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James BLINKHORN

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Cambridge University
Presentation, “Environmental Change and Cultural Evolution in the Indian Subcontinent over the Last 140,000 Years” (co-author M.D. Petraglia)

My research tackles the colonisation of landscapes in the past at a variety of different scales, predominantly focusing upon the Palaeolithic. The main focus of my work is undertaking interdisciplinary research that explores modern human expansions across the major biogeographic boundary between the SaharoArabian desert belt and the monsoonal, mosaic ecologies of the Oriental biogeographic zone, which is located in the Thar Desert and I characterise as the 'Gateway of South Asia'. Archaeological approaches include conducting exploratory fieldwork in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh (India) and attribute analyses of stone artefact assemblages. My palaeoenvironmental research targets proxy archives of periods of enhanced humidity in the Thar Desert to identify periods in which this currently arid region would not only have been habitable to hominin populations, but may have been critical to the dispersal of modern humans. Through the study of faunal evidence in South Asia that is contemporaneous with the expansions of modern humans across Eurasia, I have identified a dispersal of ostrich into central India against a backdrop of longterm stability in large animal populations, offering a unique analogy for studying human dispersals.

My Palaeolithic research in India is set into a broader geographic focus through engagement in research projects investigating coastal and riverine expansion corridors in West (Senegal) and East (Kenya) Africa in the Middle and Late Stone Age, and through collaboration with the Palaeodeserts Project. Within more recent timeframes, my focus upon landscape colonisation within South Asia includes investigations of foragerfarmer interactions through the analysis of rock art and megalithic landscapes in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Participation in the Sealinks project, including fieldwork in Sri Lanka, Kenya and Madagascar, expands upon these themes to explore early contacts, expansions and trade around the Indian Ocean rim.