Christina Ankjærgaard has been awarded a VENI grant for her proposal ‘Unravelling our past: New VSL geochronometer to date the full evolution of genus 'Homo’. She wrote her proposal while working at Delft University of Technology, but she will carry out her research at Wageningen University in the Soil Geography and Landscape chair group of Jakob Wallinga.
The field of human evolution lacks generally-applicable dating techniques which are able to cover the full evolution of the genus Homo within the past 2.5 million years. As a consequence, key questions to when hominins migrated out of Africa and when they arrived into Europe remain unanswered. “During my VENI,” Christina says, “I will develop a new dating method using violet stimulated luminescence (VSL) from sedimentary quartz. The benefit of developing the VSL geochronometer is twofold: not only will it span the entire evolution of the genus Homo, but as quartz is found in most environments on Earth, it will be the most widely applicable dating method.”
From the jury report: "The applicant proposes to develop a dating method for the complete Quaternary era. This proposed focus is very innovative and the type of test material that the candidate will use is excellent, because it can provide answers to many key questions. This study is not only relevant within the physical field, but also within other scientific disciplines. The proposal is also strongly written with a clearly formulated research question. "
The committee asked methodological questions during the interview (e.g. about the bleaching of quartz to reduce contamination, how to conduct research in disturbed sites and about the added value of violet light measurements over blue light in crystals). "The candidate convincingly answered to these questions. The proposed research is highly innovative and the expected results have potential to have significant academic impact. The dating method that will be developed can be widely used within archaeology. The applicant has written a convincing plan for knowledge utilization and she has a strong network that can enable immediate knowledge utilization."