Developing research on the paleoenvironmental context of Pleistocene human dispersals and occupations in the Armenian Highlands

Seminar by Dr. Phil Glauberman from Unversitat Rovira i Virgili

02 March 2023
KST 10:30 – 11:30

The Seminar is being held in Room 1010 (Jasmin) – Integrated mechanical engineering building. Click here for the campus map.

At the intersection of the Near East and Eurasia, the Armenian Highlands is a crucial region for the study of Pleistocene human dispersals. Indeed, the earliest fossil evidence of human presence outside Africa has been documented there during the Early Pleistocene (~1.8 Ma). Several sites currently under study also date to marine isotope stage (MIS) 3, providing a preliminary view of settlement dynamics during the Late Pleistocene time window of ‘replacement’ of Neanderthals by anatomically modern humans. 

However, the extent to which Pleistocene global climate and regional-local environmental conditions impacted the timing and duration of human occupations remains unresolved. This is because paleoenvironmental proxy and archaeological data from sedimentary deposits are spatio-temporally fragmented. The region’s strong climatic, elevation, and ecological gradients also influence regional hydroclimate variability. At a nexus of Eurasian air mass circulation patterns, the region is a biodiversity hotspot, and a floral and faunal glacial refugium. This raises the question of human population persistence there through glacial climate stages.

This presentation offers a Paleolithic archaeologist’s perspective on current Pleistocene paleoenvironmental research in the Armenian Highlands. This point of view shows the origins of environmental proxy data, and selected case studies highlight key research questions. Ultimately, the region needs a continuous high-resolution terrestrial hydroclimate record to integrate spatio-temporally discontinuous paleoenvironmental data. Such an archive can potentially be found in speleothem deposits in deep karstic caves. Temperature, precipitation, and isotope data from these records can test and improve habitat suitability models, and refine our view of regional environmental conditions that impacted Pleistocene human occupations.