Professor Nick Barton and Co-Applicants Professor Victoria Smith and Dr Amy Styring of the School of Archaeology in Oxford and Kevin Uno of Columbia University have been awarded a grant of nearly £500,000 by the Leverhulme Trust.
Their project on “Agencies of behavioural change in early modern humans in NW Africa " examines the potential impact of climate change on key innovations in modern human behaviour over the last 300,000 years.
It uses archaeological and environmental sequences in caves in Morocco and proxy evidence from continuous marine core records to test whether periods of increased environmental variability were agents of cultural change. Dated volcanic ash layers from the Canary Islands and the Azores will be employed to tie the different records together, using minute ash traces in the cave and marine deposits (tephrochronology). The region chosen contains some of the earliest Homo sapiens fossils in Africa and lies on the NW edge of the Sahara in areas that experienced extreme environmental variability over this period.