I am pleased to announce the start of a new project “Mapping Ancient Africa” funded by the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) with support from the Palaeoclimate commission (PALCOM) and the Human & Biospheres commission (HABCOM). This project will bring together Quaternary scientists focused on past climates and environments with those working on human evolution and development in Africa. Through the synthesising data and linking these with modelling approaches we hope to bring together a novel group of researchers to explore the climatic and environmental backdrop to hominin development.
Further information on the project can be found on a new “sub-site” within this blog dedicated to the “Mapping Ancient Africa” project. The project is designed to connect researchers working on these topics so if you are interested to be involved please do get in contact. The first meeting will be held in October 2021 online and at four locations: Nairobi (Kenya), Port Elizabeth (South Africa), Potsdam (Germany) and Portland (Oregon, USA) – for further details click here.
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).
My first AFQUA conference really began the day before the conference proper started in the Kenyan immigration queue where I met a number of fellow delegates who were flying in from all over the world. It was great to start to put faces to names of people who’s work I had read for many years. Once out of the airport transfer to the hotel was smooth, and it was with some excitement that the following morning I made the short walk from the hotel to the famous Nairobi National Museum for the start of the conference.
Prof. Andy Cohen (one of my fellow delegates in the immigration line) kicked off the AFQUA conference with a plenary giving an overview of African continental drilling projects. He traced the dream of the recovery of long continental records back to Daniel Livingstone and Neil Opdyke’s workshop from 1980 that set out the dream of obtaining long records from the continent. He then went on to give examples of how multi-millennial lake records, including Lake Malawi, can be used to understand the tempo of ecological change.
The first session of the conference, entitled “East Africa”, included: exciting evidence of Deinotherium the largest land mammal of the Quaternary (J.-P. Brugal), the use of d13C in determining homonin ecology (V.M. Iminjili), and evidence from a new c. 200,000 year old site at Natodomeri (Kenya) that contains evidence of homonids, elephids, giant lions and pigmy hippos (F.K. Manthi).
The second session of AFQUA covered “The environmental context for homonin evolution and dispersal”. This started with geochemical data from Chew Bahir that sheds light on potential drivers of climatic shifts (F. Schabitz), and included examination of changes climate between c. 500,000 and 320,000 years ago that coincided with the shift from hominid use of large cutting tools to smaller implements (R. Potts), and discussion of the environment the route which hominids took out of Africa (F. Henselowsky).