Down Ancient Trails: Lectures, May 2020

Down Ancient Trails  May 2020 Lecture Series 

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May 28, 2020, 4.00 pm (IST) Dr. Sileshi Semaw, Senior Research Scientist in the Archaeology Program at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain. Topic: "The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project (Afar, Ethiopia), highlights of the major results of field research (1999-2020) 

Abstract:  Gona is well-known for yielding the earliest confirmed Oldowan stone assemblages securely-dated to 2.6 Ma. The multidisciplinary research team organized in 1999 initiated fieldwork and undertook systematic exploration of the entire Gona study area for the first time. The team discovered that the fossiliferous deposits at Gona stretch back to the Late Miocene/Early Pliocene, preserving among the earliest hominins assigned to Ar. kadabba (~6.0 Ma) and Ar.ramidus (~4.5 Ma). The Pleistocene deposits are fossil and artifact-rich preserving archaeological materials from the earliest Oldowan dated to 2.6 Ma, to subsequent stone tool traditions including the Acheulian, the Middle Stone Age (MSA) and the Later Stone Age(LSA). Gona has yielded early Homo erectus fossils and associated Oldowan and Acheulian stone assemblages recently published in Science Advances. Research is ongoing on the MSA and LSA archaeological materials discovered at Gona. Currently, Gona is among the handful of palaeoanthropological study areas known in Africa for investigating the biological andbehavioural evolution of human ancestors for the past 6.0 million years.

About: "Born in Ethiopia, I completed my undergraduate studies in History at Addis Ababa University in 1982. I worked as a historian (1982-1986) at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. I was granted a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the USA in 1986. After two years of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I moved to Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ, USA) where I completed my PhD in 1997 in anthropology (specializing in African Archaeology). My dissertation work was focused on the 2.6 Ma archaeology at Gona, and the research contributed enormously to our knowledge on the superb knapping skill of the makers of the earliest Oldowan securely-dated to 2.6 Ma. In 1997 I joined the Stone Age Institute (Indiana University) in Bloomngton, IN, USA as a Research Scientist. I organized the large multidisciplinary Gona palaeoanthropological Research Project in 1999, involving international team of scientists in archaeology, geology and  paleontology from Ethiopia, the USA, and Europe. The research carried out over the past two decades has produced remarkable archaeological and paleontological (including hominin) materials. I am currently working as a Senior Research Scientist in the Archaeology Program at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain"

May 26, 2020, 11.30 am (IST).Dr. Ariel Malinsky Buller (senior researcher)  MONREPOS, Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, Schloss Monrepos,Germany. Topic: “Population dynamics and cultural trajectories in S-W  Asia during MIS 7-3 (250-29 kya) - recent contribution of the research in Armenia”  

Abstract: Southwestern Asia is the first stepping stone for any migration from Out-of Africa.  Southern Caucasus is the northern extension of this region. It encompasses the areabetween the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the north and the River Arax in the south,comprising the modern states of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. The geography ofthe Southern Caucasus yielded both challenges and opportunities for past hunter-gatherers populations, with steep elevational gradients ranging from sea level to 4000 m above sea level, and a mosaic of biomes spreading over short distances. Today the area is a biodiversity hot spot where ca. 25% of plant and animal species are endemic. The earliest evidence of hominid occupation in this region dates to the Lower Pleistocene, ca. 1.85–1.78 Ma, from the eponymous site of Damnisi. However, the later Middle Pleistocene record is fragmentary. The current knowledge of hominid occupations in the region during the last 250 kya has many temporal and spatial gaps. Only a few eco-geographic sub-regions have been studied intensively. Thus, our understanding of past dispersals, settlement patterns, and population dynamics in the Southern Caucasus is limited. In this lecture, I would like to present the initial results of the excavations conducted by our research group in Armenia. Those results will then be articulated within the wider context of the last 250 kya of southwestern Asia. The emerging settlement patterns in the region will be compared to adjacent regions and possible implications on our understanding of the population dynamics. 

About: Ariel Malinsky-Buller is currently a senior researcher at MONREPOS Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, Neuwied, Germany. He received his PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. As an archaeologist he has been conducting amultidisciplinary research encompassing a wide range of topics: material culture studies,geology, biological and cultural evolution, past climate, anthropology, and ethnography. For the past 15 years, Ariel Malinsky Buller has been conducting excavations and surveys at Paleolithic sites, directing and coordinating research efforts as well as analyzing lithicassemblages dating from the Lower Paleolithic to Neolithic periods in Israel, France,Georgia, and Armenia. In the last four years, Malinsky Buller has been leading an interdisciplinary and international research projects in Armenia.

