Geoarchaeology, Paleoenvironments and Luminescence Geochronology in the Eastern Alpine Realm and South Africa during the Last Glacial Cycle  (115-11 ka) 

The last glacial cycle included some of the coldest and most unstable moments of the last 2 million years of Earth history. Climate-driven environmental changes impacted on the landscape and also influenced human evolution, dispersal and culture; they may also have played a role in the extinction of the Neanderthals. Human/environment relations thus merit detailed research. Accurate chronologies for human activities and contemporaneous paleoenvironmental records are key requirements to sustain further progress in geoarchaeology and to improve our knowledge of the history of humankind.

Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating is currently one of the most dynamic fields in geochronology. The single-grain approach, in particular, opens up new opportunities for dating materials that have hitherto been ignored. Pioneering work has shown that archaeological sequences in cave-mouth deposits can be reliably dated using single sand-sized grains of quartz.

The host institution  for this Marie Curie Fellowship to Michael Meyer (University of  Wollongong, Australia) has a world-renowned geochronology laboratory with recognised expertise in single-grain OSL dating. Michael joined this group in 2007 to acquire the necessary skills in single-grain OSL dating and apply his knowledge to examine the origin of modern human behaviour and the role of paleoenvironmental changes in landscape and human evolution in South Africa.

Single-grain OSL dating will also be applied to selected archaeological sites and related paleoenvironmental records in the eastern Alpine realm as part of Michael's return phase at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. High-precision OSL chronologies will be developed for archaeological and loess sequences, and these will be matched to the paleoclimatic record inferred from U-Th dated Alpine speleothems. The improved chronological control will greatly assist archaeological interpretations of when and how past environmental changes impacted on human societies.

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Last reviewed: 3 January, 2014