Birds as a key line of evidence for human vulnerability and resilience to environmental shifts

The project investigates past bird migration as evidence for localised palaeoenvironmental shifts. Identification of archaeological remains of birds is problematic and we will develop and apply new scientific tools for the identification of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene remains from the semi-arid region of eastern Jordan.

Polished quail (Coturnix coturnix) tibiotarsus bones from Shubayqa that are waste from bead manufacture

During the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene of southwest Asia our species shifted from hunting and gathering to farming. Environmental conditions may have had a role in this fundamental change in human subsistence strategies but models of climatic fluctuations experienced during this period overlook the importance of shorter-term shifts and localised patterns as they are extremely difficult to detect in the archaeological record. The project will use new scientific tools (geometric morphometrics and palaeoproteomics) to improve identification of bird remains and identify past patterns of bird migration. Birds are highly responsive to environmental fluctuations and therefore are effective tools to model past environments and examine human adaptive responses.


The aim is to further understanding of environmental conditions and short-term fluctuations in resource availability during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene through a detailed analysis of avifauna remains from archaeological sites bordering wetlands. This research feeds into many questions about human resilience to environmental change and our ancestors’ adaptive responses to ensure stability.

  1. What impact do changes to wetlands have on the migratory patterns of avifauna in SW Asia today and in the past?
  2. How do birds, as a key line of evidence for environmental change, indicate shifts in the availability of resources through the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene and what implications does this have for our understanding of human societies shift to food production?



Proteomic analysis is being undertaken by Professor Beatrice Demarchi and Dr Maria Codlin at the University of Turin.



Name Title Phone E-mail
Yeomans, Lisa Associate Professor +4527121701 E-mail


Project period: 2021-2024
PI: Lisa Yeomans