Environments Through Time – weeks 2 & 3

November 19, 2017
WDG

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

The second and third weeks of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has focused on obtaining practical experience of developing chronologies, analyzing multi-variate data-sets, and conducting time series analysis. The focus of the course has been on Quaternary environmental change, however, the skills learnt can be applied to almost any time-scale so long as you have time control points you want to tie together, and multiple things you can track changing through that time.

Over the two week period the students worked on a previously published paper that they had selected that contains: (i) chronological information (at least 3 control points), and (ii) multiple variables that change through the time series (at least 9 variables). In week two they deconstructed the chronologies and generated their own revised versions. For example students have (re-)calibrated radiocarbon dates, made different decisions on dates to include/exclude, and used different approaches to constructing the age vs. depth model, e.g. contrasting linear point-to-point vs. Bayesian methodologies. In week three they have taken the data-set(s) associated with their paper and re-evaluated it in light of the revised chronologies using cluster analysis, ordination techniques, and wavelets.

The joy of wavletes

The joy of wavletes

Through this exercise students have gained experience of how to critically assess scientific literature and gained an appreciation of where re-analysis of data-sets can (and cannot) make a difference. Personally I have be delighted with the high level of engagement and enthusiasm for the material and have been excited to have a chance to delve into literature that I would not otherwise be aware of.

For more information on this course see: Environments Through Time – week 1

 

More on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”

October 20, 2017
WDG

Crytsal McMichael (University of Amsterdam)

Discussion on human impacts on Amazonian forest…

McMichael, C.H., Feeley, K.J., Dick, C.W., Piperno, D.R. & Bush, M.B. (2017) Comment on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”. Science 358. DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8347

Junqueira, A.B., Levis, C., Bongers, F., Peña-Claros, M., Clement, C.R., Costa, F. & ter Steege, H. (2017) Response to Comment on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”. Science 358. DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8837

Exploring ancient cesspits in Deventer (Netherlands)

June 26, 2017
WDG

Jippe Kreuning

University of Amsterdam MSc Biological Sciences student Jippe Kreuning investigated the contents of cesspits in the Dutch city of Deventer for his research project. Jippe investigated fossil pollen, seeds and other biological remains to discover what people in the ancient city were eating. In doing so Jippe gained new insights into ancient trade routes.

To find out more about Jippe’s project watch his video courtesy of FOLIA YouTube channel (in Dutch)

Jippe Kreunings zoektocht naar versteende poep

Vegetation History & Archaeobotany

February 12, 2017
WDG

vhaI am delighted to report that I have recently been appointed as an Associate Editor for the journal Vegetation History & Archaeobotany (VHA). The journals scope is global and covers Quaternary environmental and climatic change, with a specific focus on the Holocene and pre-historic human impacts on landscapes; often linking palaeoecological and archaeological research. My remit with VHA is to provide expertise on tropical, and in particular South American, studies. Recent articles in VHA with a South American focus include:

I hope that over the next few years we can publish some more exciting articles on the tropics in VHA and I would therefore like to encourage you to submit interesting high quality original research, reviews, or short articles for our consideration.

To find out more about the journal and submit an article click here.

Continue Reading

Scientific methods in archaeology

November 10, 2016
WDG

Preparing my lecture for the new Scientific Methods in Archaeology course for VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam students studying a minor in Geoarchaeology. The focus will be on detecting human activity in the past, to illustrate this I will include Easter Island/Rapa Nui as a case study. We will focus on how palaeoecological evidence can be used to gain insights into past human activity. Whilst putting this together I discovered these nice documentaries looking at humans and their environmental impacts on Easter Island/Rapa Nui which I wanted to share, they show how much effort people would have had to put into altering their landscape:

For further information see also:

Rull, V., Cañellas-Boltà, N., Saez, A., Margalef, O., Bao, R., Pla-Rabes, S., Valero-Garcés, B. & Giralt, S. (2013) Challenging Easter Island’s collapse: The need for interdisciplinary synergies. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 1, DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2013.00003

van Beek, R., Gouw-Bouman, M.T.I.J. & Bos, J.A.A. (2015) Mapping regional vegetation developments in Twente (the Netherlands) since the Late Glacial and evaluating contemporary settlement patterns. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences-Geologie En Mijnbouw 94, 229-255. doi: 10.1017/njg.2014.40

  • SUMMARY: Examination of archaeological and palaeoecological evidence from the Twente region of the Netherlands is used to produce maps and images of past landscapes. The artists reconstructions of landscape change are particularly amazing and thought provoking.

