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Patrick ROBERTS

St. Hugh's College | Oxford University
Conference Monitor

My main interest lies in the diverse ways in which scientific techniques, especially isotopic measurements, can be applied to archaeological sequences in order to elucidate palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic change in the past. I believe that detailed evidence of this nature enables us to move past broad discussions of generic climate changeö, instead allowing us to focus on specific human responses in given environmental and climatic contexts. For example, my recent work has utilized stable carbon isotopes from sediments and plants in order to produce a well-dated and well-resolved record of temperature change across the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary in the high altitude area of Lesotho, Southern Africa. The correlation of climatic fluctuations with human occupations in the region demonstrated that populations are able to respond to changing extreme environments in a variety of ways, ranging from exodus to a focus on certain productive locales. These inferences require both a detailed knowledge of the proxies utilized and a strong multidisciplinary base. My research is therefore also focused on developing a more thorough understanding of floral and faunal physiology, and their responses to temperature and precipitation changes, in order to properly interpret their isotopic measurements. Furthermore, I am interested in looking at how palaeoenvironmental studies of plant remains can complement isotopic analyses on a variety of materials. It is in these methods and approaches that I see the potential to tackle key archaeological questions. In particular, my ongoing research is looking at their ability to resolve human and hominin responses to changing climates in the context of evolution in Africa and subsequent expansion into the Indian subcontinent. I am also interested in the use of stable isotopes to investigate human diets and have had an article published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on changing diets in the 18th Century British navy.