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Quantifying the economic and environmental transformation of Africa during the Iron Age (ACACIA)

Applicant Kaplan Jed Oliver
Number 146314
Funding scheme Interdisciplinary projects
Research institution Institut des sciences de la Terre Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Start/End 01.04.2014 - 30.04.2018
Approved amount 460'780.00
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All Disciplines (5)

Discipline
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Prehistory
Economics
Climatology. Atmospherical Chemistry, Aeronomy
Archaeology

Keywords (9)

human-environment interactions; preindustrial; metallurgy; deforestation; resilience; urbanization; Iron Age; sustainability; trade

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
L'avènement de l'âge du fer en Afrique marque le début d'une des transformations les plus importantes de la Terre au cours de l'Holocène préindustrielle. Contrairement à l'Eurasie, où l'agriculture et de la métallurgie développés et se propagent lentement pendant des milliers d'années, le «paquet âge de fer» des plantes cultivées et des animaux, la sidérurgie et l'organisation sociale s'est rapidement développée à travers l'Afrique subsaharienne. Cette révolution dans les modes de vie fondamentalement modifié la relation des Africains avec leur environnement. Pourtant, malgré la grande quantité de recherches sur la préhistoire de l'Afrique, les moteurs du développement économique et social au cours de l'âge du fer continuent de faire l'objet d'un vif débat. Le rôle des changements environnementaux exogène, par exemple, à travers le changement climatique, et comme un endogène, par exemple, par la dégradation des écosystèmes en raison de la déforestation est généralement non quantifiés.
Lay summary

Le projet ACACIA aborde le problème de la co-évolution de la société et de l'environnement en Afrique de fer Âge. Dans ce projet, nous demandons les questions suivantes:

1) Compte tenu de leur économie, de la technologie et des stratégies de subsistance, quel impact aurait âge de fer Africains ont eu sur leur environnement en termes de déforestation, l'érosion et l'épuisement des éléments nutritifs du sol?

2) Qu'est-ce que la synthèse à grande échelle de paleorecords terrestres montrer en termes de tendance temporelle et spatiale des changements de la couverture terrestre?

3) Quelle est la sensibilité étaient les écosystèmes qu'ils habitaient au changement de l'environnement exogène et endogène? Ces écosystèmes pourraient se remettre de la perturbation humaine? Sur quelle échelle de temps?

Notre méthodologie est d'employer un certain nombre de ressources clés développée dans notre groupe de recherche, y compris les bases de données des populations du passé humaines, l'utilisation des terres et de l'urbanisation ainsi que de nouvelles méthodes pour la reconstruction à grande échelle des changements de la couverture terrestre à partir des dossiers paléoécologiques, et un modèle de la végétation, le feu, l'érosion et les impacts humains. Nous travaillons avec des experts dans l'histoire économique de mieux quantifier la consommation et du commerce des ressources motifs et calculer le potentiel de dégradation de l'environnement.

Grâce à un projet de recherche interdisciplinaire impliquant l'histoire économique, l'archéologie, la reconstruction paléoenvironnementale et intégrées de modélisation, nous allons apporter une contribution substantielle à notre compréhension des interactions entre l'homme et l'environnement à grande échelle dans le temps préindustrielle et l'état actuel des écosystèmes de l'Afrique comme conditionné par plus de deux millénaires d'activités humaines intensives.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 25.02.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Datasets

GWGEN v1.0.2: A global weather generator for daily data

Author Sommer, Philipp; Kaplan, Jed O.
Publication date 12.09.2017
Persistent Identifier (PID) https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.889213
Repository Zenodo


Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. Marie-Jose Gaillard, School of Natural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Profs. James Steele and Dorian Fuller, Institute of Archaeology, University College London Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
LandCover6k 3rd General Workshop Talk given at a conference Land use in West Africa during the Iron Age transition 16.05.2017 Zaragoza, Spain Kay Andrea;
Prehistoric land use in eastern Africa Talk given at a conference Land use classification in prehistoric Africa 26.06.2016 Toulouse, France Kay Andrea;
LandCover6k General Meeting/Workshop 2016 Talk given at a conference Land use classification in prehistoric Africa 14.06.2016 Utrecht, Netherlands Kay Andrea;
LandUse6k: Putting History to Work on Climate Change, a workshop on land use classification Talk given at a conference Land use classification in prehistoric Africa 22.11.2015 Paris, France Kaplan Jed Oliver;
Workshop on land-use and land-cover change in Eastern Africa Talk given at a conference Land use classification in Iron Age Africa 22.10.2015 Nairobi, Kenya Kaplan Jed Oliver; Phelps Leanne;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
The Environmental History of Africa Since the Last Ice Age: Climate, Humans, and Biogeochemistry 14.09.2016 Lausanne, Switzerland
Mapping Land Use and Subsistence in West Africa (1000 BC - AD 1500) 02.11.2015 Les Rasses, Switzerland
The environmental transition of the Iron Age in Africa 17.06.2014 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
130254 Mediterranean Land Cover Change over the Holocene: Integrating Models and Data (MACCHIA) 01.09.2010 Project funding (Div. I-III)
164147 Mapping the Iron Age in West Africa 01.10.2015 International Exploratory Workshops
139193 COEVOLVE: Anthropogenic Interaction with the Earth System Over the Holocene 01.04.2012 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

The advent of the Iron Age in Africa marks the beginning one of the most important transformations of the Earth during the preindustrial Holocene. In contrast to Eurasia, where agriculture and metallurgy developed and spread slowly over thousands of years, the “Iron Age package” of domesticated plants and animals, ferrous metallurgy, and social organization expanded rapidly through sub-Saharan Africa over the period 2500 BC to AD 1000. This revolution in human lifestyles fundamentally altered Africans’ relationship with their environment. Yet despite the large amount of research on the prehistory of Africa, the drivers of economic and societal development during the Iron Age continue to be the subject of vigorous debate. The role of environmental change, both as an exogenous factor, e.g., through large-scale climate change, and as an endogenous one, e.g., through the degradation of sensitive ecosystems as a result of anthropogenic deforestation and erosion is largely unquantified. Archaeologists have suggested environmental change as a reason for human change in pre-European Africa, but disagree about the importance of endogenous factors such as land degradation. Likewise, contrasting interpretations of terrestrial, marine, and ice-core paleorecords suggest that human action in Africa was, or was not, significant in the preindustrial era. The ACACIA project will tackle the problem of the co-evolution of society and environment in Iron Age Africa by asking the questions: Given their economy, technology, and subsistence strategies, how much impact would Iron Age Africans have had on their environment in terms of deforestation, erosion and depletion of soil nutrients?What does a large-scale synthesis of terrestrial paleorecords show in terms of the temporal and spatial trend of land cover change?How sensitive were the ecosystems they inhabited to exogenous and endogenous environmental change? Could these ecosystems recover from human disturbance? Over what timescale?Our methodology is to employ a number of key resources developed in our research group over the past years, including databases of past human populations, land use, and urbanization along with new methods for reconstructing large-scale land cover change from paleoecological records, and a state-of-the-art model of vegetation, fire, erosion, and human impacts. We will recruit expertise in economic history to our team to better quantify resource consumption and trade patterns and calculate the potential for environmental degradation. Through an interdisciplinary research project involving economic history, archaeology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and integrated modeling, we will make a substantial contribution to our understanding of both large-scale human-environment interactions over preindustrial time and the current state of Africa’s ecosystems as conditioned by more than two millennia of intensive human activities.
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