Project Outline

Objectives of Research Exchanges through the Project Period

projectAlthough humans are physiologically tropical creatures, they spread as far as 70 degrees north into the Arctic Circle as early as 40,000 years ago - a movement linked to the emergence and proliferation of anatomically modern humans. Agriculture has been around for only 10,000 years of the 2.5 million-year history of the Homo genus, with the rest of the period accounted for by hunter-gatherer subsistence. Against such a background, the elucidation of human history in hunter-gatherer societies can be expected to clarify the positioning of people today within the context of evolution. However, conventional human history describes the development of primarily middle-latitude countries and their civilizations, and hunter-gatherer societies are viewed as having supported primitive lifestyles.

This project is intended to support the establishment of a collaborative organization involving researchers at Hokkaido University and other Japanese universities, the University of Alberta, the University of Aberdeen and other overseas institutions located in northern regions. Based on the theme of elucidating the characteristics and distinct processes behind the historical transition of environmental adaptation behavior on the part of hunter-gatherers in the north, the project will support cross-disciplinary research encompassing archaeology, palaeoenvironmental science, molecular biology, anthropology and other disciplines. It is also expected to provide a new framework and platform for discussions on the history of human ecology in the north with an international perspective by leveraging research resources at the three universities acting as core research institutions. Such initiatives make it possible to conduct research in a wide range of fields and train young researchers who are capable of transcending institutional boundaries - tasks that were previously impossible for a single institution. The project includes training for the next generation of research leaders as one of its key areas. Specifically, the project will: 1) involve the organization of an International Field School training program in Hokkaido to provide opportunities for students and young researchers from different countries to learn about research techniques employed in different fields and interact with one another; 2) offer international seminars as opportunities for learning about cutting-edge survey/research techniques and the use of related equipment and materials; and 3) support the establishment of a framework for international collaborative research and a personal guidance system for young researchers capable of transcending the bounds of research institutions.

Advanced Core Research Centre for the History of Human Ecology in the North

Research Subject

Academic Perspective

Research on human history in the north has been implemented individually in Europe, North America and Asia. Today, however, there is a need to establish a comprehensive research framework that encompasses climate and environmental change as well as interactions between people and the environment from Northern Hemisphere and global perspectives. This research will involve examination to determine the localized lineage of local populations and its relation to environmental adaptation behavior. This will be achieved using data accumulated in the environmental science field, in which global comparative studies have become standardized. The work will also include investigation of eating habits and lifestyles as well as the regional characteristics of local populations based on techniques such as stable isotope analysis, life activity and subsistence analysis and ancient DNA analysis. The project will lay the groundwork for international comparative studies from the viewpoints of 1) domestication of life-related resources; 2) maritime adaptation; 3) collective migration and spread; and 4) landscape modification. This work is intended to set northern human societies against the history of urban civilization in middle-latitude regions as a way of examining related characteristics and significance in human history. As part of these research efforts, project activities will be internationally publicized at international academic conferences through proactive sessions highlighting research plans and the direction of the study.

Collaborative Research 1: Human Culture, Adaptation and Modified Landscape in the North

With the participation of researchers in Canada and the UK, a collaborative research program will be launched to set northern human societies against the history of urban civilization in middle-latitude regions with the aim of examining related characteristics and significance in human history. Specific collaborative studies starting in fiscal 2013 (the first project year) will cover: 1) the development of a framework for discussion on cycles of climate and environmental change, high-resolution chronology and other topics; 2) stable isotope analysis, life activity and subsistence analysis and ancient DNA analysis based on comparative studies using accumulated numerical data; and 3) theoretical archaeology and anthropology with focus on research topics that hold the key to the elucidation of human culture in the north (i.e., domestication of life-related resources, maritime adaptation, collective migration and spread, and landscape modification).

Collaborative Research 2: Past and Future of Indigenous Cultural Properties for Human History in the North

Resources from human history in northern regions have long been accumulated at research facilities of major museums in the West as typical folklore materials. This collaborative research program will involve a comparison of the circumstances that led to the assembly of these historic collections and their characteristics. The key aim is to critically verify how human history in the north has been assessed and utilized from a history of civilization viewpoint. The characteristics of the collections will also be relativized for assessment to support discussions on their utilization toward the establishment of a new human history framework with a viewpoint free from the shackles of existing academic disciplines.



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