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Dr. Joshua Robinson: Leveraging isotopic space for palaeoecological insights into human evolution


Info about event


Monday 14 November 2022,  at 15:00 - 16:00


On Zoom

Speaker: Dr. Joshua Robinson, Boston University, USA


Stable isotope data has become an increasingly fundamental part of reconstructing diets, environments, and habitats in the paleoanthropological and archaeological records. As these datasets grow, particularly when data from two or more isotopic systems are recovered from the same set of material, we must explore new analytical techniques that can take advantage of the power of combining different sets of data. Borrowing from ecology, I apply the concept of isotopic
niche space, and the corresponding analysis of isotopic niche overlap, to extract richer information from these datasets than is possible by quantifying descriptive statistics alone. I will demonstrate the application of these techniques to two questions of great interest to archaeologists: the dietary and habitat breadth of early hominin taxa in eastern Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene and the shifting environmental conditions in southern Africa during the transition from the Middle to the Later Stone Age in the later Pleistocene. These examples will explore some of the options available for constructing isotopic space, choices that must be made by the researcher in building their models, and best practices for conducting and reporting isotopic space analyses. Advancements in the ability to conduct isotopic space analyses on three isotopic systems and explore overlap in threedimensional space will also be briefly introduced. Isotope space approaches to paleoanthropological and archaeological research questions reveal that there is more we can learn from these datasets when analyzing them in combination in our attempts to reconstruct past human activities and behaviors.

Host: Prof. Felix Riede, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University.

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