Pollen and sediment data from a 10.5 m-deep alluvial exposure and a secondary tributary exposure at Upper Arroyo, a seasonal river, in Saltillo, Mexico, were examined with the aim of reconstructing the vegetation and environmental history during the Holocene as a whole. The role of climate change in Chihuahuan Desert flora development after 8800 BP was assessed, in addition to more local physiographic factors, such as erosion and accumulation, soil development and denudation, and hydrological entrenchment. Climate change appeared to have been a principal agent of vegetation change in the Early and Middle Holocene, with a periodic expansion of desert vegetation. A reduction in the environmental carrying capacities for mesophytic flora according to physiographic factors, such as soil erosion and channel entrenchment, was then identified after 2300 BP, also promoting azonal ecological niches for xerophytic vegetation in southern Coahuila, Mexico, that persist despite modern variations in precipitation.
The Central American Dry Corridor (CADC) is the most densely populated area of the Central American Isthmus and is subject to the greatest variability in precipitation between seasons. The vegetation of this region is composed of Dry Tropical Forests (DTF), which are suggested to be highly susceptible to variations in climate and anthropogenic development. This study examines the vulnerability of past DTF surrounding the Asese peninsula, Nicaragua to climatic and anthropogenic disturbances over the past c. 1200 years. Past vegetation, climate, burning, and animal abundance were reconstructed using proxy analysis of fossil pollen, diatoms, macroscopic charcoal, and Sporormiella. Results from this research suggest that DTF have been highly resilient to past climatic and anthropogenic perturbations. Changes in DTF structure and composition appear to be linked to the abundance and intensity of fire. Pre-Columbian anthropogenic impacts on DTF are not detected in the record; however, DTF taxa decline slightly after European contact (1522 C.E.). Overall the DTF for the Nicaraguan region of the CADC were found to be highly resilient to both climatic and anthropogenic disturbances, suggesting that this region will continue to be resilient in the face of future population expansion and climatic variation.
Numerous loess/paleosol sequences (LPS) in the Carpathian Basin span the period of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 and the last glacial maximum (LGM). Nevertheless, only two known records—Madaras and Dunaszekcső—preserve highly resolved records with absolute chronologies with minimal uncertainties, which enable the meaningful assessment of feedbacks and short-term climatic fluctuations over this period. The Madaras profile is located at the northern margin fringe of the Bácska loess plateau; Dunaszekcső, located on the Danube to its west, yields a chronology built on over 100 14C dates yet spans only part of MIS 2, missing half of the LGM including its peak. Here, we add to the previously published 14C chronology for Madaras (15 dates) with an additional 17 14C and luminescence ages. Resulting age models built solely on quartz OSL and feldspar pIRIRSL data underestimate the 14C based chronology, which is likely based on inaccuracies related to luminescence signal behavior; we observe age underestimations associated with unusual quartz behavior and significant signal loss, a phenomenon also observed in Serbian and Romanian loess, which may relate to non-sensitized grains from proximal sources. Our new chronology provides higher resolution than hitherto possible, yielding consistent 2 sigma uncertainties of ~150–200 years throughout the entire sequence. Our study indicates that the addition of further dates may not increase the chronological precision significantly. Additionally, the new age model is suitable for tackling centennial-scale changes. The mean sedimentation rate based on our new age-depth model (10.78 ± 2.34 years/cm) is the highest yet recorded in the Carpathian Basin for MIS 2. The resolution of our age model is higher than that for the Greenland NGRIP ice core record. The referred horizons in our profile are all characterized by a drop in accumulation and a higher sand input, the latter most likely deriving from nearby re-exposed sand dunes.
A preliminary description is presented of the well-preserved frozen mummies of two cubs of the extinct cave lion Panthera spelaea (finds of 2017–2018, Semyuelyakh River, Yakutia, eastern Siberia, Russia). The fossil lion cubs were found in close proximity, but they do not belong to the same litter, since their radiocarbon ages differ: the female (named ‘Sparta’) was dated to 27,962 ± 109 uncal years BP, and the male (named ‘Boris’) was dated to 43,448 ± 389 uncal years BP. The lion cubs have similar individual ages, 1–2 months. The general tone of the colour of the fur coat of Sparta is greyish to light brown, whereas, in Boris, the fur is generally lighter, greyish yellowish. It is, therefore, possible that light colouration prevailed with age in cave lions and was adaptive for northern snow-covered landscapes. The article discusses the results of computed tomography of cubs of the cave lion, the possible reasons for their death, and the peculiarities of their existence in the Siberian Arctic.
The examined material (207 bones and bone fragments) of 53 avian taxa from two human cave dwellings is dated between 24,000 ± 1000 BP and 9400 ± 100 BP. It reveals that 49.0% of the bird species/taxa disappeared from the recent bird fauna of the Thanh Hoa Province; 39.6% disappeared from the recent bird fauna of North Vietnam (except Thanh Hoa Province); 33.9% disappeared from the recent bird fauna of Vietnam (except North Vietnam); 28.3% are not extant in the recent bird fauna of Indochina (except Vietnam); and 52.8% disappeared from the recent bird fauna of Southeast Asia (except Indochina). This suggests more considerable influence of the Late Pleistocene climatic events on the environment and bird fauna than previously accepted in the Eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula in the last 24–millenia. The gallinaceous birds are best represented. Of the 39 Southeast-Asian species, 18 species/taxa (46.2 percent) are Galliforms. They consist of 34 percent of all bird taxa recorded in both caves. Four categories of the IUCN Red List have been represented among the established birds in the sites: LC—28, NT—7, VU—2 (Buceros bicornis and Rhyticeors undulates), and CR—2 (Lophura edwardsi and Rhinoplax vigil).
We investigated 34 sediment cores to reconstruct spatiotemporal variations in hypolimnetic hypoxia for the past 200 years in Lehmilampi, a small lake in Eastern Finland. As hypoxia is essential for varve preservation, spatiotemporal changes in varve distribution were used as an indicator for hypolimnetic hypoxia oscillations. The hypoxic water volume was used as a variable reflecting hypolimnetic hypoxia and determined for each year by estimating the water volume beneath the water depth where shallowest varves were preserved. As a result, seven hypoxia periods, highlighting the variations in hypolimnetic hypoxia, are established. These periods may be influenced by bioturbation, lake infill, and lake level changes. Furthermore, we evaluated the relationship between hypolimnetic hypoxia oscillations and climatic factors. Diatom assemblage changes were also analyzed to estimate whether the hypoxia periods could be related to anthropogenic eutrophication. The diatom analyses suggest relatively stable nutrient conditions for the past 200 years in Lake Lehmilampi. Climate, on the other hand, seems to be an important driver of hypoxia oscillations based on correlation analysis. The role of individual forcing factors and their interaction with hypolimnetic hypoxia would benefit from further investigations. Understanding climatic and anthropogenic forcing behind hypolimnetic hypoxia oscillations is essential when assessing the fate of boreal lakes in a multi-stressor world.
Irregular climate events frequently occur in Southeast Asia due to the numerous climate patterns combining. Thailand sits at the confluence of these interactions, and consequently experiences major hydrological events, such as droughts. Proxy data, speleothem records, lake sediment sequences and tree ring chronologies were used to reconstruct paleo drought conditions. These trends were compared with modelled and historic El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) data to assess if the ENSO climate phenomena is causing droughts in Thailand. Drought periods were found to occur both during El Niño events and ENSO neutral conditions. This indicates droughts are not a product of one climate pattern, but likely the result of numerous patterns interacting. There is uncertainty regarding how climate patterns will evolve under climate change, but changes in amplitude and variability could potentially lead to more frequent and wider reaching hydrological disasters. It is vital that policies are implemented to cope with the resulting social and economic repercussions, including diversification of crops and reorganisation of water consumption behaviour in Thailand.
In the published manuscript, the study presents diverse geochronological and biochronological data providing age constraints on the site of Tsiotra Vryssi (Mygdonia basin, Greece). One of the methods presented is based on burial ages from cosmogenic radionuclides. Table 2 of this study reports cosmogenic simple burial ages of 1.88 ± 0.16 Myr, 2.10 ± 0.18 Myr, and 1.98 ± 0.18 Myr (for samples COSMO 1, 2, and 3, respectively). However, after publication of the manuscript, a small error was found in the calculation of these ages. In particular, it concerns a typo in the MatLab code resulting in a too-low value for the fast muonic 10Be production rate, which affected the last column of Table 2 with the simple burial ages. After correcting this mistake, the ‘corrected’ simple burial ages in Table 2 (as well as in Figure 9) should be 1.54 ± 0.10 Myr, 1.75 ± 0.10 Myr, and 1.62 ± 0.10 Myr. These ages, as were the original published ages, are the minimum possible burial ages from this technique. Therefore, the deposit with normal polarity containing the cosmogenic samples is attributed to the Olduvai subchron (1.95–1.78 Myr). The age of the overlying layer showing a reverse polarity and containing the vertebrate fossils is therefore the same as was originally published (<1.78 Myr), and overall, an age between 1.78 and ~1.5 Myr is proposed for the Tsiotra Vryssi fauna. We emphasize that the corrected ages mentioned here do not change the interpretations of the Konidaris et al. 2021 study, and we present this Erratum so that future studies using these data have access to the corrected values.
A Mw 6.1 earthquake on 25 February 2022, at around 8:39 a.m. local time, struck Pasaman Barat Regency, West Sumatra, Indonesia, and was felt in Singapore and Malaysia. The hypocenter of this earthquake was 12 km deep and preceded by an Mw 4.9 foreshock a few minutes earlier. The earthquakes originated on a blind fault and triggered a landslide at Mount Talamau. Herein, the slip distribution and asperities along the plane fault during the earthquake were examined by teleseismic inversion and the fault location was identified by Global Gravity Model plus (GGMPlus) satellite gravity data. The slip distribution was calculated from the source parameters (strike: 136°; dip: 70°; rake: 174°) by inversion techniques based on teleseismic data. Based on the slip distribution, the earthquake was generated by stress from the Sianok fault that spread to the north and reached the uncertain fault segment in the Talamau area. In addition, the results of the First Horizontal Derivative and Second Vertical Derivative from the GGMplus data revealed a straight Simple Bouguer Anomaly pattern, confirming the existence of the uncertain Talamau fault as part of the Great Sumatra Fault. This work shows the potential application of the combination of teleseismic and gravity observation for delineating the fault structure that caused the 2022 Mw 6.1 Pasaman earthquake, which can also be applied to other locations of similar geological backgrounds.
Patagonian shrub and ecotonal communities were sensitive to past environmental changes and thus may also be affected by future ones. Therefore, their paleoecological study constitutes a valuable tool to understand the way in which these plant communities respond to the forcings responsible for environmental variability. The aim of this paper is to reconstruct the vegetation dynamics of the Pueyrredón Lake area (47°25′55′′ S; 72°0.7′7′′ W) for the last 3000 cal yr BP and to contextualize these changes in a regional paleoclimatic framework. The results indicate that at the beginning of the 2900 cal yr BP, the vegetation in the northwest of Santa Cruz, Argentinian Patagonia, was represented by a grass-shrub steppe associated with forest–shrub steppe ecotonal elements. This information correlates with the larger-scale environmental inferences described for the period, which indicate an increase in moisture availability due to the weakening of the westerly winds. A marked change to arid conditions is indicated in the last 1050 cal yr BP, with the establishment and development of different shrub steppe communities and the lack of ecotonal elements. Although vegetation was sensitive to changes in moisture conditions related to the variability of the westerly winds, there is evidence of differences in the composition of shrub vegetation regarding the sequences analyzed. Variations in pollen proportions of the shrub steppes in the Pueyrredón Lake area suggest that changes in vegetation are not only due to climate variability but also local factors in the areas where shrub communities grow. The integration of the information with other Patagonian sequences allowed to frame these changes in a regional context. The results obtained provide useful information to understand the way vegetation changed in the past and the manner in which it may respond to future changes.
Recent findings of archaeological research in the Vathy gulf area, Astypalaia island, indicate its continuous habitation since prehistoric times, most importantly in the transitional period from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (late 4th/early 3rd millennium BC). The evaluation of the prehistoric stone artefacts from Vathy using non-invasive analytical methods (Near Infrared Spectroscopy—NIR), in combination with the mineral-petrographic characterization of the main lithological formations of the island, is expected to provide important information about raw material procurement and possible exchange networks. The geological study of the island combined with the analytical methods applied to the archaeological artefacts and the geological samples led to the identification of both local and allogenic materials. The possible locations of raw material sources were established and the origin of allogenic materials was estimated. The stone artefacts made of local geo-materials consist mainly of calcitic sandstone, shale, marl, and limestone/marble, comprising the largest part of the lithological formations of the island, as well as pumice and volcanic rocks of varying chemical composition. By means of a portable microscope and NIR spectroscopy, we were further able to identify allogenic geo-materials including chalcedony, mica schist, bauxite and meta-bauxite, steatite, and paragonite. Based on the mineralogical and petrographic characterization of the stone artefacts, a first attempt is made to evaluate the possible raw material sources and to identify potential intra-island modes of stone exploitation.
A high-resolution multiproxy sedimentary record comprising pollen, charcoal, trace element, stratigraphy and particle size data is used to reveal environmental changes from the mangrove ecosystem at Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar, Tanzania, over the last 5000 years. Historical human–environment interactions over the last millennia are explored by a comparison of the stratigraphic and archaeological data. The area was characterised by a mixture of mangrove forest and beaches, indicating a low level of tidal inundation to at least 3300 BCE. From 2750 BCE, mangrove forest expanded as the area experienced sea-level rise. Further sea-level rise is recorded between 600 and 1100 CE, indicated by the pollen record, particle size analysis and the presence of shell fragments. After 1100 CE, mangrove forest decreased with back mangrove species increasing, indicating a falling sea level. Cocos nucifera decreased after 1900 CE, which reflects a recent sea-level rise and possibly a phase of exploitation. Cereal pollen shows a high presence at around 1500 CE, which coincided with the arrival of the Portuguese on Zanzibar and the transition to Omani colonisation. The sedimentation rate in the core top indicates that mangroves in Unguja Ukuu cannot keep pace with the current rate of sea-level rise.
Early Neolithic lifeways in North China, which are marked by a low-level food production economy, population aggregation, and sedentism, thrived just after the period of a climatic cooling event at 8.2 ka. Instead of simply regarding this climate fluctuation as a cause for the significant socio-economic transition, this paper attempts to explore the interplay between people’s choices of coping strategies with climate change as a perspective to learn how people respond to this climate fluctuation and how such responses generated the interlocked socio-economic transitions. This analysis indicates that pre-existing changes in human adaptive behaviors prior to the cooling events were sufficient to enable people in certain areas to apply the intensification of food procurement in circumscribed territories as a strategy to cope with the climate fluctuations of the 8.2 ka BP cooling event. The application of such a coping strategy facilitated the economic and sociopolitical transition into Neolithic lifeways and led to the flourishing development of Neolithic cultures after 8 ka BP in North China.
A multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental dataset (LOI, pollen, charcoal, grain sizes and the humification index) was extracted and radiocarbon dated from a sedimentary sequence from Spur Bog, central South Haven Peninsula (Dorset, southern England) to reconstruct ecological and environmental changes within the last ~900 years. These analyses reveal highly unstable environmental conditions at the site, evidencing the occurrence of multiple, often rapid changes during this period. The results significantly expand upon the existing palaeoenvironmental and geomorphological frameworks of the South Haven Peninsula which previously relied upon sparse, vague historical records prior to ~1750 AD. The multi-proxy dataset of Spur Bog sediments recorded a primary “development” phase (~1150–1470 AD) during which marine processes were the dominant control upon environmental conditions at the site, resulting in marked geomorphological changes that lead to the progressive eastward expansion of the South Haven Peninsula. This is followed by a secondary “maturation” phase (~1470–1880 AD) during which the Spur Bog sequence exhibits significant ecological changes in response to fluctuations in sea level, coastal erosion and human activity, demonstrating the vulnerability of the site to future climatic and anthropogenic pressures.
Global warming is expected to increase the rate of CH4 emission from acidic peatlands leading to an increased interest on its mechanisms of formation. The main routes are through the reduction of CO2 by molecular hydrogen and through the cleavage of acetate. A predominance of the former, a reaction which also competes with homoacetogenesis to form acetate, may enrich the media in acetate, which could potentially be incorporated in the peat molecular markers. Acetates of triterpenoid biomarkers have been identified in peats and lake sediments and related to the input of higher plants. Nevertheless, the acetyl derivatives are found in very low amounts in fresh plants and in much lower amount than other derivatives with alcohol or ketone functional groups. The dichloromethane/methanol extracts of Asturian peat bog profiles (North Spain) were analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and compound-specific-isotope-analysis (CSIA). They show abundance of acetates of compounds with oleanane, ursane, and lupane skeletons derived from higher plants and with hopane skeleton, which can be considered a characteristic of these peats. Two families of 3-oxyhopenyl acetates with -17(21)- and -22(29)- configurations were detected in the upper part of the peat profiles, having a δ13C isotopic composition enriched by 4‰ compared with that of higher plant triterpenoids, and similar to that of microorganism-derived regular hopanoids. Both the acetate and ketone derivatives with the oxygenated functionality at C-3 were generally present in a given extract and tended to accumulate at certain depth in the profiles and in specific levels. The widespread occurrence of acetyl-derivatives, their higher concentration in the deeper layers of the peat, the fact that the acetates correspond to different compound families of diverse source and the very low amount of acetates identified in Ericaceae-contributing to the peat compared to the alcohols suggest that they were formed in the peat under particularly favorable environmental conditions. We postulate that these conditions could have been the existence of a medium enriched in acetic acid produced by the dominance of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis and/or homoacetogenesis over acetoclastic methanogenesis. This phenomenon that has been preferentially described in Sphagnum bogs at high latitudes, and in the deeper layers of peat, appears to be also present in the temperate peats of the Asturian coast.
