In the introduction, I identified two main approaches to palaeolandscape reconstruction, namely the use of modern analogue environments and the application of general principles to provide first-approximation models that can then be refined. The former, while useful at the smallest scales (of the single site or multi-site area) has limited applicability at larger scales, where the accuracy and precision of such analogue models is likely to be low. What this article has argued, however, is that the latter approach might usefully take over in such cases, drawing on the principles of the Earth system and existing palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data strategically to produce more detailed and integrated reconstructions. The most obvious means to do this would be to focus on what I have called the 'local' scale, above the site but below the region. This is a good place to start because, as this article has shown:
This, therefore, is the procedure I would suggest for future studies of palaeolandscape. Its use of extensive existing datasets, as well as general principles of earth science, would allow us to begin work on new reconstructions rapidly and without massive new expenditure. The existing geographic knowledge of the Earth system and the broad relationships between variables would also help where our capacity to reconstruct palaeoconditions is lacking, as, for instance, in reconstructing seasonality. In effect, this new approach would use modern environments not just as sources of direct analogy, but also as sources of principles and data for better modelling of ancient environments' spatial and temporal structures. These models would be subject to a continuous process of refinement and calibration, driven not just by the discovery and re-analysis of hominin sites, nor purely by the development of detailed understandings of extant environments, but by both together.
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File last updated: Wed Mar 4 2015