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Richard Clark-Wilson

PhD Candidate in Geography, Royal Holloway University of London

My research interests fall into two key themes. The first is reconstructing the past environment using geochemical (stable isotope analysis, X-ray diffraction) and sedimentological (micromorphology) techniques. The second is focused on geochronology where I am interested in applying luminescence dating to Quaternary deposits.

My PhD project focuses on the western Nefud Desert in northern Arabia, which lay at a crossroads for Hominin dispersals between Africa and Eurasia over the Pleistocene. This means an understanding of the region’s palaeoenvironmental history is key. Today, the Nefud desert is an impassable barrier to hominin dispersals but work by researchers such as Schulz and Whitney (1986), Petraglia et al. (2012) and Rosenberg et al. (2013) indicate that the desert periodically experiences humid conditions driven by orbital forcing. These conditions lead to the development of open grasslands and numerous freshwater sources that form landscapes through which hominin and faunal populations could disperse. However, there is a gap in our knowledge regarding the landscapes, environments and hydrology that existed during humid phases within the Nefud, as well as their precise age and genesis. The aim of my research, therefore, is to reconstruct the palaeoenvironment, landscapes and hydrology of the western Nefud Desert during humid phases over the last 0.5 Ma using sedimentological and geochemical techniques, whilst building a chronology of humid phases using luminescence dating. The data that this study generates will lead to a better understanding of climatic and environmental controls on hominin populations within the Nefud Desert over the past 0.5 Ma.


  • –present
    PhD Candidate in Geography, Royal Holloway