Tectonic geomorphology and soil edaphics as controls on animal migrations and human dispersal patterns

Simon Kübler, Geoffrey C.P. King, Maud H. Devès, Robyn H. Inglis, Geoff N. Bailey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines the relationship between the changing geomorphology of physical land forms in tectonically and volcanically active regions, topography, soil nutrients, movements of large mammals, and patterns of human subsistence and dispersal in the early stages of human evolution. We place particular emphasis on the ways in which minor topographic barriers-for example, river gorges, fault scarps and basaltic lava flows- constrain the movements of large mammals during their seasonal migrations and offer opportunities for early humans to take advantage of predictable natural constrictions to ambush animals. We also emphasise the importance of soil edaphics-the mineral composition of soils as a source of trace elements essential for animal growth and health-as another key variable in determining the distribution and movements of animals and their human hunters. Soil edaphics are closely related to the nature of the underlying regolith or bedrock, and are consequently highly variable in their distribution, providing additional constraints on animal movements. We show how the combination of topographic and soil-edaphic mapping in conjunction with the observed locations of stone-tool or fossil assemblages can highlight patterns of early human behaviour, using examples from the East African and Jordanian Rifts and the Arabian margin of the Red Sea. Finally, we note that these methods have the potential to be applied more widely in other regions of the world and to problems of animal and human health at the present-day.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeological Setting, Palaeoenvironment and Archaeology of the Red Sea
EditorsNajeeb M.A. Rasul, Ian C.F. Stewart
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783319994086
ISBN (Print)9783319994079
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Animal migration
  • Seasonal movements
  • Topography
  • Barriers
  • Tectonics
  • Edaphic soil


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