The 9th Mapping Ancient Africa seminar, and first of 2023, took place on Thursday 19 January. The seminar was delivered by Celine Vidal (University of Cambridge) and showcased recent work on the dating of volcanic deposits to constrain the age of hominin fossils in eastern Africa.
Vidal, C.M., Lane, C.S., Asrat, A., Barfod, D.N., Mark, D.F., Tomlinson, E.L., Tadesse, A.Z., Yirgu, G., Deino, A., Hutchison, W., Mounier, A. & Oppenheimer, C. (2022) Age of the oldest known Homo sapiens from eastern Africa. Nature601, 579-583. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04275-8
Vidal, C.M., Fontijn, K., Lane, C.S., Asrat, A., Barfod, D., Tomlinson, E.L., Piermattei, A., Hutchison, W., Tadesse, A.Z., Yirgu, G., Deino, A., Moussallam, Y., Mohr, P., Williams, F., Mather, T.A., Pyle, D.M. & Oppenheimer, C. (2022) Geochronology and glass geochemistry of major Pleistocene eruptions in the Main Ethiopian Rift: Towards a regional tephrostratigraphy. Quaternary Science Reviews 290, 107601. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107601
Following the postponement of our previous seminar I am pleased to announce the next Mapping Ancient Africa (MAA) seminar (the new number 6 in the series) will take place on Thursday 6 October at 17:00 (CEST).
Title: Pleistocene climate variability in eastern Africa influenced hominin evolution
Related publication: Foerster, V., Asrat, A., Bronk Ramsey, C., Brown, E.T., Chapot, M.S., Deino, A., Duesing, W., Grove, M., Hahn, A., Junginger, A., Kaboth-Bahr, S., Lane, C.S., Opitz, S., Noren, A., Roberts, H.M., Stockhecke, M., Tiedemann, R., Vidal, C.M., Vogelsang, R., Cohen, A.S., Lamb, H.F., Schaebitz, F. & Trauth, M.H. (2022) Pleistocene climate variability in eastern Africa influenced hominin evolution. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-01032-y
The seminar will be delivered via Zoom. The link for the seminar can be obtained from the MAA Slack channel or by contacting the chair of this seminar Stefanie Kaboth-Bahr. If you want to know more about the Mapping Ancient Africa project visit our web pages and please do not hesitate to get in contact if you want to get involved.
The recently published volume of the Palaeoecology of Africa series contains a number of different types of papers: research articles, reviews, perspectives and data papers. One of the key reasons I was motivated to become involved in the project was to help mobilise palaeoecological data from Africa towards open access datasets (African Pollen Database, Neotoma). To hopefully get greater recognition to the great work done over the years and to help facilitate synthetic work that will provide a greater understanding of spatial variance in past climate change. Ultimately, four short data papers were included in the volume: an enhanced c. 16,000 year pollen record from the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia (Gil-Romera et al. 2021), two pollen and charcoal record from the southern Cape Coast in South Africa, c. 3200 and 650 years long respectively (du Plessis et al. 2021a; du Plessis et al. 2021b), and a c. 700 year long record from Madagascar (Razanatsoa et al. 2021). The records provide new insights in to landscape scale environmental change driven by both humans and climate. To find out more check out the open access articles and the data at:
The fifth day of the AFQUA conference started with the second session on “Archaeological Landscapes”. Talks included: (i) a tribute to the work of Dick Grove in Quaternary work in Africa since the 1950’s, including possibly the earliest definition of the African humid period in his paper Grove & Warren (1968) (D.S.G. Thomas), and (ii) a highlight of new work on the Kisese II Rock Shelter in Tanzania (K. Ranhorn). Then to take us up to lunch Prof. David Nash treated us to a tour de force through the use of historical records in reconstructing past climates; including quotes from the fantastically named Holloway Helmore a missionary to Lekatlong in 1851 commenting on drough and how to turn this type of information into a regional/continental synthesis!
The afternoon session focused around the theme of “East Africa”. This session started with two talks on one of the “least known ancient civilization” in Ethiopia the Aksumite and pre-Aksumite peoples, and the resilience of these peoples to environmental and land-use change (V. Terwilliger and Z. Eshetiu). Other work presented on the morphometry of hominin skulls showing gradual development from 500,000 to 315,000 years ago which lead up to the appearance of anatomically modern humans (E. Mbua).