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Hunting for Doggerland

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A modern marshland: On the edge of the North Sea

A modern marshland: On the edge of the North Sea

UWTSD’S Dr Martin Bates is a part of a team of university archaeologists working on a £2 million research project to reconstruct an ancient landscape beneath the North Sea.

The archaeologists will use the grant to study the huge area of land called Doggerland, almost the size of Ireland, which was covered by the rising sea levels following the last Ice Age.

Dr Bates, Pleistocene Geoarchaeologist at UWTSD’s Faculty of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, based in Lampeter, said: “Our role in the project is to undertake the recording and sampling of the cores. In order to do this, we have set up a new core storage facility at Lampeter that allows us to store a large number of samples at low temperatures. Storing them in these conditions prevents the decay of material such as plant remains and insects, which are vital to our studies.”

Dr Bates said the project provides a superb opportunity to expand the investigation of submerged landscapes being undertaking elsewhere around the UK. He added: “In this project, we are going to be able not only to model these submerged landscapes remotely but also examine the sediments themselves. This will provide us with information allowing us to recreate the environments in which humans lived immediately before the sea flooded Doggerland.”

The team is being led by Professor Vince Gaffney, anniversary chairman in Landscape Archaeology at Bradford University, who has previously carried out similar work in the English Channel.

The Advanced Research Grant comes from the European Research Council, and could lead to new discoveries about how humans lived in that area from 10,000BC until it was flooded about 7,500 years ago.

Archaeologists, molecular biologists and computer scientists will work together on the new project to digitally reconstruct the area.

Using modern genetics and computing technologies, the researchers will digitally repopulate Doggerland, and monitor its development over 5,000 years to reveal clues about how our ancestors made the critical move from hunter-gathering into farming.

Last February, Professor Gaffney’s team revealed their research into the lost land beneath the water at Bouldner Cliff in The Solent, between the Isle of Wight and England, where they found remains of wheat dating back more than 1,800 years, before history records farming as starting in the area.

On the new grant, Professor Gaffney said: “The only populated lands on earth that have not yet been explored in any depth are those which have been lost underneath the sea.

“Although archaeologists have known for a long time that ancient climatic change and sea level rise must mean that Doggerland holds unique and important information about early human life in Europe, until now we have lacked the tools to investigate this area properly.”

The team will be using the vast remote sensing data sets generated by energy companies to reconstruct the past landscape now covered by the sea. The 3D map this produces will show rivers, lakes, hills and coastlines in a country which had previously been a heartland of human occupation in Europe.

Alongside the work, specialist survey ships will recover core sediment samples from selected areas of the landscape, using them to extract millions of fragments of ancient DNA from plants and animals that occupied Europe’s ancient coastal plains.

Professor Gaffney added: “This project will develop technologies and methodologies that archaeologists around the world can use to explore similar landscapes including those around the Americas and in South East Asia.”

The research team also includes Professor Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick, Dr Richard Bates of the University of St Andrews, Dr Eugene Ch’ng of the University of Nottingham, Dr David Smith of the University of Birmingham, and independent researcher Dr Simon Fitch.

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Education

Aberystwyth academic helping to improve British wrestling

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A LECTURER in Film Theory and Practice from Aberystwyth University is contributing towards a ‘code of better practice’ for British wrestling.

Dr Thomas Alcott from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies has been invited by the All-Party Group on Wrestling at the UK Parliament to participate in a conference on the topic later this month.

The group – which includes MPs from across the political spectrum – recently led an inquiry and published the findings in April last year.

The cross party group reviewed regulation, funding, safeguarding and wellbeing in wrestling, and sought to find ways to better support and regulate the industry.

Dr Alcott’s doctoral research, which explored the relationship between audiences, stars and industry within the world of Professional Wrestling, was one of the resources used and quoted in the report.

Organised by the groups of MPs, Loughborough University and wrestling training school Playfight, the conference will be attended by academics, wrestlers, promoters and coaches.

