presence of a Mimomys micromammal fauna. The earliest archaeological evidence that has been discovered inland in Europe north of the Alps is younger than ∼0.5 Ma and was deposited in temperate conditions near rivers that flowed into the North Sea. Only after the ‘Cromerian Complex’ is there evidence for hominin activity in cooler conditions, and also in locations east of the Rhine valley. This paper explores the idea that the changes in site distribution before and after the ‘Cromerian Complex’ signal that early hominin occupation in northern Europe during the earlier period was an ‘Atlantic’ phenomenon, i.e. restricted to the milder temperate climates in the coastal continental regions.

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Australian Research Council funds comparative ice age archaeology at forty-two degrees of latitude

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The Australian Research Council funds a truly 'global archaeology' project comparing the archaeologies of southwest Tasmania and southwest France during the last Ice Age. The project is directed by Richard Cosgrove and Colin Smith from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Wil Roebroeks and Alexander Verpoorte from the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University are involved in the analysis of the lithic technology.

The project is titled "Forty-two degrees of latitude. Comparative archaeologies of southwest Tasmania and southwest France during the last Ice Age".

Investigators: Richard Cosgrove & Colin Smith (La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia), Wil Roebroeks (Leiden University), Alexander Verpoorte (Leiden University) & Anne Pike-Tay (Vassar College, New York, USA)

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