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Cultural transformations and environmental transitions in North African prehistory (TRANS-NAP)
Start date: 01 Mar 2009, End date: 28 Feb 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

There is emerging consensus that European human populations, Ancient (Homo erectus) & Modern (H. sapiens), originated in Africa, but the timing, routes & character of their migrations remain obscure. In Europe, the cultural transformations represented by the appearance of cognitively-modern human behaviour c.40000 years ago appear to relate to replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans, & to correlate with abrupt climatic & environmental changes. N Africa may have played a critical role in these events but when, how & why modern humans emerged in this region (which lacks Neanderthals), questions vital for understanding the colonization of Europe, remain unanswered. TRANS-NAP aims to address these questions by a programme of archaeological fieldwork, science-based archaeology & environmental science in NE Libya. One component will be an archaeological & geomorphological survey, & allied palaeoecological studies, across the Gebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) massif from the Mediterranean to the Sahara. The other will be a programme of targeted archaeological excavation combined with palaeoenvironmental studies & fine resolution dating including at the major prehistoric cave of the Haua Fteah, which 1950s excavations & trial work in 2007 have shown represents a unique opportunity for high resolution analysis of changes in climate & environment, & of hominin responses to these, over at least the past 100000 years. The combination of spatial behavioural data & landscape reconstruction from the surveys, & deep time cultural & palaeoenvironmental data from the excavations, will enable TRANS-NAP to reconstruct the strategies developed by Ancient & Modern Humans to utilize a typical N African landscape of Mediterranean littoral, uplands, pre-desert & desert, & to understand how they responded to challenges of profound climatic & environmental change, findings which will have fundamental implications for understanding the development of behavioural modernity in Africa & Europe.
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