We will trace the Pleistocene 'hominin journey', discussing the extent to which (and at what point) hominins became more resilient to the pressures of climatic and environmental change, and considering biological, behavioural and cultural adaptations.
Human populations are vulnerable to climate change in various ways, but are also able to deploy a multitude of responses to promote survival in the face of external climatic and environmental pressures. At some point in the evolution of our own genus, Homo, there has been a transformation compared to earlier hominins in relationships with climate change and environmental pressures. The abrupt climate fluctuations of the Pleistocene, in combination with dispersals out of Africa and beyond the tropics, exposed members of the genus Homo to climate shifts and novel environments. By the end of the Pleistocene, technology had allowed them to exploit all the major biomes of the world, and in the Holocene hominins themselves became major agents of climate change. The influence of climate change on human evolution through the last ~1.5 million years is currently the subject of intensive research that has generated new hypotheses and field explorations. This panel will trace the Pleistocene 'hominin journey' in the context of climate and associated environmental change, using a variety of theoretical and empirical models and approaches. Topics for discussion will include whether the speciosity that has become increasingly evident in Homo is linked in any way to climatic fluctuations, how hominin dispersals and ranges may have moved according to shifting climates and environments, and the extent to which (and at what point) hominins became more resilient to the pressures of climatic and environmental change, considering biological, behavioural and cultural adaptations.