It is intended to provide an opportunity for training and discussion, and lead to a safer and more inclusive environment.

Dr Alcott told The Ceredigion Herald: “For over a century, wrestling has been a popular form of culture and entertainment. However, a lack of clarity on whether it sits within the sector of sport or theatre has led to complexities about how the industry is governed and regulated.

“The inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling is the first official analysis and intervention in the wrestling industry for many decades. The conference that follows the publication of the group’s report will provide an opportunity to discuss a guide of better practice to improve the industry for the future, for the benefit of both performers and fans.”

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New Japanese partnership to boost climate change research at Aberystwyth University

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ABERYSTWYTH University has signed up to a new partnership with a Japanese university in a boost to its climate change research.

The new memorandum of understanding with Ritsumeikan University includes exchanging research and joint investment in cutting-edge technology.

As part of the partnership, the two universities are collaborating on major projects studying climate change in Mexico and Japan.

In southern Mexico, a joint team will investigate records of past climate change in the region and its role in the collapse of the Classic Mayan civilisation.

Professor Sarah Davies, Head of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University said:

“It’s a pleasure to confirm our commitments with this new memorandum which builds on a long-standing research relationship between our two institutions. These projects will make an important contribution to our understanding of climate change, and its role in the development of human civilisation.

“Together with our Japanese partners and the support of Aberystwyth University and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, we have made a significant investment in our X-ray Fluorescence core scanner. This is a resource of both UK and international importance, enabling very high-resolution geochemical analysis of sediment cores to reconstruct climate variability. These joint investments in instrumentation are an important boost to our future research work.”

Professor Takeshi Nakagawa from Ritsumeikan University commented:

“We are delighted to forge even closer ties with our partners at Aberystwyth University as we conduct ground-breaking research together. The joint research on climate change is a very exciting opportunity to unlock some of humanity’s secrets and better understand our world.”

As part of the partnership, Professor Takeshi Nakagawa and Dr Ikuko Kitaba from Ritsumeikan University are visiting Aberystwyth until 14th November.

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Aberystywth University launches AI Hub to explore decade’s most critical technology

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ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY has launched a new hub to study artificial intelligence in response to a technology that presents some of the greatest opportunities this decade to transform society.
The Hub involves academics from across the University collaborating in areas such as robotics and machine learning, astrophysics, medical treatment, drug discovery and future foods through a series of workshops, conferences, and collaborations.
In recent years, the University has been involved in a number of high-profile projects involving the technology. In June 2022, it worked with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Waterhttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2022/06/title-252896-en.htm on an artificial intelligence system that helped monitor the reliability of water treatment processes.
The University has also developed an apphttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2021/01/title-239859-en.html that helps recovering stroke patients exercise more and looked at how the technology can be applied to exploring the weather in spacehttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2021/02/title-240437-en.html.
At a recent symposium hosted by Aberystwyth University academics discussed subjects such as artificial intelligence’s uses within healthcare, the arts and storing and categorising key information.
In the coming years, the University will build on its expertise in applying artificial intelligence to space and data science, engineering, intelligent robotics and healthcare.
A series of sandpit events will be held to bring academics from across all disciplines at the University together to share ideas and start new projects, with a public conference planned for 2023.
Professor Colin McInnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation, said: “Artificial intelligence poses one of the greatest opportunities – and challenges – for the world this decade. These are not simply technological, but will impact upon society, the economy, culture and human rights. I am delighted that Aberystwyth University is taking a lead in examining the impact of AI across all these dimensions and how they will interact with each other.”
Professor Reyer Zwiggelaar, Head of the AI Hub, said: “These technologies will push the boundaries of scientific discovery: from the exploration of Mars’ surface and quantifying the environmental impact of global warming to identifying new health biomarkers, creating future foods and understanding of how living organisms sense, move and interact with their natural environments.
“This is why we established the AI Hub: to collaborate and explore the full potential of the technology. It will help fuel innovation across society and something that will change our lives for the better, across the country and the world. We want to be at the forefront of this exciting field.”

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