The loess-paleosol profile near the settlement of Pécel has a notable size among the loess-paleosol sequences of the Northern Carpathian territories. Therefore, comprehensive sedimentological examinations were performed to understand the profile and the information preserved in it. The past periodicity and intensity of winds were showed by particle composition studies (GSI, U-ratio). At least two source areas can be presumed based on geochemical indices (CIA, CIW, Rb/Sr, Zr/Rb). Based on the characteristics of the chemical composition of sulphide minerals (P, S, Pb, Ni, As sulphides), the lower 10 m of the profile was supposed to be transported from the NW direction (Buda Thermal Karst, Börzsöny, Cserhát). Sufficient information is not yet available in order to determine the source area of the upper 10 m. By using the mentioned indexes, major developing and weathering horizons also could be identified.
The Chalcolithic levels of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) offer a good opportunity to test whether the small-mammal contents of different archaeo-stratigraphical units may be useful to characterize them as independent entities. With that purpose, we studied representative samples of small-mammal remains from the two main contexts identified: the Early Chalcolithic (EC) funerary context and the Late Chalcolithic (LC) habitat/stabling context, with the latter comprising three different archaeological units according to their origin, namely prepared floors, activity floors and stabling surfaces or fumiers. Following the distribution of taxa in their respective contexts, we performed several statistical tests to check for significant discrepancies between archaeological units. The exclusive presence of certain taxa, together with the statistical difference in relative taxonomic ratios, points to the integrity and unpolluted condition of the EC context. The interspersed arrangement of the different LC context’s units made them prone to inter-pollution as they are not statistically different. The unexpected presence of Pliomys lenki and Chionomys nivalis in the prepared floors evidences their Upper Pleistocene allochthonous origin. The EC levels of El Portalón contribute the first Holocene records of nine taxa in the Sierra de Atapuerca. An environment dominated by woodland, shrubland and wet meadows, with moderate presence of grassland, inland wetlands and rocky areas, is inferred from the small-mammal association of the EC levels.
Isotopic records from speleothems are an important source of information about past climates and, given the increase in the number of isotope-enabled climate models, are likely to become an important tool for climate model evaluation. SISAL (Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and Analysis) have created a global database of isotopic records from speleothems in order to facilitate regional analyses and data-model comparison. The papers in this Special Issue showcase the use of the database for regional analyses. In this paper, we discuss some of the important issues underpinning the use of speleothems and how the existence of this database assists palaeoclimate research. We also highlight some of the lessons learned in the creation of the SISAL database and outline potential research going forward.
Although the interpretation of Quaternary records of interrelated environmental–ecological–human processes is necessarily complex, it is often addressed using too-simple deterministic approaches. This paper suggests a holistic framework called EHLFS (Environmental–Human–Landscape Feedbacks and Synergies) to tackle Quaternary complexity. The EHLFS scheme is a multiple-working-hypotheses framework, able to account for the particular nature of Quaternary research, and is used in combination with the strong inference method of hypothesis testing. The resulting system is called the strong fuzzy EHLFS approach. This approach is explained in some detail and compared with the more extended simplistic determinisms—namely the environmental determinism and the human determinism—as well as with dual determinisms or deterministic approaches based on two contrasting and apparently contradictory and excluding hypotheses or theories. The application of the strong EHLFS methodology is illustrated using the Late Holocene ecological and cultural history of Easter Island since its initial human settlement, a topic that has traditionally been addressed using simplistic and dual deterministic approaches. The strong fuzzy EHLFS approach seems to be a robust framework to address past complex issues where environment, humans and landscape interact, as well as an open system able to encompass new challenging evidence and thorough changes in fundamental research questions.
Explaining the multifaceted, dynamic interactions of the manifold factors that have modelled throughout the ages the evolutionary history of the biosphere is undoubtedly a fascinating and challenging task that has been intriguing palaeontologists, biologists and ecologists for decades, in a never-ending pursuit of the causal factors that controlled the evolutionary dynamics of the Earth’s ecosystems throughout deep and Quaternary time. [...]
The Eemian was the last interglacial period (~130 to 115 ka BP) to precede the current interglacial. In Eastern Mediterranean marine sediments, it is marked by a well-developed and organic-rich “sapropel” layer (S5), which is thought to reflect an intensification and northward migration of the African monsoon rain belt over orbital timescales. However, despite the importance of these sediments, very little proxy-independent stratigraphic information is available to enable rigorous correlation of these sediments across the region. This paper presents the first detailed study of visible and non-visible (cryptotephra) layers found within these sediments at three marine coring sites: ODP Site 967B (Levantine Basin), KL51 (South East of Crete) and LC21 (Southern Aegean Sea). Major element analyses of the glass component were used to distinguish four distinct tephra events of Santorini (e.g., Vourvoulos eruption) and possible Anatolian provenance occurring during the formation of S5. Interpolation of core chronologies provides provisional eruption ages for the uppermost tephra (unknown Santorini, 121.8 ± 2.9 ka) and lowermost tephra (Anatolia or Kos/Yali/Nisyros, 126.4 ± 2.9 ka). These newly characterised tephra deposits have also been set into the regional tephrostratigraphy to illustrate the potential to precisely synchronise marine proxy records with their terrestrial counterparts, and also contribute to the establishment of a more detailed volcanic history of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Coring lakes and water bodies for paleoecological studies often involves using a coring platform to properly operate a sediment sampling device. In the past, coring platforms have been developed by specific paleoecology laboratories or by private companies. Those coring platforms are generally composed of two boats (inflatable boats, kayaks, etc.) connected together by a metallic and wood structure. While these coring platforms have proven their efficacy, they are not ideal in several coring settings requiring remote transportation, and their cost may be prohibitive for less funded paleoecological laboratories. On this technical note, we describe the Light, Affordable, Stable, and Transportable (LAST) coring platform. Coring platforms based on these principles and on the design presented herein have been extensively tested in various conditions and countries by our research group and collaborators. In the first part of this manuscript, we present the principles and the design of the LAST coring platform; then, we discuss the coring setting for which the LAST coring platform is suitable, and its possible limitations. Associated with this manuscript, we provide a construction and assemblage manual developed without words and with simple illustrations in order to make it easily accessible to speakers of any language.
