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Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Deves M.H.,University Paris Diderot | Reynolds S.,Bournemouth University | King G.C.P.,University Paris Diderot | Kuebler S.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich | And 2 more authors.
Comptes Rendus - Geoscience | Year: 2015

Fossil remains are embedded in a continually evolving landscape. Earth scientists have the methods and approaches to study the processes that shape the landscape at various temporal and spatial scales. Some of these methods can generate insights that are of potential use for researchers in other fields, such as archaeology and palaeoanthropology. Here we present two case studies to illustrate how a broader landscape perspective can provide new insights into the land use by Pliocene hominins in southern Africa, and more recently, by Palaeolithic hominins in the southern Levant. Key landscape attributes can help explain why humans, hominins and the wider animal community exploit certain types of landscapes in predictable ways. Our first case study examines how active tectonics or volcanism appears to be important in creating fertile regions with reliable water sources and complex topography. While relatively easy for agile primates such as hominins to negotiate, zones of complex topography are harder for certain predators and prey animals to traverse. In the second case study, we consider that differences in soil edaphics can exert a major control on animals by supplying or failing to supply necessary trace elements, such as selenium, copper, phosphate and potassium (Henkin et al., 1995). We show that the pattern of trace element distribution can accurately map animal movements between areas of suitable grazing. This predictability could have enabled Levantine humans to ambush megafauna during these seasonal migrations. By studying the landscape attributes around fossil site locations, Earth scientists can offer new insights and perspectives into the past, particularly on the ways in which the inhabitants would have used their landscapes. © 2015 Académie des sciences. Source

Deves M.,CNRS Paris Institute of Global Physics | Sturdy D.,The Southern Levant Human Environment Project | Godet N.,The Southern Levant Human Environment Project | King G.C.P.,CNRS Paris Institute of Global Physics | And 2 more authors.
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2014

We explore the relationship between the edaphic potential of soils and the mineral properties of the underlying geology as a means of mapping the differential productivity of different areas of the Pleistocene landscape for large herbivores. These factors strongly control the health of grazing animals irrespective of the particular types of vegetation growing on them, but they have generally been neglected in palaeoanthropological studies in favour of a more general emphasis on water and vegetation, which provide an incomplete picture. Taking the Carmel-Galilee-Golan region as an example, we show how an understanding of edaphic potential provides insight into how animals might have exploited the environment. In order to simplify the analysis, we concentrate on the Lower Palaeolithic period and the very large animals that dominate the archaeofaunal assemblages of this period. Topography and the ability of soils to retain water also contribute to the differential productivity and accessibility of different regions and to patterns of seasonal movements of the animals, which are essential to ensure a supply of healthy fodder throughout the year, especially for large animals such as elephants, which require substantial regions of good grazing and browsing. Other animals migrating in groups have similar needs. The complex topography of the Southern Levant with frequent sudden and severe changes in gradient, and a wide variety of landforms including rocky outcrops, cliffs, gorges, and ridges, places major limits on these patterns of seasonal movements. We develop methods of mapping these variables, based on the geology and our substantial field experience, in order to create a framework of landscape variation that can be compared with the locations and contents of archaeological sites to suggest ways in which early hominins used the variable features of the landscape to target animal prey, and extend the analysis to the consideration of smaller mammals that were exploited more intensively after the disappearance of the elephants. We consider some of the ways in which this regional-scale approach can be further tested and refined, and advocate the development of such studies as an essential contribution to understanding the wider pattern of hominin dispersal. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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