Project Highlights:

  • High resolution record of vegetation change and fire intensity at the Ice Age – Holocene boundary
  • The response of vegetation following natural forcing of climate
  • The impact that rapid climate changes via punctuated aridity events may have had on natural ecosystems and nascent Neolithic and Chalcolithic human societies

Multi-proxy approaches to integrated regional studies of environmental variability during the late Glacial and Holocene can provide valuable insights into the ways that significant shifts in climate have affected natural ecosystems, landscapes and human activities over decadal, centennial and millennial timescales. For the eastern Mediterranean region in particular, there is current and active debate between past climatic variations and vegetation dynamics during the humid phase of the early Holocene as well as the impacts that punctuated aridification events during the Holocene had on natural and cultural change in this region. The eastern Mediterranean also has a long history of human occupation, so these landscapes have also been transformed by human-induced land cover changes. The extent to which climate change in Anatolia has caused natural environment change over these millennia, and how these changes have influenced and interacted with the emergence – and in some cases decline – of complex societies and civilizations (e.g., Hittites) and the extent to which complex societies and civilisations impacted upon the natural environment are questions that still need to be addressed by archaeologists, palaeoecologists and palaeoclimatologists. Addressing research questions such as these requires a multi-proxy approach where continuous and well-dated proxy records of climate and vegetation change from the same core sequence can be compared with systematic archaeological and historical records of human settlement. The Cappadocia region of Anatolia is well suited to this task. It contains an exceptionally rich and well-studied archaeological record (e.g., Allcock and Roberts, 2014), and also possesses volcanic maar lakes, which contain an important suite of predominantly laminated sediments which preserve an archive of climate variations, vegetation, land use, and soil erosion.

Volcanic maar Nar Lake in Cappadocia, Turkey


This PhD project will focus upon pollen and charcoal analyses as the key proxy indicators to investigate human-environment interactions. Fossil pollen will also be analysed in conjunction with modern pollen retrieved from core surface samples, moss samples and Tauber pollen traps that have been deployed in the Nar catchment since 2010. Resultant datasets will then be compared with the δ18O reconstructed climate record and archaeological datasets. Excellent laboratory facilities are available in the School including modern palynological processing and microscopy laboratories.

Training and Skills

In addition to the CENTA2 training, you will integrate within the active and diverse Physical Geography research group and international collaborative and training networks led by the supervisory team. This ambitious, supportive environment provides you with all the essential training necessary to undertake the PhD, in addition to the diverse learning environment reinforced by regular seminar series and fortnightly discussion groups. The international networks provide purpose built connections for extended visits with international partners. You will be offered training in relevant palaeoecological field and laboratory techniques. Opportunities will be provided to obtain teaching experience as part of the project.


Year 1: Training in pollen, charcoal and fungal identification. Visits to the study area and field work including the collection of modern pollen specimens (Tauber Traps and moss samples). Laboratory processing of samples (opportunity for the PhD research student to carry this out in Turkey). Counting pollen, charcoal and fungal palynomorphs.

Year 2: Continued counting pollen, charcoal and fungal palynomorphs. Training in graphical data presentation. Conference / Workshop presentation(s)

Year 3: Graphical representation of data. Interpretation and discussion of data via collaborative workshops. Thesis writing-up

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

The research student will work as part of a collaborative research project between the Universities of Birmingham, Hull, Isparta (Turkey) and Nottingham.

Further Details