130,000 years of palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic change in East Africa: An evaluation of the status of our understanding
Over the last two decades, there has been intensive work undertaken to understand African palaeoclimates, in order to put together a more coherent picture of how the environment and climate have varied in the past. East Africa is of particular interest with the debates surrounding the “out-of-Africa” migrations of anatomically modern humans (e.g. Appenzellar, 2012; Armitage et al, 2011; Balter, 2011; Cruciani et al, 2011). It is still premature for any grand synthesis of the region’s climatic past when the patchiness of the palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental records are acknowledged, and in light of the complexity of the climate forcing mechanisms across this region (Berke et al, 2014). The warning “causation, correlation or coincidence” still very much applies to all exercises in explanation and more regional-scale work is certainly necessary (McIntosh et al. 2015). This essay initially takes the lens of human evolution to evaluate the status of our understanding of the palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic change during the critical “Out-of-Africa” migration periods. This is followed by an in-depth review of the palynological record in East Africa and associated records. This evaluation focuses on the last 130 kya, the upper boundary of which, marks the start of the Eemian interglacial. This coincides with the date determined by recent
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