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Research Title:

Reconstructing the Distribution of Neanderthals and Modern Humans in Time and Space in Relation to Past Climate Change

Research Organization:

Team Leader
  • Minoru Yoneda, Professor,
    Chronology, Graduate School of Integrated Biosciences, The University of Tokyo
  • Ayako Abe-Ouchi, Associate Professor,
    Climate Dynamics, Climate Models, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo
  • Takashi Oguchi, Professor,
    Geomorphology, GIS Architecture, Center for Spatial Information Science, The University of Tokyo
  • Hodaka Kawahata, Professor,
    Extraction of Paleoenvironmental Proxies, Graduate School of Integrated Biosciences, The University of Tokyo
  • Hirohisa Mori, Associate Professor,
    Geographic Information Engineering, Office for Virtual Resources, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
  • Yasuhisa Kondo, Associate Professor,
    Archaeology, Geo-Informatics, Informatics, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature
  • Yusuke Yokoyama, Associate Professor,
    Extraction of Paleoenvironmental Proxies, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo
  • Stephen P. Obrochta, Associate Professor,
    Extraction of Paleoenvironmental Proxies, Facility of International Resources Sciences, Akita University
  • Wing-Le Chan, Project Researcher,
    Climate Dynamics, Climate Models, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo
  • Takayuki Omori, Project Researcher,
    Chronology, Graduate School of Integrated Biosciences, The University of Tokyo
  • Wonsuh Song, Project Researcher,
    GIS Architecture, Center for Spatial Information Science, The University of Tokyo
Overseas Collaborators
  • Tezer M Esat,
    Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) Australian National University, Australia
  • Masa Kageyama,
    Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement LSCE/IPSL - CEA-CNRS-UVSQCE Saclay, France
  • Gilles Ramstein,
    Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, France
  • Enrico R. Crema,
    University College London, UK
Invited Researcher
  • Ryouta O’ishi, Project Researcher,
    Arctic Environmental Research Center, National Institute of Polar Research

Research Objectives

The primary goal of this research project is to reconstruct the distribution of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) and Neanderthals in time and space during the period when they were contemporaneous, from 200 to 20 ka (1 ka = 1,000 years). A second purpose is to reconstruct the environment of the two populations, including climatic conditions and ecological settings. Based on scientific evidence, the relationship between their site distributions and the pattern of environmental changes may reveal differences between these two hominins in terms of their adaptive responses to environmental changes. This comparison will test the theoretical hypothesis of research project B01 using concrete geoscience evidence. To accomplish this goal, we will concentrate our investigation on environmental change during the period from 200 to 30 ka and on the distribution of archaeological evidence for modern human behavior, including innovative techniques and symbolic expression

Research Methods

In this project, we will conduct 4 independent research sub-projects with the purpose of reconstructing the distribution of AMH and Neanderthal sites and migrations/movements, and early modern behavior in light of environmental change in time and space. These four interrelated research sub-projects will produce concrete data that will serve to test the theoretical predictions of B01’s “Individual Learning Hypothesis.” The following four research sub-projects comprise the work of the B02 research group:

(1) The replacement of Neanderthal populations by AMH in Europe has been discussed through a precise review of age determinations at key sites, and the detailed reconstruction of the paleoclimate and paleoecosystems; such research has not been conducted in other regions where modern humans—our species, Homo sapiens--actually evolved. In this study, we will focus on the regions of Africa and West Asia, from where little information has been evaluated in light of the modern scenario of human evolution, in order to investigate what happened to the Neanderthals and AMH by precisely reconstructing the distribution of these two species in the detailed timescale proposed for this project. We will produce a series of new distribution maps of Neanderthal and AMH settlements using more precise datasets of absolute dating by reviewing sampling, preparation, measurement technology, evaluation of diagenetic effects (postmortem chemical alterations), and data processing. The evaluated age information will be summarized in maps using GIS (Geographical Information System) methods to reconstruct detailed maps of hominin distribution.

(2) In order to illustrate temporal changes of environment faced by theNeanderthals and AMH during their evolution, a series of reconstructed climatic distributions will be created for every ten thousand year period from 200 to 30 ka, using a global climate simulation model. This simulation model, established by the University of Tokyo and the National Institute for Environmental Studies (Tsukuba) for forecasting future climatic change, will be applied to the reconstruction of past global and regional climate. These results will be linked to GIS maps that illustrate the distribution of Neanderthal and AMH occupation and the emergence of modern behavior, as well as to temporal sequence data on ancient environments and ecosystems recorded in geological sediment cores. Discussion of the relationship between humans, climate, and environmental settings will be based on these maps. As a second step, various regions and periods will be investigated to support more detailed discussions of the evolution of learning ability of the two kinds of humans.

(3) Some continuous environmental proxy data is important for the reinforcement of the temporal changes between reconstructed climatic distributions through model simulations, because geochemical proxies can suggest not only temporal changes in environment at specific locations, but also some rapid and/or local events. Even with the latest global simulation models, it is still a challenging task to illustrate rapid drastic climate changes such as Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles and Heinrich events and their effects on each region of the earth. Through the combining of simulated climate distributions and continuous data from a specific location, unique environment and temporal changes will be described in detail for this project, especially with respect to Africa and East Eurasia during the 200 to 30 ka period.

(4) An information system that can integrate the following data will be developed for this project using GIS: age data on human occupation (Neanderthals and AMH), archaeological evidence of modern behavior, global climate reconstruction, and point data on environmental proxies extracted from geological cores. Through the use of this system, the relationship between environmental change and human behavior can be examined statistically. This investigation will also extract differences in behavioral adaptations of Neanderthals and AMH in relation to environmental change. These outcomes will be necessary for the testing of crystallization of the theoretical hypothesis provided by project B01. They will also facilitate discussion with project A01 towards an understanding of human adaptation through technical innovation.

Research Project on Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans: Testing Evolutionary Models of Learning
Supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, ports, Science & Technology Japan
Project Office: Kouchi University of Technology,CIC Tokyo 302/ 3-3-6 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Zip:108-0023;
TEL: +81-(0)3-5440-9039 FAX: +81-(0)3-5440-9119 Contact: koutaigeki@gmail.com;
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