Miss Natalie Russell

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Personal profile

Natalie graduated from Royal Holloway, University in 2007 with a BSc. Hons in Physical Geography.  After taking a year out she returned to complete a NERC funded MSc. in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway and UCL in 2009.  Now specialising in optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, she is currently completing a PhD in the department.

Natalie's research is based in Libya, North Africa, an area which has alternated between wet and dry climatic conditions over recent geological time.  New evidence suggests that human migrations remained possible even during drier climatic phases, as ‘corridors’ of wetland sites provided habitable route ways for humans to exploit. Testing these ideas requires well resolved, precisely dated, records of environmental change and human occupation. 

Her PhD aims to develop a robust chronology for human occupation and important climatic and geomorphic changes in the Gebel Akhdar, northern Libya, using state-of-the-art  applications of Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating and Tephrochronology.  Occupying an apex position between modern day Europe, the Levant and Africa, the Gebel Akhdar is ideally placed to study the interplay of human migration and adaptation in response to regional environmental change. 

Within the area, the Haua Fteah Cave has yielded perhaps the longest and most complete record of human occupation in North Africa, while a number of detailed palaeoenvironmental records are also available.  OSL dates will be obtained from shallow-marine terrace sequences and alluvial fan deposits adjacent to the Haua Fteah cave, which will be integrated with dates obtained by the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project from sediments within the cave. Tephrochronology will be employed to establish time-synchronous markers between the sequences, and to test developing age models.  Not only will the tephra isochrons permit the synchronisation of records within the study area, but they should enable the evidence in the Gebel Akhdar to be linked with the emerging evidence from other parts of the Mediterranean region.

This research is funded both externally by the Transformations in North African Prehistory (TRANS-NAP) project and internally through Royal Holloway University of London.

Research interests

A major goal in the study of human evolution is to understand the history of migration and expansion of modern humans out of Sub-Saharan Africa during the last 150,000 years, a time of abrupt climatic and environmental change. 

Many exciting new theories have emerged in this area concerning the possibility that abrupt climatic and environmental change may have influenced, if not wholly driven important human developments and population migration.  In order to test these ideas, well resolved, precise chronologies are necessary for a full understanding of the relevant environmental, climatic and archaeological records.

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