May, 25, 2020, 5 pm (IST) Professor Michael Petraglia, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Topic: Arabia and Hominin Dispersals in the Southern Dispersal Zone.

Abstract: The evolution and history of humans is a topic that fascinates scholars and the public alike. Interdisciplinary archaeological studies address a range of questions, including how humans coped with climate change over time and how we migrated out of Africa and across Asia. TheArabian peninsula is a pivotal geographic area for addressing questions about dispersals across the southern latitudes of Asia, and so an interdisciplinary team of scientists has conducted archaeological surveys and excavations centered on understanding the human occupation history of Arabia. The research has shown that early humans began to moveacross Arabia beginning by at least 500,000 years ago. Evidence indicates that of our species,Homo sapiens, travelled across Arabia multiple times in the past, coping with significant climatic fluctuations and ecosystem changes. During the last 10,000 years, people faced a
variety of challenges from climatic change and droughts, leading to a wide range oftechnological, economic and cultural responses, which provide valuable lessons for us today.

About:  Michael Petraglia was born in the USA, receiving his degrees from New York University and the University of New Mexico. From 2001-2009 he was a Lecturer at the University of
Cambridge and from 2009-2016, Professor of Human Evolution and Prehistory at the University of Oxford. In 2016, he moved to Jena, Germany, joining the Max Planck Institute
for the Science of Human History. He has directed large-scale, interdisciplinary archaeological projects internationally, including in South Asia and Arabia. Petraglia is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution (USA) and an Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland (Australia). He has authored and co-edited ten books, including, The Evolution and History of Human Populations in South Asia: Interdisciplinary Studies in Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Linguistics and Genetics (Springer, 2007) and Human Dispersal and Species Movement: From Prehistory to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2017). He has authored over 200 journal articles and book chapters, centering on a wide range of subjects in human evolution and prehistory.


May 20, 2020, 5 pm (IST) Dr. Josep M. Pares: Research Program Coordinator: Geochronology and Geology, National Centre for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain, Topic:"Paleomagnetism in archaeology: Basis and applications". 

Abstract: From magnetic domains to large geologic terranes, from the Precambrian to the Neolithic, paleomagnetism offers a wide variety of applications to both Earth Sciences and Archaeology. The ancient Earth’s magnetic field gets recorded in almost every single geologic material, as well as in numerous archaeological artifacts. Thanks to such remanent magnetism, we can unravel from global geomagnetic reversals to short term variations of the Earth’s magnetic field, configuring paleomagnetism as an extremely versatile discipline in geochronology and geoarchaeology studies.
About:  Initially at the Earth Sciences Institute (CSIC) in Barcelona as a Research Scientist, Josep M. Parés (Ph.D. Geology, Universitat de Barcelona, 1988), accepted a professorship position in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan, and later joined the CENIEH as a Program Coordinator in 2007. His research has been centered on paleomagnetism and rockmagnetism in rocks and sediments to establish geochronologies based on magnetostratigraphic records, and to better understand rock deformation. He has participated in several deep sea drilling
expeditions (ODP and IODP) in the Pacific Ocean, as well as in field work in the Antarctica, Rocky Mountains, Pyrenees, Tibet, Atlas among other regions. Currently he conducts research in archaeological and paleontological sites in the circum-Mediterranean area and beyond through the use of paleomagnetism combined with absolute age dating methods.


May14, 2020, 5 pm (IST). Dr. Anand Kumar Pandey, Senior Principal Scientist, CSIR - National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, India. Topic: on "Quaternary geomorphology/landscapes for earthquakes and archaeology: a perspective".

About: Dr. Anand K. Pandey received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Geology from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. He carried out Ph.D. and post-doctoral research at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun and Department of Geology, ETH Zentrum, Zurich. He has been Adjunct Faculty at Dept. of Geological Sciences, SDSU, San Diego, CA-USA during 2010-2011. He is trying to understand structural architecture and geodynamics evolution of Himalayan and other orogen, aspects of neotectonics including tectonic-geomorphology, active fault mapping, and paleoseismology in various tectonic settings. Understanding tectonic-climate interaction in large scale landscape evolution, localization of erosion and associated hazards is other active research theme. He is exploring shallow sub-surface processes through geomorphic and sedimentological proxies (including liquefaction induced soft sediment deformation and their trigger mechanism) and engineering geological aspects using GPR & MASWA for shallow subsurface mapping for geological features, civic resource-infrastructure and associated hazard. 


