Maud H. Devès

 

review of previous archaeological works in order to locate the known finds

  1. From the literature, then checked on the field in the region of Jizan


CARTOGRAPHY & landscape analysis

  1. Mapping of important features such as geology, tectonic structures, volcanics, landscape complexity + Watershed modelling


fieldworks

  1. Archaeological surveys in the Jizan region - May-June 2012, October 2012, January-February 2013, Spring 2014

  2. Research cruise R/V Aegaeo around the Farasan islands - Bathymetry - 29 May to 13 June 2013 - with the Saudi Hydrography Department, Saudi Ministery of Defense and Saudi Commission For Tourism and Antiquities, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (GR), The University of York (UK), Kind Saudi University (KSA) - in collaboration with King Abdul Aziz University (KSA) and Saudi Geological Survey (KSA)

  1. SOME METHODOLOGY

    We aim at better characterizing the current Arabian landscape, and its evolution on time-scales relevant to Human Evolution, in order to possibly find new archaeological sites testifying for early occupation. We adopt a multi-scale approach combining landscape analysis works at the scale of the peninsula and archaeological surveys in the coastal region of Jizan. In this area, one has to evaluate the regional impact of sea level changes on the coastal landscape, due to climatic oscillations, but also active tectonics in the Red Sea. Volcanic activity has also metamorphosed the landscape in the last Myrs. We try to understand how these changes may have affected the way Hominin used the landscape, in order to refine our own survey strategy (Devès et al. 2013, Inglis et al. 2014, Bailey et al. 2015).

  1. IN WHICH LANDSCAPES?

    The archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula is pivotal to the understanding of the timing and mode of the earliest dispersals of modern human and earlier populations from Africa into Eurasia (Fig. 4).

Fig. 7. The emerged coastal plain had been much vaster during cold climatic episode, when the sea level was lower. This animation shows the landscape evolving in the area of Jizan as the sea level changes with climatic oscillations. It works at first order but should be refined for regional effects due, for instance, to salt tectonics. Ⓒ Devès

  1. DISPERSALS

AN EXAMPLE OF LANDSCAPE CHANGE ASSOCIATED WITH SEA LEVEL CHANGES

  1. CONSTRAINING ANIMALS MOVEMENTS AND HOMININS SITES DISTRIBUTION

    The Southern Levant lies on one of the two routes by which the dispersal of various hominins species could, at various times in the Pleistocene, have occurred.


    The area is also relatively rich in Palaeolithic remains and has been extensively studied, so that there is a database of observations on which synthetic research can draw.

  1. THE LEVANT ROUTE

  1. SOME METHODOLOGY

REVIEW of previous archaeological works

  1. Data provided by the Southern Levant Human Environment Project (D. Sturdy and N. Godet)

CARTOGRAPHY AND LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS

  1. Mapping of important features such as geology, tectonic structures, volcanics, landscape roughness, localization of the sites in their landscape context

FIELDWORKS

  1. A month, June 2011 with G.C.P. King, N. Godet (other older fieldworks had been done before with D. Sturdy)

Complex Topography & Human Evolution

With the ERC-DISPERSE PROJECT

IPGP & The University of York

    Previous models based on adaptations to forest or savannah (Fig. 2) can be challenged in favour of physical incentives presented by steep rugged terrain — the kind of tectonically varied landscape that has produced early hominin remains. We propose that “Scrambler man” pursued his prey up hill and down dale and in so doing became that agile, sprinting, enduring, grasping, jumping two-legged athlete that we know today (Winder et al. 2013, Winder et al. (in review)).

  1. CAN COMPLEX TOPOGRAPHY EXPLAIN WHY HUMAN WALK UPRIGHT?

  1. WHY IS COMPLEX TOPOGRAPHY IMPORTANT?

Complex terrains provides:

  1. a measure of micro-environmental insulation from climatic aridity (1A)

  2. a variety of landscapes, thus a diversity of ecological conditions and food supplies over relatively short distances

  3. a topography and roughness that affords tactical advantages in hiding from predators or accessing and trapping large or fast-moving animal prey.

Fig. 1A. Examples of features created by active tectonics offering climatically buffered habitats during human evolution.

Fig. 1B. In the case of smooth and flat landscapes, surface water may concentrate plant and animal life and attract human settlement, but these conditions are vulnerable to climate change.

They hence offer a viable niche for hominins in competition with other mammalian competitors (Bailey et al. 2011). Flat landscapes in contrast lack these advantages (1B).

Bailey, Reynolds and King, 2011. Landscapes of human evolution: models and methods of tectonic geomorphology and the reconstruction of hominin landscapes. Journal of Human Evolution, v 60, p 257.

Winder, King, Devès and Bailey, 2013. Complex Topography and Human Evolution: the Missing Link. Antiquity, v 87, p 333.

Fig. 2. A cartoon showing the evolution of hominin locomotor capabilities as predicted by the traditional hypotheses (left) and the complex topography hypothesis (right) and illustrating the differences between these two models’ abilities to explain our history. Both sequences begin with the predicted last common ancestor of Pan and Homo at about 6Ma towards the top and culminate in Homo sapiens at the bottom.

    Complex topography hypothesis provides a good explanation for the specific anatomical features accompanying human divergence from other primates. Fig. 3 shows a comparison with the classical views in which early hominins jumped from trees onto flat plains sensitive to climate change.

Fig. 4. Schematic summarising the ways the traditional hypotheses (left) and complex topography hypothesis (right) explain modern human anatomical features.

Fig. 6. Map of Southern Red Sea. Devès

Hominins in Arabian Landscapes


With the ERC-DISPERSE PROJECT

IPGP & The University of York

Hominin reactions to large herbivore seasonal migration

in the Southern Levant

With the SOUTHERN LEVANT HUMAN ENVIRONMENT PROJECT

IPGP

Fig. 5. Possible dispersal routes going across the Arabian peninsula. Known Palaeolithic sites. Devès

Fig. 3. A view towards Sterkfontein site from the adjacent hard rock showing the surrounding complex topography.

Explanations are classified: those labelled (A) are based on active selection for the trait,(F) indicates a feedback loop based on selection for another trait, and (P) is passive selection or drift. The silhouette is coloured accordingly: pink indicates adaptations only indirectly explained by the hypothesis, cream those explicable by a single direct selective pressure, and green those subject to more than one direct selective pressure.

    Dispersal happens because the behaviour of a species, within the ecological conditions in which it occurs, is successful; and because there are environments sufficiently similar to, and sufficiently adjacent to, the areas currently occupied by the species, to permit expansion of the population in spatial as well as numeric terms. Archaeological sites provide snapshots of the opportunistic, or planned, exploitation of animal resources by the Lower Palaeolithic hominin groups.


    We use the geology and various landscape features (such as roughness, water retentivity, etc), which responds at varying rates to tectonic and climatic controls, to decipher the possible routes for seasonal migration of large herbivores in the region of Carmel-Galilee-Golan and to test whether these correlate with the distribution of the main sites (Devès et al. 2014, Devès et al. 2015 (in press)).

 

Last update

Ongoing

    We are developing the idea presented above for application to important sites in Kenya (in collaboration with the Nairobi National Museum). We want to also develop further the articulation between geomorphology and archaeological visibility, with application notably to the coast of the Red Sea near Jizan. The DISPERSE project ends in 2015 but there are ongoing discussions to build a international and interdisciplinary project to continue working on these topics on a wider scale, including probably contributions from palaeo-climate modeling and physical geomorphology.