project . 2019 - 2021 . Closed


Mid-Pleistocene environments of the lower Vaal River
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European Commission
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 837730 Call for proposal: H2020-MSCA-IF-2018
Funded under: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-RI Overall Budget: 162,806 EURFunder Contribution: 162,806 EUR
Status: Closed
01 May 2019 (Started) 30 Apr 2021 (Ended)

The project ‘MinErVa: Mid-Pleistocene Environments of the lower Vaal River’ seeks a multidisciplinary perspective on the effects of environmental change on human evolution by examining the palaeoenvironmental context of the first anatomically modern humans in the arid interior of southern Africa (c. 300-100ka). The MinErVa project is focused around the archaeological site of Pniel, an Early Middle Stone Age open-air site on the Vaal River that I have been excavating for two seasons since 2017. The site is located in an area with fossil evidence for early human evolution, however, there is a lack of terrestrial proxy records to reconstruct climate and environment during this time period. Specifically, the project will test the hypothesis that the local environment included phases of persistent wetness and significant biome shifts, caused by increased winter rainfall, though carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis on herbivore teeth. Furthermore, MinErVa will apply innovative carbon and hydrogen stable isotope analysis on leaf wax n-alkanes in sediment to reconstruct vegetation and palaeohydrology. In a synthesis with isotopic, zooarchaeological, geomorphological, phytolith and lithic data sets recovered from my ongoing excavations, this project will explore how the first Homo sapiens were adapting to their environment. The project offers scope for testing the application of stable isotope analysis of leaf wax isotopes in sediment for the first time in a terrestrial context of this antiquity on South Africa and will therefore offer unique training to the applicant in a novel method which can has the scope to establish new proxy records in a region where there is a distinct lack of them.

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