May 12, 2020, 8.30 pm (IST): Dr. Ben Marwick, Associate Professor of Archaeology and director of the Geoarchaeology Laboratory at the University of Washington, Seattle. Topic: 'How did modern humans make their way into mainland Southeast Asia? New data on the Paleolithic from excavations in China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Australia'. 

Abstract: Recently we heard about modern humans arriving in Australia at 65,000 years ago. In China modern humans appear to be present around 80,000 years ago. Yet the Palaeolithic record for mainland Southeast Asia has not yet provided many good 'dots on the map' to allow us to sketch a route of population movement that described the first movement of modern humans through the region. This makes it hard to tell a compelling story of how modern humans made their way into and through this region. I report on recent  archaeological research in China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Australia that I have been involved in to try to sketch out a scenario of how modern humans arrived in this region. Based on these results I conclude that current hypotheses about a southern coastal route
may need revision in favour of a high latitude route and a backfilling process. 

About: Ben is an Associate Professor of Archaeology and director of the Geoarchaeology Laboratory at the University of Washington, Seattle. His other local affiliations include the eScience Institute, the Burke Museum, the Center for Statistics and Social Sciences, the Quaternary Research Center, and the Southeast Asia Center. He is program chair of the Reproducible and Open Science Group at theeScience Institute, and the Society of American Archaeology's Open Science in Archaeology Interest Group. Ben's main research activities combine models from evolutionary ecology with analyses of archaeological evidence to investigate past human behaviour. Specific interests include hominin dispersals into mainland Southeast Asia, forager technologies and ecology in Australia, mainland Southeast Asia and elsewhere. In addition to these regional foci, Ben uses quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse how archaeology engages with local and online communities, and with popularculture. Ben works on techniques and methods for reproducible research and open science in
archaeology and related fields. 

May 11, 2020, 11.30 am (IST): Professor Naama Goren-Inbar, The Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, Topic:   "The Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov: Interpreting Hominin behaviour.

About: Research Interests: Old World prehistory, The Lower and Middle Pleistocene, Morpho-technology and typology of stone artifacts, The Acheulian and Mousterian Technocomplexes, Paleoclimate, paleoenvironment and paleoecology of the Great African Rift Valley, The evolution of human behavior, Site formation processes, Human dispersals and colonization: Out of Africa, Diet, Pre-PotteryNeolithic quarries.




May 7, 2020, 5 pm (IST): Dr. Naveen Chauhan, Reader, AMOPH, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad  will speak on 'Basics of luminescence chronology and its relevance for archaeology'.

Abstract: Luminescence dating has emerged as a powerful tool to establish chronology of events in Quaternary. The technique has revolutionized field of geochronology and is one of the fastest growing techniques in past four decades. The luminescence is the phenomenon exhibited by the imperfections in the crystals. Imperfections are normally not welcomed in any system but in case of luminescence we can only say “Imperfections are beautiful”. These imperfections are not only responsible for giving beautiful colors to the crystal but also provide an inherent clock which can be used to establish timing of geological/archaeological event. The clock is set as soon as a natural crystal is formed and is affected by the physical changes faced by the crystal during its transport and burial. Thus, it provides a unique means to study such physical changes. Unlike existing relative dating methods, luminescence clock provides the absolute age and can be ubiquitously applied. The technique has a very wide dating range having extremes as low as 10 years and as old as 800 ka. The technique is normally applied on two naturally occurring minerals (crystal) viz. quartz and feldspar which are found everywhere and thus has a wide areas of applications. As a result, the technique is used in archaeology to study cultural evolution and human migration. It is used for dating of pottery, establishing age of historical buildings, palaeolithic tools, etc. It is widely used in geology to study palaeclimate, tectonics, glacial movements, desert evolution, tsunami events, River migration, coastal dune formations, exhumation etc. Further new areas of application of the technique are being explored by different research group across the globe and exciting researches are being published on continuous basis. The limits of luminescence are now being challenged and researchers are trying to extend the dating limits of luminescence so that it can target more interesting issues in sciences. Considering the importance of technique and scope of applications several students and researchers are keen to understand the basics of luminescence dating technique. In the present talk I will try to give a glimpse of the technique and will discuss about the basic principle, methodology, limitations and new techniques for luminescence dating. Further I would like to discuss its relevance for archaeological studies and some further possibilities in Archaeological applications.

