Long-distance dispersal and human population diffusion: why modelling the spread of populations in archaeology is harder than we think 19.04.2013
Diffusion processes are common in the human past. These range from the spread of language and cultural innovations, to gene flow, to the colonisation of uninhabited areas. Archaeology attempts to make inferences about past populations based on the impacts that their presence caused. An understanding of the processes that underlie population distribution and characteristics, then, is useful.
We are interested in modelling the spread of populations into new territories. In particular, it has been suggested that human dispersal is characterised by rare long-distance events, which cause challenges to traditional modelling methods (eg. the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation). Such a dispersal regime can theoretically lead to an accelerating wave of advance. We have designed a simple lattice model for population diffusion that can incorporate long-distance dispersal. Unlike other approaches, our model does not make assumptions of an infinite or very large population size, which is unrealistic in the human case and, we find, can lead to extremely misleading results. Using parameters derived from human dispersals, our simulations suggest that significant corrections to standard modelling techniques may be required to describe even a highly simplified version of human population diffusion. These sort of corrections are important both in terms of predicting past human distributions and when trying to understand the implications of archaeologically observed waves of advance. Our simulation suggest that long-distance dispersal can lead to elevated rates of diffusion, including accelerating waves, and patchy site distributions – patterns that are seen, for example, in the spread of Paleo-Indians through the Americas.
The status of Homo heidelbergensis 24.05.2013
Walking in a winter wonderland? Mid-latitude seasonal mobility options in the Lower Palaeolithic 08.03.2013
Any occupation of northern Europe by Lower Palaeolithic hominins (H. heidelbergensis/proto-Neanderthals, and H. erectus and/or antecessor?) must have addressed the challenges of marked seasonality and cold winters, primarily during ‘interglacial’ MIS. Solutions to this ‘winter problem’ can essentially be characterised as a ‘stick or twist’ choice: i.e. year-round presence on a local scale vs. extensive seasonal mobility. However both of these potential solutions, and the ‘interim’ strategies that lie between these extremes, raise a host of practical problems. This seminar paper explores these challenges and seeks to evaluate the feasibility of different winter survival strategies within a Lower Palaeolithic context, with reference to what is (and isn’t) currently known from the archaeological record.
The inaugural seminar of this year’s CAHO seminar series: Piltdown; Nationalism, Human Origins and the Faking of the Earliest Englishman 26.10.2012
This year sees the centenary of the Piltdown man. In December 1912 a tremendous discovery was announced. A fossilised human ancestor which perfectly fitted the prevailing expectations of evolutionary theory, and it was found in Sussex. What could have been more appropriate, unless it was the discovery of an ancient cricket bat – and the forger even provided that as well. This talk will concentrate on a much neglected aspect of the Piltdown forgery – the material culture. This is usually side lined in favour of the more dramatic human remains. However the bogus tools that were planted by the forger have important insights to offer into the practice of anthropology and archaeology in the post-Edwardian era.
This talk will review recent work carried out at the Computerized Archaeology Laboratory at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem) together with Dr Leore Grosman and others. The laboratory is equipped with 3 optical scanners which provide high resolution digitized 3D models, which are further elaborated to document and study archaeological artefacts. Focussing on lithics, I shall review our software for positioning and extraction of geometric measures of stone tools, and then elaborate on various other applications such as e.g., characterization of post-depositional damages due to the action of rolling by waves or flows and the computerized identification of scars and ridges on tool surfaces and their significance in typology.
The Aesthetics of Surfaces. New research on hand stencils in French and Spanish cave art from experimentation to observation 25.01.2013
Hand stencils and prints – long assumed to belong to the European Mid Upper Palaeolithic – have been the subject of largely redundant study since the 1960s, with questions rarely addressing issues other than the apparent gender of their producers and why on a number of cases fingers appear to be missing. It is now possible to view them in a completely different light. Beginning with insights derived from experimental replication of stencils I move on to recent observational work on stencils in Spanish and French caves, developing an approach which emphasises their context rather than morphology. Following this and a critique of their chronology, I place a more nuanced view of this ‘art’ form in the context of an emerging picture of the development of Palaeolithic ‘cave art’ in general.
In Terra Incognita. Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Central Asia: New data from Uzbekistan 20.02.2013
Central Asia is a vast territory and it is an important region to understand population dynamics during the Pleistocene, notably the issue of the first dispersal of hominins into Asia, the expansion of the Neanderthal population, the Anatomically Modern Human dispersal in Asia and, as shown more recently, the possibility of other populations like the Denisovans. But despite this crucial position, these regions remain much less known than other parts of Eurasia, leaving this territory an alsmost terra incognita of the Palaeolithic studies. In the last years, we developped new excavations at Kulbulak, an important open-air Palaeolithic site in Eastern Uzebkistan. The four campaigns provided a 15 m. deep stratigraphy yielding several Palaeolithic assemblages and the first chronological data for this site. This results, as well as other works made these last years, permit to shed new light on the Palaeolithic of Uzbekistan and Central Asia. It leads us to underscore the importance of blade industries during the Middle Palaeolithic in Central Asia, to question the reality of the “Denticulate Mousterian” described in these regions and to tackle the Early Upper Palaeolithic industry that was sometimes seen as an Asian source of the Aurignacian complex.
Christmas Lecture: Fifty shades of mobility and behavioural modernity: the ties that bind 07.12.2012
I shall explore the potential effects of individual and group mobility on the transmission of ideas. How are innovations transmitted in these situations, and what implication does this mobility have for the manifestation of traits of “behavioural modernity” (art, personal ornament, music, etc.) that Palaeolithic archaeologists like to emphasise? Social networks will be explored not only as interactions between contemporary groups and individuals, but also as existing and transforming over time.
October 10, 2012
by Samuel Griffiths
Welcome to the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) seminar blog.
This page will display all the information you need to know for this year’s seminar series starting on the 26th October 2012. The seminars are 40 minutes long from 5pm every other Friday and culminate in a discussion session and wine reception. Each seminar takes place in the Wymer Lab, Archaeology Building (65A), University of Southampton, Avenue Campus. If you have any suggestions for speakers or yourself would like to speak then please email us.
We will be updating this regularly so keep checking in for more information.
We hope to see you over the coming months.
Iza Romanowska & Sam Griffiths