The reconstruction of land use practices in hyper-arid Saharan Africa is often hampered by the accuracy of the available tools and by unconscious biases that see these areas as marginal and inhospitable. Considered that this has been for a long time the living space of pastoral mobile communities, new research is showing that agriculture might have been more important in these areas than previously thought. In this paper, after a review of present-day land use strategies in Saharan Africa, we show how ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data can offer us a different point of view and help in better defining land use and food production strategies in this area. Ultimately, these insights can be integrated into the ongoing efforts to reconstruct past land use globally.
Africa spans the hemispheres from temperate region to temperate region and has a long history of hominin evolution. Although the number of Quaternary palaeoclimatic records from the continent is increasing, much of the history of spatial and temporal climatic variability is still debated. Speleothems, as archives of terrestrial hydroclimate variability, can help reveal this history. Here we review the progress made to date, with a focus on the first version of the Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and AnaLysis (SISAL) database. The geology of Africa has limited development of large karst regions to four areas: along the northern coast bordering the Mediterranean, eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, southwestern Africa and southern Africa. Exploitation of the speleothem palaeoclimate archives in these regions is uneven, with long histories of research, e.g., in South Africa, but large areas with no investigations such as West Africa. Consequently, the evidence of past climate change reviewed here is irregularly sampled in both time and space. Nevertheless, we show evidence of migration of the monsoon belt, with enhanced rainfall during interglacials observed in northeast Africa, southern Arabia and the northern part of southern Africa. Evidence from eastern Africa indicates significant decadal and centennial scale rainfall variability. In northwestern and southern Africa, precession and eccentricity influence speleothem growth, largely through changing synoptic storm activity.
We hypothesize that megafauna extinctions throughout the Pleistocene, that led to a progressive decline in large prey availability, were a primary selecting agent in key evolutionary and cultural changes in human prehistory. The Pleistocene human past is characterized by a series of transformations that include the evolution of new physiological traits and the adoption, assimilation, and replacement of cultural and behavioral patterns. Some changes, such as brain expansion, use of fire, developments in stone-tool technologies, or the scale of resource intensification, were uncharacteristically progressive. We previously hypothesized that humans specialized in acquiring large prey because of their higher foraging efficiency, high biomass density, higher fat content, and the use of less complex tools for their acquisition. Here, we argue that the need to mitigate the additional energetic cost of acquiring progressively smaller prey may have been an ecological selecting agent in fundamental adaptive modes demonstrated in the Paleolithic archaeological record. We describe several potential associations between prey size decline and specific evolutionary and cultural changes that might have been driven by the need to adapt to increased energetic demands while hunting and processing smaller and smaller game.
This paper tests the suitability of automated point cloud classification tools provided by the popular image-based modeling (IBM) software package Agisoft Metashape for the generation of digital terrain models (DTMs) at moderately-vegetated archaeological sites. DTMs are often required for various forms of archaeological mapping and analysis. The suite of tools provided by Agisoft are relatively user-friendly as compared to many point cloud classification algorithms and do not require the use of additional software. Based on a case study from the Mycenaean site of Kastrouli, Greece, the mostly-automated, geometric classification tool “Classify Ground Points” provides the best results and produces a quality DTM that is sufficient for mapping and analysis. Each of the methods tested in this paper can likely be improved through manual editing of point cloud classification.
In semi-arid regions that are characterized by large agricultural activities, a high volume of water is needed to cover the water requirements for agricultural production. Due to low precipitation and the associated limited availability of surface water, aquifers often represent the main source of irrigation water in these regions. Especially in coastal aquifers, high groundwater abstraction rates may change the flow dynamics of the aquifer and may lead to saltwater intrusion. In this study, within the framework of German–Moroccan international cooperation, the agricultural areas for the summer period 2019 of the Chtouka coastal aquifer in southern Morocco are classified using optical and multi-spectral Sentinel 2 data. Based on the developed land use maps, the groundwater abstraction for irrigation is then quantified by referring to local farmers’ irrigation practices. Following this approach, the total amount of groundwater abstraction is estimated at 157 million m³ for the summer period 2019 in the Chtouka aquifer.
This study was conducted to elucidate the introduction of agriculture and social continuity from the Jomon to the Yayoi period, from an ethnoarchaeological perspective. The Yayoi period has been divided into two types: a broad spectrum economy that relied on many kinds of resources, such as rice, millet, and nuts, and a selective economy that specialised in rice and wild boar. However, it is not clear how the livelihoods shifted from the Jomon to the Yayoi period. In this study, ethnohistorical materials were examined first. Ethnohistorical reference materials gathered worldwide have revealed three relationships between hunter–gatherers and farmers: coexistence, fusion, and assimilation. Focusing on fusion, this study examined situations of hunting, gathering, and fishing, as inferred from ruins of the Late and Final Jomon period, and assessed their relationships with agriculture using ethnohistorical reference materials of the Early Edo period. There were not many social changes caused by the introduction of field farming; however, the introduction of paddy rice cultivation had different effects on society depending on the level of investment in obtaining water from streams and springs and creating irrigation features.