About: "I am Naveen Chauhan, working in luminescence dosimetry and dating and currently serving as a Reader in Physical Research Laboratory(PRL), Ahmedabad. I did my Graduation and Post graduation in Physics from University of Delhi and Ph.D. in spatially resolved luminescence from PRL, Ahmedabad. Currently I am interested in understanding the physics of luminescence and its application to understand the earth and environmental processes. I am keen to learn the processes which shape the earth and its influence on climate and human. I am trying to improve the dating limits of luminescence and exploring new methodologies to understand the earth surface dynamics".









May 5, 2020, 2.30 pm (IST): Professor Mohamed Sahnouni, National Centre for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain. Topic: the “North African Early Palaeolithic: Recent excavations at Ain Hanech and Tighennif, Algeria. 

Abstract:  North Africa is a crossroad between Europe and the Middle East, and it is likely that early hominids inhabited this region prior to their dispersal
into Eurasia. However, due to obsolete data and lack of systematic research, little information was available on the tempo and mode of early hominid occupation in this part of the African continent. To remedy to this situation, new investigations are being conducted in two key Lower Paleolithic sites in northern Algeria, namely Ain Boucherit and Ain Hanech, and the hominid site of Tighennif. The approach used is multidisciplinary involving a team of international scientists in the fields of archaeology, geology, geochronology, paleontology, paleoecology, etc. The research at Ain Boucherit and Ain Hanech addressed pertinent questions including: When did early hominins first inhabit North Africa? How did they adapt to the local environment? Which kind of lithic technology did they use? What food items were incorporated in their diet? Results show that early hominids inhabited North Africa 2.4 million years ago, earlier than it was commonly believed, and mostly contemporaneous with eastern Africa. The technology they manufactured is Oldowan, which they used primarily for processing animal carcasses indicative of a savanna ecology. The research undertaken at Tighennif deals with the adaptation of Homo erectus in arid environment during the Middle Pleistocene Transition between 1.2-0.8 million years ago. Preliminary evidence suggests that Tighennif hominids not only coped well with the dry environment but also were innovative technologically by using sophisticated Acheulean stone tools to process large animal carcasses.
About: Mohamed Sahnouni is currently Research Professor and Coordinator of the Archaeology Program at the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) (Burgos, Spain). He received doctoral degrees in Quaternary Geology from the University Pierre & Marie Curie (Paris, 
France) and in Anthropology from Indiana University Bloomington (Indiana, USA). His academic and research interests include Paleoanthropology with focus on early hominid technological and subsistence behavior in relation to Paleoecology. He was faculty member at the University of Algiers (Algeria), University Rovira I Virgili (Tarragona, Spain), and Indiana University (Bloomington, USA). Sahnouni is currently directing paleoanthropological research projects in Africa involving a multidisciplinary international team of scientists to investigate: 1) the timing and character of earliest human occupation in North Africa; and 2) Homo erectus behavior and adaptation in arid environment. He is also collaborating with Indian colleagues to investigate early human dispersal in the Indian Subcontinent. He extensively published his research in high impact journals including Science,
Journal of Human Evolution, Journal of Archaeological Science, Quaternary Science Reviews, Geobios, French Academy of Sciences, L’Anthropologie, Palevol, etc. He currently represents  CENIEH in European research infrastructure projects for heritage Sciences (E-RIHS) and European Digital Archaeology (ARIADNEplus).

May 4, 2020, 5 pm: Professor J.S. Kharakwal, Head of the Department of Archaeology and also working Director of Sahitya Sansthan, JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Udaipur,  Topic: on Zawar: The Oldest Zinc Production Centre.  

