Our approach offers a radical and progressive means of testing explicit hypotheses and developing a new way of elucidating human-environment dynamics from a site to regional-scale perspective by applying new scientific techniques to existing sample and data archives. We will bring together, for the first time, all existing 14C and palaeoecological records into a systematic framework, which we will interrogate and model using novel statistical techniques. We will advance current methods of biomolecular and stable isotopic analysis of organic residues in prehistoric pottery alongside high-resolution palaeohydrological mapping.
This cross-disciplinary approach will be used to test the following specific hypotheses:
The Holocene AHP resulted in a heterogeneous “‘Green Sahara”. We test the hypothesis that a persistent belt of aridity continued throughout the Holocene in northern latitudes , and that regional variation in ecosystems, resulting from ecological feedback, created resource-specific ecological niches. We will determine how rapidly this occurred and if arid regions did persist, the consequences for Holocene populations and regional subsistence strategies?
The development of an “Aqualithic” culture , focused on the exploitation of aquatic resources, provided a successful alternative to the adoption of agriculture and spread from a common origin in the Nile Valley westwards across the Sahara. We will relate the gradual demise of the “Aqualithic” to the contraction of permanent water bodies in the region and identify when this occurred?
Pastoralism replaced hunting and fishing as the primary subsistence strategy once aridification began. We will determine when and where this transition occurred, whether it involved population replacement and the roles that climate, palaeohydrology and palaeoecology played in the adoption of domesticates? For example, cattle are water dependent so did they preferentially follow hydrological corridors across the Sahara?