SoSe 2012




Dr. Johan Bakker
(Center for Archaeological Sciences, University of Leuven)

"Vegetation Dynamics and its driving forces in a mountainous environment in SW turkey from the late Roman Imperial period until the present."

Anatolia is characterized by a very complex history of climate and human related vegetation change, which varies strongly from location to location. The region forms a bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa for plants as well as human civilisation. The regional climate is equally influenced by North Atlantic, Asian, and African climatic forces and may vary regionally due to the rough topography of Anatolia. While palynological data is available for the Eastern Mediterranean, well dated records focussing on the period from the end of the Roman Imperial period to the present are rare for Anatolia and absent for SW Turkey. Additionally, while climatic data is available for the Eastern Mediterranean, no climatic records exist for SW Turkey. The aforementioned complexity of the climatic system makes it impossible to reliably use existing climatic proxies for locations for which such data is not yet available.
Two well dated palaeoecological records from the Western Taurus Mountains, Turkey, provide a first relatively detailed record of vegetation dynamics in Southwest Turkey focussing on the period from late Roman times until the present. Combining pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and charcoal data with multivariate statistics, sedimentological and archaeological data, allows for the disentangling of climatic and anthropogenic influences on vegetation change in this under-researched region of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The numerical analyses revealed a succession of relatively wet and relatively dry bioclimatic trends corresponding with well-defined European climate shifts, allowing the assessment of the exact timing and impact for the first time in this region of Anatolia. The pollen and sedimentological data show both climatic as well as anthropogenic change had a strong influence on vegetation dynamics.
Intensive crop cultivation diminished in favour of animal grazing/herding during the late 3rd century. This shift differs from the regional trend of increased anthropogenic activity during this warm and wet climatic period and may be a result of the local wetlands increasing in size, encroaching onto formerly arable land. However, the possible role of political, economical and military instability may not be ignored. A further shift to animal grazing/herding coincided with a climatic deterioration during the mid 7th century, as well as the start of Arab incursions into Anatolia.
A return to moister conditions during the mid 10th century, coinciding with the start of the European Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), may have been a catalyst for a brief resurgence in agricultural activity during a period of economic recovery and military successes. The disappearance of agriculture during the 12th century does not appear to be connected to environmental change, nor is there a clear link with socio-cultural phenomena. A trend towards dry conditions, corresponding with the European Little Ice Age (LIA), occurred from the late 13th century onward. The available sediment and pollen data for this time period shows remarkable similarities with a SW Turkish tree-ring record covering the LIA. Gradual deforestation occurring from the 17th century onwards has been linked to changes in landscape use during the ottoman reign, rather than climatic change.


Dr. Claire Terhune
(Department of Community & Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham)

"Inferring feeding behavior from the masticatory apparatus: What can the TMJ tell us?"


Living primates are known to vary widely in feeding behavior, and a number of studies have demonstrated that the shape of the masticatory apparatus is functionally  and adaptively linked to this variation in feeding behavior. As the point at which the mandible and cranium articulate, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an important component  of the masticatory apparatus. Forces are transmitted from the mandible to the cranium via the TMJ, and this joint helps to govern mandibular range of motion. Variation in TMJ form should therefore reflect feeding behavior as well, but current data suggest that only some behaviors are reliably reflect by this morphology. This presentation will discuss what we can and can’t infer about feeding behavior from the TMJ, and how we might be able to investigate feeding behavior in fossil hominins using this morphology.


Prof. Tim Weaver
(Natural History Museum, London)

" The meaning of Neandertal skeletal morphology"


Since the discovery of Neandertals, deciphering the meaning of their skeletal morphology has fascinated scientists and the public alike. Neandertals are of particular interest today, because they may have been the most closely related species to humans that ever existed. In my talk, I will speak about the meaning of Neandertal skeletal morphology. Why do Neandertal skeletons look the way they do? And why are they different from modern human skeletons? I will address these questions with research based on a variety of quantitative approaches, including evolutionary quantitative genetics, virtual reconstruction of fossils, and statistical shape analysis. This research suggests that the best explanation for many Neandertal cranial features is divergence by genetic drift that began when Neandertal and modern human populations became isolated from each other >350,000 years ago. In contrast, Neandertal body proportions, and likely many other features of their bodies, appear to be adaptations, or secondary consequences of adaptations, to the typically cold climates of Pleistocene Eurasia.


Prof. Dr .Dr. h.c. H.Preuschoft
(Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Medizinische Fakultät, Anatomisches Institut)

"Shape of the skull, including its pneumatized spaces, as product of mechanical loading."


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Prof. Chris Stringer
(Natural History Museum, London)

"Current issues in modern human origins research"


Africa was the centre for our genetic and physical evolution, and probably also for most of the fundamental aspects of our complex behaviour, such as advanced technology and symbolism. However, in my view there was no single centre for our evolution, no ‘Garden of Eden’ – instead different populations across Africa contributed to the make-up of what we call modern humans. By about 60,000 years ago, Homo sapiens emerged from its ancestral homeland and began to disperse across the Old World. In doing so our ancestors encountered their relatives, such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and may have contributed to their eventual extinction – however, at the same time, through a small degree of interbreeding, the DNA of these other humans lives on in us today. In this talk I will discuss the implications of these new data for research on modern human origins.