Abstract: Zawar is located about 35 km south of Udaipur in Rajasthan. It is the oldest zinc producing center of South Asia. Zinc, being volatile, is a difficult metal to smelt as it gets (oxidised) lost in the air, if fired in open furnaces. Of course it can be smelted at around 400 degree, but to obtain metallic zinc one has to condence its vapour raised around 1100 degree. The archaeological excavation at Zawar has revealed evidence of industrial scale zinc production
placed between 12th and early 19th century, based on consistency of radio carbon dates. The entire area of Zawar is full of massive mounds of roasted ore, refractory material (composed of dumping of several episodes perhaps indicating several centuries) and remains of furnaces. It is important to note that China started making zinc 300 yeras later than India and metallic zinc became known to the west only in the first half of the 18th century.
We have the earliest evidence of use of metallic zinc from Takshashila (now in Pakistan) in the 4th / 3rd century before the common era, prior to the arrival of the Greeks. Zinc ore was being mined at Zawar since the Mauryan times and continued until the early years of the 19th century. The Royal Society, London and American Society of Metals has also acknowledged India’s innovation and ancient commercial production of zinc. All this hard evidence including ancient metallurgical remains on the surface and underground and open mines are not only in a pity condition but also breathing last. The ancient site is being blasted by the modern mining activities and the surface evidences are also being destroyed. I am afraid that this priceless ancient scientific heritage, which brought pride to the country by stealing the march globally will be lost for ever very soon, if not taken care now. It is therefore there is an urgent need to preserve for comming generations otherwise there will be a shear loss of innocence if we loose it.

About : J.S. Kharakwal did his Ph. D under the guidance of Prof. V.N. Misra in 1994 form Deccan College, Pune, on the Archaeology of Central  Himalayan Region. He has participated in a number of archaeological excavations ranging from Stone Age to Iron Age in Karnataka, Maharashtra, M.P.,Gujarat and Uttarakhand. He spearheaded a multidisciplinary Indo-Japanese archaeological research project at Kanmer, a Harappan site in Kachchh, Gujarat 2005 to 2012. Also he had opportunity to conduct excavation of Chandravati, medieval township, in the Aravllis (2013-16). He has co-authored three books with Prof. D.P. Agrawal i.e., Prehistory of South Asia (2002), Bronze
and Iron Ages of South Asia (2003) and Central Himalayas (1998), besides publishing 60 papers in various journals published from Asia and Europe. Also has done a book titled Zinc Production in Ancient India (2011) published by Pentagon Publisher, Delhi, a few monographs and an excavation report titled Kanmer Excavation, Published by Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan. He had opportunity to conduct field surveys in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and parts of MP and Haryana. He could visit a very large number of sites in Japan, China and Turkmenistan. He is a life member of various academic societies such as ISPQS, IAS, PAHAR, RASI, SOSSA, JSPS. He has worked as a Fellow of Japan Society for Promotion of Science at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan for fifteen months and as Visiting Professor at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto for one year. He has participated in various national and international seminars in several countries such as France, Japan, Italy, Austria, Turkmenistan, China and Iran. He has organized national and international seminars, symposia and workshops. Currently he heads the Department of Archaeology and also working Director of Sahitya Sansthan, JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Udaipur, Rajasthan. 

May 1, 2020, 5 pm (IST) Dr. Karthick Balasubramanian, Biodiversity and Palaeobiology Group, Agharkar Research Institute, Pune. Topic: on"Application of Diatoms in Archaeology: A review and way ahead"  

Abstract: Diatoms represent a large and ecologically significant group of unicellular eukaryotic photosynthetic microalgae occurring in all
aquatic habitats. Although most familiar as inhabitants of the marine phytoplankton community, they thrive in varied environments such as
ice and hot springs, acidic and alkaline habitats, oligotrophic and hypereutrophic environments, and across all ranges of salinity. Due to their high species richness, habitat specificity, and persistent silica cell wall, diatoms are good indicators of environment, both past, and present. In this talk, I will introduce the diatoms, their biology, classification and history of diatom research in the Indian subcontinent. Further, methods of collection and analysis of diatoms will be discussed as well the numerical method of analysis to infer diatom community structure to environmental characteristics. The later part of the talk will be focused on presenting case studies on (1) Freshwater diatoms as an environmental change indicator in aquatic ecosystems, (2) Paleoenvironmental reconstruction using diatom community, (3) Application of diatoms in archaeological studies. The final part of the talk will focus on the application of diatom in Indian
archaeological and suggest way forward. 
About (in his own words): • I am diatomist ;) I study taxonomy and ecology of diatoms from the Indian subcontinent and attempt to understand the patterns and process involved in the development of current diatom diversity.Use diatoms as an environmental indicator to assess the present-day water quality to past environmental conditions.• Described 3 new genera and. >50 new species from Asia, Africa and America.• A new genus "Karthickia" from Southeast Asia named after me • Currently, I study diatoms of Western Ghats and Himalayas (particularly Eastern Himalayas)
for the diversity and distribution of diatoms and its application in environmental monitoring • I am enthusiastic in promoting the application of diatoms in various fields including biofuel 
exploration, forensics, archaeology and citizen science programs.

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