The La Guillerma archaeological locality is located in the northeast sector of Buenos Aires province (Argentina). Two of its sites (LG1 and LG5), dated between ca. 1400- and 600-years BP, have a great amount of faunal remains including deer, rodents, fish and small birds that are subjected to taphonomic agents and processes (e.g., weathering, manganese, roots). Previous studies have shown osteophagic behaviour in different insects (e.g., Coleoptera, Blattodea). In this paper, we evaluate their incidence on La Guillerma faunal assemblage. We performed an analysis on marks that were identified in bone remains of various taxa and applied the criteria for identifying bone alteration by insects (i.e., by measuring each trace and comparing them with the types of insect marks described in the literature). Fifteen specimens (LG1 = 6 and LG5 = 9) exhibited different types of modifications (e.g., pits with striae in base, pits with emanating striae, striations) that are related to the action of insects. Although the proportion of affected bones is low in relation to the total sample, we highlight our study as the first detailed analysis of insect marks on archaeological bones from Argentina. We also emphasize the significance of addressing insect-produced modifications on Argentinean archaeological sites.
Snow avalanches cause many fatalities every year and damage local economies worldwide. The present-day climate change affects the snowpack and, thus, the properties and frequency of snow avalanches. Reconstructing snow avalanche records can help us understand past variations in avalanche frequency and their relationship to climate change. Previous avalanche records have primarily been reconstructed using dendrochronology. Here, we investigate the potential of lake sediments to record snow avalanches by studying 27 < 30-cm-long sediment cores from Kenai Lake, south-central Alaska. We use X-ray computed tomography (CT) to image post-1964 varves and to identify dropstones. We use two newly identified cryptotephras to update the existing varve chronology. Satellite imagery is used to understand the redistribution of sediments by ice floes over the lake, which helps to explain why some avalanches are not recorded. Finally, we compare the dropstone record with climate data to show that snow avalanche activity is related to high amounts of snowfall in periods of relatively warm or variable temperature conditions. We show, for the first time, a direct link between historical snow avalanches and dropstones preserved in lake sediments. Although the lacustrine varve record does not allow for the development of a complete annual reconstruction of the snow avalanche history in the Kenai Lake valley, our results suggest that it can be used for long-term decadal reconstructions of the snow-avalanche history, ideally in combination with similar records from lakes elsewhere in the region.
Recent decades of warmer climate have brought drying wetlands and falling lake levels to southern Alaska. These recent changes can be placed into a longer-term context of postglacial lake-level fluctuations that include low stands that were as much as 7 m lower than present at eight lakes on the Kenai Lowland. Closed-basin lakes on the Kenai Lowland are typically ringed with old shorelines, usually as wave-cut scarps, cut several meters above modern lake levels; the scarps formed during deglaciation at 25–19 ka in a kettle moraine topography on the western Kenai Lowland. These high-water stands were followed by millennia of low stands, when closed-basin lake levels were drawn down by 5–10 m or more. Peat cores from satellite fens near or adjoining the eight closed-basin lakes show that a regional lake level rise was underway by at least 13.4 ka. At Jigsaw Lake, a detailed study of 23 pairs of overlapping sediment cores, seismic profiling, macrofossil analysis, and 58 AMS radiocarbon dates reveal rapidly rising water levels at 9–8 ka that caused large slabs of peat to slough off and sink to the lake bottom. These slabs preserve an archive of vegetation that had accumulated on a lakeshore apron exposed during the preceding drawdown period. They also preserve evidence of a brief period of lake level rise at 4.7–4.5 ka. We examined plant succession using in situ peat sequences in nine satellite fens around Jigsaw Lake that indicated increased effective moisture between 4.6 and 2.5 ka synchronous with the lake level rise. Mid- to late-Holocene lake high stands in this area are recorded by numerous ice-shoved ramparts (ISRs) along the shores. ISRs at 15 lakes show that individual ramparts typically record several shove events, separated by hundreds or thousands of years. Most ISRs date to within the last 5200 years and it is likely that older ISRs were erased by rising lake levels during the mid- to late Holocene. This study illustrates how data on vegetation changes in hydrologically coupled satellite-fen peat records can be used to constrain the water level histories in larger adjacent lakes. We suggest that this method could be more widely utilized for paleo-lake level reconstruction.
Marine geophysical surveys were carried out at the underwater site in the south-western sector of the Eastern Harbor of Alexandria, opposite to the Egyptian Sea Scout Club. Survey works aimed to detect and study the surface and subsurface geomorphological changes caused by historic sea-level rise and natural hazards, by integrating the results of high-resolution geophysical mapping for the seafloor textures and the subsurface layers with previously published core data and sea-level records, the survey works employed echo-sounder, side scan sonar, and sub-bottom profiler. Acoustic data were ground-truthed using an ROV camera and sediment grab sampler. Results of bathymetric mapping and sonar imaging outlined two breakwaters and quay corresponding to a submerged ancient port; also, sediment types were classified according to variation in the magnitude of the backscattered intensities. Interpretation of sub-bottom profiles illustrated the depositional sequence of the topmost sedimentary layers where the sediment thicknesses were thickened by rates that perfectly matched with the recorded sea-level rise rate during the last two millennia, as indicated by isopach maps. Anthropogenic activities were noticed in particular outcropping areas on the sub-bottom profiles. The results explained the role of natural hazards and sea-level rise in changing the geomorphology of the coastline and seabed features.
Eight anatomically and taxonomically different finds are presented in this paper, and they belong to four taxa: woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), and dog (Canis familiaris). All specimens represent allochthonous Late Pleistocene and Holocene animal remains, and all were dredged during the gravel exploitation at the Sekuline site near Molve (Podravina region, SW Pannonian basin, NE Croatia). Mammoth remains (bone and tusk fragments) were radiocarbon dated, and these are the first absolute dates on mammoths in Croatia. One upper last left deciduous premolar (dP4 sin.) also belongs to the same species. Ascribed to a dog is one well-preserved skull with a peculiar abscess scar on the maxillary bone as the result of an inflammatory process on the carnassial (P4) premolar. The Late Pleistocene cervid remains are giant deer, while the other cervid finds were determined to be red deer of the Holocene age. Morphometrical and taphonomical data are presented for each specimen. Such fossil and recent bone/tooth aggregates are characteristic of fluvial deposits and selective collecting. Although lacking stratigraphic provenance, these finds help to fulfil the gaps in palaeoenvironmental, palaeoecological, and palaeoclimate reconstructions of Podravina and its neighbouring areas.
