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Elena Hensel, Start-up honours Grant 2017

Methodological foundations in 3D modelling and autoradiography

Figure 1: The Sodicho Rockshelter is situated in the southwestern Ethiopia Highlands (data Aster GDEM) (A). Detail of an autoradiography image – dark spots are high radiation emitters (B). Generated DEM with location of the rockshelter (data by Airbus) (C). Particle structure of quartzite stone artefact. Image was taken with a Dino-Lite Digital Microscope, mag. 50x (D).

Through a start-up honours grant from the Graduate School of Geoscience I could bridge five months as a Research Assistant (WHK) at the Institute of Geography on my way to my PhD project. This financial support gave me time to prepare for my research: gathering first literature, participating in the evaluation of the third DFG proposal of CRC 806 “Our Way to Europa”, and acquiring methodological skills as part of the project A1. My PhD research will be directed to the recently discovered archaeological site Sodicho Rockshelter in the southwestern Ethiopian Highlands (Fig. 1 A). I plan to apply a multi-methodological geoarchaeological approach and to correlate the obtained data with those from the key-site stratigraphy of Mochena Borago Rock Shelter in SW Ethiopia.
Within the funding period I achieved a methodological foundation in the non-destructive imaging method of autoradiography, which is used for detecting and visualizing radiation emitters and inhomogeneities in sediment samples (Fig. 1 B). My investigations focused on hardened micromorphological sediment blocks from the Pockenbank Rockshelter. The micromorphological thin sections of these blocks were analysed during my master’s thesis in 2016 and now compared with the new results. This method is used for gathering additional information about heterogeneities in dose rate of the sediment, which is crucial for interpreting luminescence dates reliably. I received basic instruction in this methodology from Dr. Daniel Rufer at the Autoradiography Laboratory, Institute of Geological Science, University of Bern. Additional methodological foundations in 3D modelling of the land surface are needed within the last phase of CRC 806 (2017-2021). As a first step I used two Pleiades satellite data sets of the future research area around Sodicho Rockshelter in Ethiopia to generate a first high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM) of the area using remote sensing
program ENVI ® (Fig. 1 C). Furthermore, I presented a concept poster of my planned PhD project and a second poster showing the research results of my Master’s thesis at the annual national conference of the Arbeitskreis Geoachäologie at the University in Erlangen in May 2017.
As a last point, I had the opportunity to work with the research team of the project “At the margins of Late Pleistocene subcontinental networks” (directed by Dr. Isabell Schmidt, Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, UoC) at the National Museum of Namibia in Windhoek. I carried out petrographic investigations of the lithic raw material used for stone tool production from the Pockenbank Rockshelter – the main excavation site of my geoarchaeological analyses for my master’s thesis. I will apply the earned knowledge of lithic material of the Middle and Late Stone Age in the upcoming A1 project (Fig. 1 D).
I would like to thank the Graduate School of Geosciences and the steering committee for their financial support. This generous grant enabled me a preparation for my future PhD research and opened up new scientific contacts and opportunities. Last but not least, I want to thank Prof. Dr. Olaf Bubenzer, Dr. Ralf Vogelsang, Dr. Andreas Bolten, Dr. Dominik Brill and Dr. Isabell Schmidt from the University of Cologne as well as Dr. Daniel Rufer from the University of Bern for their supervision, support and scientific impulses during this research.


Elena Hensel

GSGS project: Methodological foundations in 3D modelling and autoradiography

Geographical Institute

PhD project (from Jan 2018) within the CRC 806 “Our Way to Europe”, Project A1 “Out of Africa – Late Pleistocene Rock Shelter Stratigraphies and Palaeoenvironments in Northeastern Africa”

Professor Dr. Olaf Bubenzer (working group: Quaternary Research and Applied Geomorphology - Department of African Studies)