Dr Rhys Timms

Rhys Timms

Dr Rhys Timms

PDRA Tephrochronology&Cryptotephra

Phone: +44 1784 414153

Research interests

Geochronology, Tephrochronology, Palaeoclimates, Human Evolution


Quaternary geochronologist specialising in (crypto-)tephrochronology. Interested in the timing and phasing of climatic transitions and the influence of these on early human development and dispersal.


Current Research

Project: Pleistocene Archaeology, Geochronology and Environment of the Southern Caucasus (PAGES) (Led by Dr K. Wilkinson, Winchester)

The Southern Caucasus (modern day Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) currently host some of the earliest human fossils outside of Africa. Despite this, the timing of human dispersal, and the mechanisms behind human migrations out of Africa and into the region are not particularly well constrained. The aim of the PAGES project is to therefore provide a chronological framework and palaeoenvironmental context to these important archaeological finds, and thereby establish the impact of climate and environment on early human mobility and dispersal into this important study area.


Project: Out of tune: a more secure approach for synchronising past climate histories (Led by Prof J. Lowe, RHUL)

This project’s focus is on linking palaeoenvironmental records and testing the diachronous nature of landscape response to abrupt climatic transitions using tephrochronology. The results have highlighted false assumptions in current models relating to the pattern, and rate of environmental change in Scotland during the period 15,000 to 8000 years ago.


PhD Research

Project: Developing a refined tephrostratigraphy for Scotland, and constraining abrupt climatic oscillations of the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (ca 16-8 ka BP) using high resolution tephrochronologies

The Last Glacial to Interglacial Transition (LGIT, ca. 16-8 ka), owing to the number and resolution of records that are available, is one of the best periods in Earth's history for understanding abrupt climatic changes. However, understanding these changes requires an ability to precisely correlate the archives within which such transitions are recorded. One way in which this can be examined is by using tephrochronology, a technique which exploits the isochronous potential of volcanic ash layers. Deposition of volcanic ash or 'tephra' in climate archives can be considered geologically ‘instantaneous’, thus tracing ash layers to various climate archives allows these records to be stratigraphically tied with a precision atypical of other methods. In NW Europe tephra layers of varying age and provenance have become increasing utilised as a means to correlate palaeoclimate records, and to test the spatial and temporal synchronicity of key climatic transitions.

This project specifically examined methods of tephra refinement within sedimentary sequences, and proposed updated protocols for resolving tephrostratigraphies. Using these revised methods it has become apparent that the number, geographical spread and understanding of tephra deposition in records spanning the LGIT is much more complex than previously assumed. It is nonetheless a technique that holds much protential for reducing chronological uncertaintly in climate records spanning this important period.


Research Skills

Tephrochronology, Geochemistry, Stratigraphy, Bayesian age modelling

Educational background

2012 - 2016: PhD, Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway University of London

2010 - 2011: MSc, Climate and Environmental Change, Coventry University

2008 - 2009: Earth Science/Geoscience, University of Iceland

2007 - 2010: BSc (Hons), Physical Geography, Coventry University


Quaternary Research Association (QRA)

International Focus Group on Tephrochronology (INTAV)

Integrating Ice core, Marine, and Terrestrial records (INTIMATE)

Pleistocene Archaeology, Geochronology and Environment of the Southern Caucasus (PAGES)

ID: 29053944