Summary of discussions of Project Workshop
(a personal view from Rob and James)
Following the successful completion of the Coping with Climate: the legacy of Homo heidelbergensis workshop (see below) here are some of the key points that we felt best summarised the three days discussions.
- There appear to be tensions between the site-specific material culture records (which suggest that hominins are very adaptable) and the climatic/palaeoanthropological/regional archaeological records (which suggest fragmentation and periods/places where hominins are absent/only present in very low numbers).
- There is considerable value in palaeoenvironmental records from sites without associated archaeology – e.g. in terms of demonstrating the ranges of conditions which hominins were/were not able to tolerate.
- We should explicitly consider the contrasts between open and closed environments (and the definitions of both) and the potential impacts of those conditions upon hominin activity.
- What do past species’ assemblages mean in terms of habitats? We need to explicitly test our assumptions. An explicit consideration and understanding of plasticity in animal behaviour is also important.
- There is too much emphasis on north > south variations in archaeology and conditions. What about south > north or east > west/west < east variations etc?
- It is important to consider humidity variations as well as temperature (e.g. is cooler and dryer more appealing to hominins than warmer and wetter?).
- Do we need to be more explicit about the differences between what hominins could be eating as opposed to what we can demonstrate (from on-site evidence) that they are eating (e.g. the demonstrated faunal record for meat eating vs. the often-invisible issue of plant exploitation)?
- The impact of fire on dietary and subsistence practices is a complex issue with social and technological implications – e.g. the advantages for processing food sources vs the costs (e.g. time, materials, tethering) of their maintenance.
- Understanding of hominin variability, fragmentation and re-combinations is strongly influenced by our understanding of group sizes and/or mobility.
- Perhaps “bottlenecks” in the genetic record may reflect both population crashes AND/OR fragmentation?
- Was the Acheulean introduced from outside NW Europe or does it represent local innovation(s)? This issue should be considered at a range of scales and timeframes. The appearance(s) and dispersal(s) of technologies also need to be considered with reference to movements in all directions (e.g. north to south as well as south to north).
- Our understanding of the patterns in the archaeological record needs to start from geological and geomorphological history.
- Variations in climate do not always result in changes to technology. It can be profitable to de-couple these two issues.
- What does the archaeological record (e.g. technology, site distributions, dietary evidence) look like when hominins are ‘struggling’ or ‘comfortable’ (and what do we mean by those terms)?
PROJECT WORKSHOP AND CONFERENCE
We are hosting a 3 day network event (a 2 day closed workshop + 1 day conference) in early 2017 at the University of Brighton in the UK.
This is the main event of the network project, and will bring together multi-disciplinary colleagues (from archaeology, palaeoenvironmental studies, palaeoclimatology, palaeoanthropology, palaeogenetics, and anthropology) from across Europe to discuss the current state of knowledge, and gaps, surrounding the question of how H. heidelbergensis (and other earliest European hominins – i.e. H. antecessor) coped with the environmental challenges of the north – cold winters, marked seasonality – with a particular focus on life as experienced ‘on the ground’.
Days 1 & 2: Agendas for discussion, co-authored by network members, will be pre-circulated, in late 2016. The workshop discussions will explore both inter-disciplinary connections (e.g. the implications of palaeoclimatic reconstructions for the behavioural demands placed on early European hominin species) and inter-regional patterning (e.g. similarities and differences between the food resources of southern and northern Europe).
Day 3: Papers for podium presentation can be submitted on a theme relating to the early (i.e. pre-Middle Palaeolithic) hominin occupation of Europe – e.g. archaeology, palaeoclimatology, palaeoenvironments, palaeoanthropology, and palaeogenetics. Abstracts should be no more than 200 words, and should be emailed to Rob Hosfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) and James Cole (email@example.com). Papers should be 15 minutes (+ 5 minutes for questions). The deadline for abstract submissions is 30th November 2016.
We are pleased to announce that the network has funding to support travel and accommodation costs for international participants and for Early Career Researchers (ECRs). For further details please contact either Rob (firstname.lastname@example.org) or James (email@example.com).
Attendance to the workshop and conference are by invitation – these will follow shortly.
Thursday 2nd – Saturday 4th February 2017
The workshop and conference will be held at the Moulsecoomb Campus of the University of Brighton in the Cockcroft Building (click the link for details on how to get to Moulsecoomb)
See here for a list of recommended accommodation for the network event.
PROJECT EVENT: A DAY IN THE ICE AGE – Wednesday 12th July 2017
Our “Day in the Ice Age” event will help children understand what life was like for the earliest humans in Europe. We will demonstrate survival strategies, such as how stone tools were made, and run hands-on sessions to help children learn how animals and plants were used, how clothing was made and how shelters were built. The day will also feature links to other themes in human evolution, such as timelines and changes in brain size and teeth.
The “Day in the Ice Age” event will be hosted at Reading Museum. Schools from Reading have recently received targeted invitations to the event.