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Geoscientist Online

Quaternary Environmental Change in Southern Africa: Physical and Human Dimensions


This book consists of 25 chapters on a highly diverse series of topics from hominin origins, geomorphology, sedimentary environments, climate, paleoanthropological archaeological record and fauna relating to the theme of this book with chapters one and 25 setting the theme and summary of the book respectively. Each chapter describes and summarises the current status of research of the topic relating to that chapter. This includes illustrations relating to the topic under discussion and selected illustrations are reproduced in colour in section of the text. As each topic is a standalone paper this has resulted in some very similar plates being reproduced twice which the editors could have exercised some optimisation over.

As indicated above, with such a wide range of topics, a general reader might find some their level of interest varying and being stimulated or otherwise from paper to paper but overall the book provides very interesting insights into the variability of the environment, during the last 2.6Ma.

What also comes to the fore is the challenges that researchers face in respect of the accuracy of dating (or to be more precise the inaccuracies of dating) events or sites covered by these topics and the current scarcity of sites over this large area which can lead to a meaningful correlation of events and sites in Southern Africa.

This brings the reviewer to a niggling comment that while the book is described as covering Southern Africa, many, but not all of the researchers, present maps and data from South Africa. There is not one contribution from researchers in Botswana or Namibia whose countries fall within the term 'Southern Africa'.

Coincidentally, there is, in the December issue of Geobulletin by the Council for Geoscience of South Africa, a striking reproduction of a poster commissioned by the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, of a representation of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain some was exposed some 60,000 years ago to the south of the southernmost point of South Africa in which the current coastline of RSA is shown as mountains in the distance (30km) to the north which, after reading the papers in this volume, made one appreciate how the world is a dynamic entity and not static. The book also highlights the adaptability of man and his historical ancestors to the variable climates that have occurred in the last 2.6Ma.

Reviewed by Alan Golding

QUATERNARY ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA: PHYSICAL AND HUMAN DIMENSIONS Edited by: Jasper Knight and Stefan W. Grab. 2016 Cambridge University Press ISBN: 9781316572900 (ebook) ISBN-13: 978-1107055797 (hbk).  450pp.List Price (hbk) £79.99. W: