The major objective of the EFCHED programme has been to integrate and strengthen UK research in human evolution. The rationale underlying the research and the timing of the programme was the acute awareness that studies of human evolution needed to be tied closely to the ecological and environmental expertise underpinning Quaternary science. The EFCHED programme was aimed at exploring the interface between the disciplines engaged in human evolution research. These include the classic ones of human evolutionary studies - palaeoanthropology, archaeology and palaeoecology - as well as emerging ones such as evolutionary genetics and palaeoclimatic modelling together with allied disciplines such as neoecology. The relationship between environment and evolutionary change is at the heart of EFCHED projects. Targets A new understanding of our position as a dominant global species and implications for our future. An improved understanding of rates and scales of climate and landscape change, and how these impacted both on human evolution and dispersal. A more precise appreciation of how human evolution is affected by rates and scale of environmental change. An evolutionary context in which the results of post-genomic research will be understood. The stronger co-operation between collaborating disciplines engaged in human evolution research.
Evolution, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoanthropology, Palaeoecology, Archaeology
Principal Investigator :
Advanced Computer Modelling of Hominin Dispersal From Africa: Integrating Archaeological and Palaeoclimatic Simulations
Our study targeted the questions surrounding the form and rapidity of the first hominid dispersal from Africa, that of Homo erectus. Arrival dates of Homo erectus in Europe and SE Asia were investigated, exploring the effects that bridges and barriers, combined with environmental/climate change, had on human dispersal patterns during the period from 2myr to 1myr ago. Our research shows that the most consistent dispersal scenario is that Homo erectus was limited to 'marginal' existence in mid-latitude forest regions (i.e. Europe), rather than successful dominance of the landscape (fig 1). In addition to this the methodology has been extended to address issues of hominid morphology, shedding light on the issue of Homo erectus diversity during the Plio-Pleistocene, specifically demonstrating that an Africa/Asia division is the natural consequence of biogeography (fig 2). Finally a series of simulations have been completed investigating the application of the methodology to the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa, around 200 kyr.
Neanderthal climate preferences and tolerances: the need for a better chronology
This project aimed to investigate whether the present chronological data for late Mousterian sites in Europe are biasing our perception of Neanderthal populations by making them appear more cold-adapted than the incoming anatomically modern Early Upper Palaeolithic humans. In this study we focused on the part of the Neanderthal world that experienced the most continental climatic environments - namely, European Russia north of the Black Sea - for it is in such a region that the environmental preferences, in particular tolerance to temperature, are most discernible. By applying a series of cross-validated non-14C chronological methodologies (OSL, TL, palaeomagnetic intensity, and tephrostratigraphy) to late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages the project sought to identify spatial and temporal patterning which, when correlated with local environmental proxies and wider climate data, would provide a better understanding of Neanderthal climate tolerances. The project has produced a suite of new age determinations from a selection of archaeological sites that had previously undergone investigation and which were available to sample without requiring new excavations; the corresponding data on the cultural, lithic and environmental associations of the new age measurements derive mostly from earlier existing studies.
Palaeoinformatic approach to the context of the earliest human dispersals (PACED)
The PACED project aimed to provide a context for the current theories of hominin migration out of Africa between 3.0-0.5Ma (million years ago). Although there are relatively few sites from this period with fossil human remains (also known as hominins or hominids) there are many more sites with non-hominin mammalian faunas in Africa, Asia and Europe. For example, there are perhaps 15 sites with hominin remains in Eurasia between 2.0-0.5Ma, whilst there are estimated to be some 800 faunal sites. Studying hominins as part of the mammalian fauna is quite an unusual approach, and one which looks at them as animals with requirements such as food, water and particular landscape attributes that they have in common with other creatures. This project was deliberately large scale and geographically wide ranging to get the broadest possible view of Pliocene and Pleistocene terrestrial mammal movements.