DISPERSE: Dynamic Landscapes, Coastal Environments and Human Dispersals

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details


DISPERSE is an ERC Advanced Grant aimed at exploring the relationship between tectonically unstable landscapes, sea-level change, climate, and patterns of human dispersal in the early time ranges of human evolution and development associated with the emergence of the genus Homo. The geographical focus of the project encompasses the main regions of early human evolution and dispersal, with particular emphasis on the East African Rift, the Red Sea region of Saudi Arabia, and the southern Levant. Central to the project is the development of new methods of landscape reconstruction taking account of changes in tectonic geomorphology and sea-levels, and involving the use of digital elevation models, satellite imagery, and the application of acoustic and underwater technologies to the exploration of the submerged landscapes of the continental shelf, which formed extensive and potentially attractive territories for human settlement during the periods of low sea level that have dominated human existence. The project also includes ground observations in the field, and the survey and excavation of new archaeological and palaeoenvironmental sites, with particular emphasis in the latter case on the Southwest region of Saudi Arabia and the Farasan Islands.

Layman's description

The regions of the world that hosted the earliest evolution of our species in Africa, and the expansion of early human populations to adjacent regions of Asia and Europe, are associated with high levels of geological instability resulting from tectonic and volcanic activity and sea-level change. These active landscapes may have played a key role in driving the trajectory of human evolution and dispersal, creating ecologically attractive conditions despite the attendant risks. This project is aimed at exploring this relationship between human expansion and landscape instability, developing new methods of landscape reconstruction, including exploration of the now-submerged regions that existed when sea-level was substantially lower than present, and developing new methods of landscape reconstruction using new technologies of aerial and submarine remote sensing.  

Effective start/end date1/04/1131/10/16


  • EUROPEAN COMMISSION: £1,699,181.00