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Radiocarbon, tree rings, and solar variability provide the accurate time scale for human evolution and geoscience

Objective

Europe was the continent where Neanderthal and Anatomically Modern Human (AMH) interacted in a supposed time window of up to five millennia around 40,000 years ago (40 ka BP). The fate of our species versus the demise of Neanderthals, the geospatial timing of this process, the behavioural implications of their interaction, are hotly debated topics in archaeology. In this context, chronology plays a pivotal role, with radiocarbon (14C) dating representing the backbone back to 50 ka BP.
However, due to varying atmospheric 14C concentrations in the past, the method requires calibration to an independently dated archive. So far, only the past 14 ka BP can profit from the most direct natural archive of 14C activity, which are annually resolved tree-ring chronologies. Before this time, temporal resolution is remarkably lower and different calibration records disagree, leading to discrepancies in the calibration of up to 2000 years.
This project aims to achieve for the first time an accurate and highly resolved chronology back to 50 ka BP, to establish the timing of when AMHs arrived in Europe, their interaction with Neanderthals and the final cause of Neanderthal extinction.
The project involves fieldwork in Mediterranean and southeast Europe to find more glacial trees, the study of the existing collection of glacial conifers, exceptional 14C precision for 14C dates in the Glacial, and the cutting-edge methodology in linking floating tree-ring chronologies to 10Be on the ice core scale.
The results of this work will be crucial in solving some of the most interesting puzzles in European prehistory. With tree-rings, the resolution will be an order of magnitude higher, and using the most recent advances in the AMS technique, we will obtain confidence intervals of only a few centuries in glacial times. This project will be of pivotal importance for key periods in human evolution.

Field of science

  • /humanities/history and archaeology/archaeology
  • /humanities/history and archaeology/archaeology/ethnoarchaeology
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/forestry/dendrology
  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/atmospheric sciences/climatology/dendroclimatology

Call for proposal

ERC-2018-STG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-STG - Starting Grant

Host institution

ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITA DI BOLOGNA
Address
Via Zamboni 33
40126 Bologna
Italy
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 149 476

Beneficiaries (3)

ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITA DI BOLOGNA
Italy
EU contribution
€ 1 149 476
Address
Via Zamboni 33
40126 Bologna
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FORDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN EV

Participation ended

Germany
EU contribution
€ 0
Address
Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Muenchen
Activity type
Research Organisations
UNIVERSITAET HOHENHEIM
Germany
EU contribution
€ 349 905
Address
Schloss Hohenheim
70599 Stuttgart
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments