Dr Andy Howard of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity discusses his research into geoarchaeology.
Title: Andy Howard on geoarchaeology
Duration: 3.15 mins
My name is Andy Howard, I'm a Senior Lecturer in geo-archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquities.
I'm also Director of Reseach and Knowledge Transfer for the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquities. I’m a geo-archaeologist, so what that means is that I work on the interface of geology, earth sciences and archaeology, and what I attempt to do is use earth science techniques to actually unravel the archeological history of the landscape.
So I'm particularly interested in how humans have lived in the environment over the last 2-3million years, how they've interacted with that environment and how they've actually changed that environment through what they do in the landscape by chopping down trees.
A particular area I work in are river valleys and river valleys are really important because they - historically have had very high water tables so what that mean is you get excellent preservation of archaeological records.
Not only do you get cultural material preserved - so things like hand-axes, jewellery, tools they used, but you also get organic materials so you get things like pollen, which you can use to reconstruct the vegetation of the area, you can use to tell you something about the climate of an area and also you get textiles preserved so you'll get things like leather, the actual organic, materials people were wearing, clothes they were wearing all these things would be preserved in river valleys.
Now one of the real problems with river valleys is that they're very, very, complex... because rivers are natural systems, they evolve through time and therefore how archeology is distributed in those river valleys is really quite complex and in order to understand that you need to understand how the river valleys evolved - understand where the archeology is preserved and how it’s preserved and I do a lot of work using both airborne remote sensor things like satellite imagery and also ground-based remote sensing so tools like geophysics to actually look beneath the surface of the river valleys and find the archaeology.
Obviously how humans have impacted on river valleys over time has a lot of resonance for contemporary society in how humans interact with the environment. For example, the deforestation of tropical rain-forests and the removal of trees creates massive problems of soil erosion and we can see this in the archaeology records so we can look at archaeology records and actually get some sort of an understand of contemporary land use and contemporary issues which affect society, issues like climate change are obviously particularly important
We can understand as geo-archaeologists how humans have interacted with past climates, how they affected past climates, and how they've responded to climate change so that is another area where as geo-archaeologists we really contribute.