The research center ROCEEH studies the expansion of humans between 3,000,000 and 20,000 years ago in Africa and Eurasia. The project examines the phenomenon of expansion from different perspectives: The evolution of biological traits and cognitive abilities, the routes of migration, and the expansion of the niche and habitat of our distant ancestors.
In order to address the broad scope of the topic, researchers from archaeology, anthropology, paleontology, biology and geography collaborate in a interdisciplinary way. The research is funded over a period of 20 years by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and is based at the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt/Main.
The ROCEEH Out of Africa Database (ROAD) is at the heart of the project. It is the most comprehensive data collection of its kind, with over 2,000 sites and more than 20,000 assemblages, sourced from more than 5,000 publications. The geo-relational database combines information from the various scientific disciplines to paint a holistic picture of the prehistoric world. The database can be easily visited via a WebGIS portal and, after registration, wide-ranging query options are available.
Recent advances in the development and maintenance of ROAD are the integration of ROAD data into the ARIADNE Infrastructure, a new access point trough the semantic web, Summary Data Sheets that convey site information in a reader-friendly way, the refurbished Portal using Shiny software, the educational game Time Flies, and the implementation of ROAD derived interactive maps in Wikipedia. Publication
Thanks to the excellent data available, there is a wide range of possibilities for macroscale spatial analysis, rooted in both physical and human geography. Here is a selection:
By viewing ancient cultures as networks, it is possible to reconstruct their spread but also their internal structures on the basis of similarities in material remains. As in modern social networks, closely linked centers but also cut-off peripheries become visible. On closer examination, however, it also turns out that the categories in which research traditionally classifies cultures are often disputable. Publication
Species distribution models can be used to derive the ecological niche of our ancestors from sites and paleoclimate models and to reconstruct their spatial distribution. This allows us to track the expansion and interaction of favorable environments over glacial and interglacial periods, to make paleo-demographic estimates, or to map the areas of overlap between different groups where gene or cultural exchange takes place. Publication