This paper presents an updated geological reconstruction of the Quaternary evolution of the River Thames at its downstream extremities, close to the North Sea coast, based on new data from multi-disciplinary and citizen-science sources. In this area, the interaction of the Thames with the MIS 12 (Anglian) glaciation is an important part of the Quaternary archive. The Anglian ice sheet, which reached parts of north and east London, was responsible for diverting the Thames southwards into its present course, although the footprint of the maximum ice sheet(s) does not reach the North Sea coast south of Hollesley, Suffolk. Further south, the coastal zone hosts pre-Anglian and early Anglian river-terrace deposits of the pre-diversion Thames system, superimposed upon which are products of later post-Anglian rivers, of both Middle and Late Pleistocene age. On the peninsula between the Stour and Blackwater–Colne estuaries, the lowest and most recent terrace of the pre-diversion Thames includes evidence directly pertaining to the glacial disruption event, for which geochronological data are reported here for the first time. The first post-diversion terrace of the Thames also reaches this peninsula, the river having essentially re-joined its original valley before crossing the alignment of the modern coastline. This terrace passes beneath Clacton-on-Sea, where it includes the type locality of the Clactonian Palaeolithic Industry. The area of interest to this paper, in NE Essex and southern Suffolk, includes a number of interglacial and Palaeolithic sites, the data from which assist in constraining the chronostratigraphy of the sequence. In some cases, there has been uncertainty as to whether these sites represent pre-Anglian environments and hominin occupations, part of the palaeo-Thames sequence, or whether they are the product of later post-Anglian streams, formed after the Thames had migrated southwards. This paper compiles evidence from a wide range of recent sources, including developer-funded archaeological appraisal and citizen-science activities, to explore and update the evidence from sites at Ipswich, Upper Dovercourt and Thorpe-le-Soken, as well as a number of localities associated with the Clacton Channel Deposits (host to the type-Clactonian), amongst others. The resulting new data are placed within the wider context of the Quaternary fluvial archives in southern Britain, with a discussion of how disparate sources of information, including the work of citizen scientists, have contributed.
The role of plants in early human migrations across the globe has received little attention compared to big game hunting. Tropical forests in particular have been seen as a barrier for Late Pleistocene human dispersals due to perceived difficulties in obtaining sufficient subsistence resources. Archaeobotanical data from the Cerro Azul rock outcrop in the Colombian Amazon details Late Pleistocene plant exploitation providing insight into early human subsistence in the tropical forest. The dominance of palm taxa in the assemblage, dating from 12.5 ka BP, allows us to speculate on processes of ecological knowledge transfer and the identification of edible resources in a novel environment. Following the hypothesis of Martin Jones from his 2009 work, “Moving North: archaeobotanical evidence for plant diet in Middle and Upper Paleolithic Europe”, we contend that the instantly recognizable and economically useful palm family (Arecaceae) provided a “gateway” to the unknown resources of the Amazon forest.
It has recently been argued that pre-Columbian societies in the greater Amazon basin during the Late Holocene were subject to “adaptive cycling”. In this model, cultures practicing “intensive” land use practices, such as raised field agriculture, were vulnerable to perturbations in hydroclimate, whereas “extensive” land use patterns, such as polyculture agroforestry, are viewed as more resilient to climate change. On the basis of radiocarbon data, the relative rise and fall of late pre-Columbian cultures and their inferred patterns of land use in six regions are highlighted to exemplify this model. This paper re-examines the radiocarbon evidence marshalled in favour of adaptive cycling, demonstrating that alleged temporal patterning in these data are overwhelmingly likely due to a combination of sampling effects, lack of statistical controls, and unacknowledged uncertainties that are inherent to radiocarbon dating. The outcome of this combination of factors seriously limits the possibility of cross-referencing archaeological data with palaeo-ecological and -climatological data without controlling for these effects, undermining the central archaeological pillar in support of adaptive cycling in Amazonia. This paper illustrates examples of such mitigation measures and provides the code to replicate them. Suggestions for how to overcome the serious limitations identified in the Late Holocene radiocarbon record of Amazonia are presented in the context of ongoing debates on inferring climatic causation in archaeological and historical datasets.
Speleothem oxygen isotope records from the Caribbean, Central, and North America reveal climatic controls that include orbital variation, deglacial forcing related to ocean circulation and ice sheet retreat, and the influence of local and remote sea surface temperature variations. Here, we review these records and the global climate teleconnections they suggest following the recent publication of the Speleothem Isotopes Synthesis and Analysis (SISAL) database. We find that low-latitude records generally reflect changes in precipitation, whereas higher latitude records are sensitive to temperature and moisture source variability. Tropical records suggest precipitation variability is forced by orbital precession and North Atlantic Ocean circulation driven changes in atmospheric convection on long timescales, and tropical sea surface temperature variations on short timescales. On millennial timescales, precipitation seasonality in southwestern North America is related to North Atlantic climate variability. Great Basin speleothem records are closely linked with changes in Northern Hemisphere summer insolation. Although speleothems have revealed these critical global climate teleconnections, the paucity of continuous records precludes our ability to investigate climate drivers from the whole of Central and North America for the Pleistocene through modern. This underscores the need to improve spatial and temporal coverage of speleothem records across this climatically variable region.
The timing of human entrance into North America has been a topic of debate that dates back to the late 19th century. Central to the modern discussion is not whether late Pleistocene-age populations were present on the continent, but the timing of their arrival. Key to the debate is the age of tools—bone rods, large prismatic stone blades, and bifacially chipped and fluted stone weapon tips—often found associated with the remains of late Pleistocene fauna. For decades, it was assumed that this techno-complex—termed “Clovis”—was left by the first humans in North America, who, by 11,000–12,000 years ago, made their way eastward across the Bering Land Bridge, or Beringia, and then turned south through a corridor that ran between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets, which blanketed the northern half of the continent. That scenario has been challenged by more-recent archaeological and archaeogenetic data that suggest populations entered North America as much as 15,300–14,300 years ago and moved south along the Pacific Coast and/or through the ice-free corridor, which apparently was open several thousand years earlier than initially thought. Evidence indicates that Clovis might date as early as 13,400 years ago, which means that it was not the first technology in North America. Given the lack of fluted projectile points in the Old World, it appears certain that the Clovis techno-complex, or at least major components of it, emerged in the New World.
