Conférence publique donnée par M. Dr Christoph Schmidt en vue de sa demande d’habilitation,
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The Quaternary is characterized by drastic climatic fluctuations on a range of different timescales from 102 to 105 years. In this period, modern humans entered the stage and had to cope with rapidly fluctuating living conditions. To which degree environmental hazards associated with endogenic and exogenic geodynamics influenced the spread and success of human populations remains a matter of debate. Unravelling the relationship between human dispersal and environmental change builds fundamentally on accurate and precise chronologies for both the spatio-temporal evolution of human settlements and the timing of critical changes in climate and ecosystems. This presentation highlights selected contributions to this question in the fields of paleoenvironmental reconstruction, geoarcheology and volcanic hazard assessment.
As trapped charge (or luminescence) dating methods nowadays take a central role in Quaternary science, I will explain their basics before demonstrating applications to sedimentary sequences for deciphering glacial environmental conditions. The versatile trapped charge methods can also provide valuable data in archaeological contexts. Especially in the Paleolithic, thermoluminescence dating of fired stone artifacts can provide direct ages for human presence. Case studies from southeastern Europe give insights into prehistoric settlement dynamics in relation to Late Pleistocene climatic evolution. Finally, this presentation addresses the geohazard of volcanic eruptions. Studies from the Eifel Volcanic Field (Germany) and the Cameroon Volcanic Line show how the time of the last eruption can be captured using trapped charge methods and how this can contribute to a more solid hazard assessment. In the case of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, hazard assessment is not only based on the dating of individual eruptions (i.e., on the temporal dimension), but also the analysis of the spatial distribution of monogenetic volcanoes. To conclude, I will give an outlook on planned research activities at IDyST, outlining novel applications of trapped charge techniques.