Burn, M.J. & Palmer, S.E. (2014) Solar forcing of Caribbean drought events during the last millennium. Journal of Quaternary Science 29, 827-836. doi: 10.1002/jqs.2660

Göldel, B., Araujo, A.C., Kissling, W.D. & Svenning, J.-C. (2016) Impacts of large herbivores on spinescence and abundance of palms in the Pantanal, Brazil. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society in press. doi: 10.1111/boj.12420

Llamas, B., Fehren-Schmitz, L., Valverde, G., Soubrier, J., Mallick, S., Rohland, N., Nordenfelt, S., Valdiosera, C., Richards, S.M., Rohrlach, A., Romero, M.I.B., Espinoza, I.F., Cagigao, E.T., Jiménez, L.W., Makowski, K., Reyna, I.S.L., Lory, J.M., Torrez, J.A.B., Rivera, M.A., Burger, R.L., Ceruti, M.C., Reinhard, J., Wells, R.S., Politis, G., Santoro, C.M., Standen, V.G., Smith, C., Reich, D., Ho, S.Y.W., Cooper, A. & Haak, W. (2016) Ancient mitochondrial DNA provides high-resolution time scale of the peopling of the Americas. Science Advances 2. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1501385

Turner, T.E., Swindles, G.T., Charman, D.J., Langdon, P.G., Morris, P.J., Booth, R.K., Parry, L.E. & Nichols, J.E. (2016) Solar cycles or random processes? Evaluating solar variability in Holocene climate records. Scientific Reports 6, 23961. doi: 10.1038/srep23961

Lahr, M.M. et al. (2016) Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya. Nature 529, 394-398. doi: 10.1038/nature16477

Rademaker, K., Hodgins, G., Moore, K., Zarrillo, S., Miller, C., Bromley, G.R.M., Leach, P., Reid, D.A., Yepez Alvarez, W. & Sandweiss, D.H. (2014) Paleoindian settlement of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes. Science 346, 466-469. doi: 10.1126/science.1258260

da Silva, S.G. & Tehrani, J.J. (2016) Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales. Royal Society Open Science 3. doi

Veenendaal, E.M. et al. (2015) Structural, physiognomic and above-ground biomass variation in savanna-forest transition zones on three continents – how different are co-occurring savanna and forest formations? Biogeosciences 12, 2927-2951. doi: 10.5194/bg-12-2927-2015

Coring with the Livingstone Well-Aijen (The Netherlands)

February 10, 2016
WDG

Next to La Meuse river, near the villages of Welland Aijen, there is a large archaeological site with a long history of human occupation, including the remains of a large Mesolithic hunter gatherer community (see Marion Zijlema article for more details) The history of the site is deeply linked to the expansion and flooding of the river. In collaboration with archaeologists (Hanneke Bos) four UvA bachelor students are going to study the fossil pollen, phytoliths and charcoal from the Well-Aijen site to captured the environmental change that accompanied the human occupation. Yesterday (20 January – WDG late uploading post, sorry!) we visited the site to see what it was like, and to test out some equipment!

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We decided to bring out the Livingstone corer (Geo-core), which is usually used from a boat in a lake (e.g. Lake Erazo), to test its capacities on terrestrial sediment. Knowing that the peat formation was not deep below and given that the corer-system gives a nice continuous record, it seemed worthy of giving it a try. We ended up learning a lot about how the corer functions and about problem solving in the field – almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. We really fought for every centimeter of sample! The team never suffered from low spirits though, despite it all. With jokes and hot tea on site we ended up having a very fun and insightful expedition. Any remaining low morale or cold feet quickly faded by the sight of pie at the end of the day.

(Photos: W.D. Gosling)

 

 

Bakker, E.S., Gill, J.L., Johnson, C.N., Vera, F.W.M., Sandom, C.J., Asner, G.P. & Svenning, J. (2015) Combining paleo-data and modern exclosure experiments to assess the impact of megafauna extinctions on woody vegetation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502545112

Bakker, E.S., Pagès, J.F., Arthur, R. & Alcoverro, T. (2015) Assessing the role of large herbivores in the structuring and functioning of freshwater and marine angiosperm ecosystems. Ecography DOI:10.1111/ecog.01651

Dillehay, T.D., Ocampo, C., Saavedra, J., Sawakuchi, A.O., Vega, R.M., Pino, M., Collins, M.B., Scott Cummings, L., Arregui, I., Villagran, X.S., Hartmann, G.A., Mella, M., Gonzalez, A. & Dix, G. (2015) New Archaeological Evidence for an Early Human Presence at Monte Verde, Chile. PLoS ONE 10, e0141923. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141923

Göldel, B., Kissling, W.D. & Svenning, J. (2015) Geographical variation and environmental correlates of functional trait distributions in palms (Arecaceae) across the New World. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/boj.12349

Pardi, M.I. & Smith, F.A. (2015) Biotic responses of canids to the terminal Pleistocene megafauna extinction. Ecography.  DOI: 10.1111/ecog.01596

Roy, N., Woollett, J. & Bhiry, N. (2015) Paleoecological perspectives on landscape history and anthropogenic impacts at Uivak Point, Labrador, since AD 1400. The Holocene 25, 1742-1755. DOI: 10.1177/0959683615591350

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