Archaeological excavations at the Cueva del Medio performed during the 1980s and 1990s yielded an important record of both faunal and stone tool remains, as well as data, to discuss issues that occurred during the Terminal Pleistocene. Due to that, the shaped Paleoamerican artifacts collected in the author’s excavations were partially informed. The present article provides unpublished data on the field-work, the results of a techno-morphological analysis of the stone tools, and considerations about early hunter-gatherer societies along with their regional paleo-environmental interactions, as well other topics regarding the regional archaeological process during the last millennium of the Pleistocene. Findings from there have been extremely useful for discussing diverse paleo-ecological and archaeological topics and have extended the knowledge and discussions about different Pleistocene scientific issues, mainly related with flora, fauna, and the colonization of southern Patagonia.
Global atmospheric warming is causing physical and biotic changes in Earth’s high mountains at a rate that is likely unprecedented in the Holocene. We summarize changes in the presently glacierized mountains of northwest North America, including a rapid and large reduction in glacier ice and permafrost, a related increase in slope instability and landslides, river re-routing and other hydrological changes, and changing aquatic ecosystems. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and will likely do so for at least the next several decades, if not longer, and mountains will continue to warm, perhaps reaching temperatures up to several degrees Celsius warmer than present over the remainder of this century. As a result, the rate of physical and biotic changes documented in this paper is very likely to dramatically increase and transform high-mountain environments.
Disentangling the effects of glaciers and climate on vegetation is complicated by the confounding role that climate plays in both systems. We reconstructed changes in vegetation occurring over the Holocene at Jøkelvatnet, a lake located directly downstream from the Langfjordjøkel glacier in northern Norway. We used a sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) metabarcoding dataset of 38 samples from a lake sediment core spanning 10,400 years using primers targeting the P6 loop of the trnL (UAA) intron. A total of 193 plant taxa were identified revealing a pattern of continually increasing richness over the time period. Vegetation surveys conducted around Jøkelvatnet show a high concordance with the taxa identified through sedaDNA metabarcoding. We identified four distinct vegetation assemblage zones with transitions at ca. 9.7, 8.4 and 4.3 ka with the first and last mirroring climatic shifts recorded by the Langfjordjøkel glacier. Soil disturbance trait values of the vegetation increased with glacial activity, suggesting that the glacier had a direct impact on plants growing in the catchment. Temperature optimum and moisture trait values correlated with both glacial activity and reconstructed climatic variables showing direct and indirect effects of climate change on the vegetation. In contrast to other catchments without an active glacier, the vegetation at Jøkelvatnet has displayed an increased sensitivity to climate change throughout the Middle and Late Holocene. Beyond the direct impact of climate change on arctic and alpine vegetation, our results suggest the ongoing disappearance of glaciers will have an additional effect on plant communities.
The European conquest of the New World produced major socio-environmental reorganization in the Americas, but for many specific regions and ecosystems, we still do not understand how these changes occurred within a broader temporal framework. In this paper, we reconstruct the long-term environmental and vegetation changes experienced by high-altitude wetlands of the southcentral Andes over the last two millennia. Pollen and charcoal analyses of a 5.5-m-long core recovered from the semi-arid puna of northern Chile indicate that while climatic drivers influenced vegetation turnaround, human land use and management strategies significantly affected long-term changes. Our results indicate that the puna vegetation mostly dominated by grasslands and some peatland taxa stabilized during the late Holocene, xerophytic shrubs expanded during extremely dry events, and peatland vegetation persisted in relation to landscape-scale management strategies by Andean pastoralist societies. Environmental changes produced during the post-conquest period included the introduction of exotic taxa, such as clovers, associated with the translocation of exotic herding animals (sheep, cattle, and donkeys) and a deterioration in the management of highland wetlands.
Fossil wood and varved lake sediments allow proxy analysis with exceptionally high, (sub-)annual resolution. Both archives provide dating through ring and layer counting, yet with different accuracy. In wood, counting errors are small and can be eliminated through cross-dating because tree-rings show regionally synchronous patterns. In varved sediments, counting errors are larger and cross-dating is hampered by missing regional patterns in varve parameters. Here, we test whether annual pollen analysis is suited to synchronize varve records. To that end, annual pollen deposition was estimated in three short cores from two lakes in north-eastern Germany for the period 1980–2017 CE. Analysis has focused on Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies, which show the strongest annual variations in flowering (mast). For both tree taxa, annual flowering variations recorded by forest and pollen monitoring are well represented in varved lake sediments, hence indeed allow us to synchronize the records. Some pollen mast events were not recognized, which may relate to sampling uncertainties, redeposition or regional variations in flowering. In Fagus sylvatica, intense flowering limits wood growth in the same year. Peaks in pollen deposition hence correlate with minima in tree-ring width, which provides a link between varved lake sediments and fossil wood.
The collection of papers entitled “Annually Laminated Lake Sediments” illustrates the recent progress made in varved sediment research and highlights the variety of methodological approaches and research directions used. The contributions cover the monitoring of modern sediment fluxes using sediment traps, geochronological and sedimentological analyses of varves, multi-proxy investigations, including geochemical and biological proxies, as well as spatiotemporal analyses based on multi-core studies supported by satellite images. The scientific issues discussed the influences of hydroclimatological phenomena on short-term changes in sediment flux, the relationships between biogeochemical processes in the water column and the formation of varves, the preservation of environmental signals in varves, and possibilities of synchronizing varved records with other high-resolution environmental archives.