People and landscapes are sensitive to global climate changes over tens of thousands of years
We examine the environmental conditions in which human societies operated and ways in which they, in turn, have shaped their environment, using multiple strands of evidence from sediments, fossils, and artefacts.
Expertise in the fields of geomorphology, geochronology, palaeontology, and palaeoecology allows us to explore the environmental effects on human physiognomy, on social and economic development, and on the movements of people around the globe.
Hominin occupation of Asian environments is now recognised as complex and multifaceted. Global geographical and environmental changes during the Quaternary included the greening of Middle Eastern deserts and the retreat of rainforests in Southeast Asia. These have at different times either facilitated or impeded human movements and expansions into new areas. We are pursuing multidisciplinary approaches to palaeoecology and environmental reconstruction, anchored by a strong fieldwork program, in order to reconstruct environmental change on scales of thousands to millions of years.
- Reconstructing Sumatran Pleistocene environments using vertebrate fossils faunas with Dr Julien Louys
- Green Arabia with the Palaeodeserts team and including Dr Julien Louys, Professor Rainer Grün, and Dr Mathieu Duval
- River runoff to Willandra Creek and the lower Lachlan during the period of human occupation: Dr Justine Kemp, Professor Jon Olley, Ass.Prof Allen Gontz.
- Characterising geophysical signatures of archaeological deposits: Mr Aaron Fogel, Dr Justine Kemp, Professor Jon Olley Dr Michael Westaway.
- Reconstructing the landscapes of the ancient Mithaka peoples in Queensland Channel Country: Dr Justine Kemp, Professor Jon Olley, Mr Justin Stout, Prof. Peter Hiscock.
2017-2021 ARC Future Fellowship $652,000
Sumatra's role in ancient human movements and evolution
This project aims to test whether humans moving through Southeast Asia used a savannah corridor, facilitating their migrations into Sumatra and Java, and examine the effect of rainforests on human movements and evolution. This will be accomplished by examining ecological proxies from vertebrate remains found in established and newly identified fossil sites in Sumatra. These results are expected to provide a new understanding of the environmental context of human evolution in Asia, and identify routes ancient people took as they moved south through Asia and into Australia.
Sole investigator: Dr Julien Louys
2013-2016 Australian Research Council Linkage Project, $204,000
Kiacatoo Man: biology, archaeology and environment at the Last Glacial Maximum
The recent excavation of Kiacatoo Man from ancient river sands in central NSW provides an opportunity to shed new light on the nature and origins of the earliest Australians. This extremely large, robustly built, >26,000-year-old fossil, may represent the closest individual to those people who left the shores of Southeast Asia to colonise Australia. Using state-of-the-art earth sciences and dating techniques, this project reconstructs the glacial-age cultural and physical landscape of the Murray Basin riverine plains, characterises patterns of biological similarity among ancient remains, and explores the relative influence of climatic adaptation, gene flow, diet and human ancestry on glacial-age human morphologies.
Collaborators: Dr Colin Pardoe (Australian National University), Associate Professor Allen Gontz (University of Massachusetts Boston)
- Price, G.J., Ferguson, K.J., Webb, G.E., Feng, Y., Higgins, P., Nguyen, A.D., Zhao, J., Joannes-Boyau, R., Louys, J. (2017) Seasonal migration of marsupial megafauna in Pleistocene Sahul (Australia – New Guinea). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284 (1863): 20170785
- Breeze, P.S., Groucutt, H.S., Drake, N.A., Louys, J., Scerri, E.M.L., Armitage, S.J., Zalmout, I.S.A., Memesh, A.M., Haptari, M.A., Soubhi, S.A., Matari, A.H., Zahir, M., Al-Omari, A., Alsharekh, A.M., Petraglia, M.D. (2017). Prehistory and palaeoenvironments of the western Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia. Archaeological Research in Asia 10: 1-16
- Kemp J, Pietsch, TJ, Olley J, Gontz A. (2017) Lacustrine-fluvial interactions in Australia’s Riverine Plains. Quaternary Science Reviews 166, 352-362.
- Westaway, K.E., Louys, J., Due Awe, R., Morwood, M.J., Price, G.J., Zhao, J.-x., Aubert, M., Joannes-Boyau, R., Smith, T., Skinner, M.M., Compton, T., Bailey, R.M., van den Bergh, G.D., de Vos, J., Pike, A.W.G, Stringer, C., Saptomo, E.W., Rizal, Y., Zaim, J., Santoso, W.D., Trihascaryo, A., Kinsley, L., Sulistyanto, B. (2017). An early modern human presence in Sumatra 73,000-63,000 years ago. Nature 548: 322-325
- Tibby J, Barr C, Marshall J, McGregor G, Moss PT, Arnold LJ, Page TJ, Questiaux D, Olley J, Kemp J, Spooner N, Petherick L, Penny D, Mooney S, Moss E. (2017). Persistence of wetlands on North Stradbroke Island (south-east Queensland, Australia) during the last glacial cycle: implications for Quaternary science and biogeography. Journal of Quaternary Science 32, 770-781.
- Shulmeister J, Kemp J, Fitzsimmons KE, Gontz A. (2016). Constant wind regimes during the Last Glacial Maximum and early Holocene: evidence from Little Llangothlin Lagoon, New England Tablelands, eastern Australia. Climate of the Past Discussions. 12, 1435-1444.
- Brooke BP, Pietsch T, Olley J, Sloss C, Cox M, Bostock H. (2015) A preliminary OSL chronology for coastal dunes on Moreton Island, Queensland, Australia – marginal deposits of a large-scale Quaternary shelf sediment system. Continental Shelf Research 105,79-94
- Louys, J., Meloro, C., Elton, S., Ditchfield, P., Bishop, L. C. (2015) Analytical framework for reconstructing heterogeneous environmental variables from mammal community structure. Journal of Human Evolution 78: 1-11
- Kemp J, Hope GS. (2014) Vegetation and environments since the Last Glacial Maximum in the Southern Tablelands, New South Wales. Journal of Quaternary Science 29, 778-788.
- Brooke BP, Olley J, Pietsch T, Playford PE, Haines PW, Murray-Wallace CV, Woodroffe CD. (2014) Chronology of Quaternary coastal aeolianite deposition and the drowned shorelines of southwestern Western Australia - a reappraisal. Quaternary Science Reviews, 93, pp. 106-124.
- Stout JC, Belmont P. (2014). TerEx Toolbox for semi-automated selection of fluvial terrace and floodplain features from lidar. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 39, 569-580.