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UP-NORTH Report Summary

Project ID: 617777
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom


UP-NORTH is exploring the chronological and environmental context of the Late Glacial re-colonisation of northern Europe by Late Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer populations, and the subsequent cultural diversifications that took place within this geographical region with the development of the Final Palaeolithic. The project’s geographical focus stretches from the British Isles in the west, to Poland in the east, and from Switzerland in the south to the North and Baltic Sea coasts in the north. UP-NORTH aims to provide a Europe-wide perspective on the environmental and chronological context of the expansion and development of human occupations in northern latitudes during the Late Glacial.

The project’s objectives are being met following 3 lines of integrated research:
1) A refined chronological understanding of the rate and timing of re-colonisation(s) and cultural diversification(s) is being developed by producing new/improved chronologies for key archaeological sites through radiocarbon dating animal remains that show direct evidence of human manipulation, or that can confidently be associated with human activity. New sample pre-treatment methodologies are allowing us to more successfully remove contaminants from samples, allowing us to produce more reliable radiocarbon dates.

2) High-resolution palaeoenvironmental reconstructions based on stable isotope analysis of animal bones are being used to infer the environments and landscapes in which re-colonisation/cultural diversification took place. We are analyzing the main prey species (horse, reindeer, large bovids, and red deer) of Late Glacial populations. Specimens that show direct evidence of human modification, or that can be securely attributed to archaeological contexts, are being used so that the environmental data we are producing can be directly linked to the chronology and archaeology. Carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur isotopes in collagen, and oxygen and carbon in tooth enamel carbonates are being used to build an integrated picture of animal behavior, ecology, environment and climate. By sampling different skeletal elements, the data we are obtaining is on varying temporal scales, ranging in resolution from sub-annual (intra-tooth enamel samples) to the multi-year (bone samples). These palaeoenvironmental records are being compared to regional and global records of climate change to assess the spatial and temporal intricacies of the Late Glacial environment.

3) Migration and population movement are being considered for the main prey species hunted by humans in the late glacial environment. Through aDNA (bone/dentine samples) and strontium isotope analysis (intra-tooth enamel samples) local population extinctions, expansions, migrations and admixture are being investigated and compared to hunting technologies and palaeoenvironmental and climatic data.

By applying these approaches to Late Glacial archaeological faunal specimens from across northern Europe, UP-NORTH is investigating spatial and temporal aspects of human population movement and technological change against the backdrop of climate change and landscape evolution.

Reported by

United Kingdom
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