From point to area: Upscaling approaches for Late Quaternary archaeological and environmental data


The study of past socio-environmental systems integrates a variety of terrestrial archives. To understand regional or continental socio-environmental interactions proxy data from local archives need to be transferred to larger spatial scales. System properties like spatial heterogeneity, historical and spatial contingency, nonlinearity, scale dependency or emergence make generalizations from local observations to larger scales difficult. As these are common properties of natural and social systems, the development of an interdisciplinary upscaling framework for socio-environmental systems remains a challenge. For example, the integration of social and environmental data is often hindered by divergent methodological, i.e. qualitative and quantitative, approaches and discipline-specific perceptions of spatial scales. Additionally, joint approaches can be hampered by differences in the predictability of natural systems, which are subject to physical laws, and social systems, which depend on humans' decisions and communication.
Here we present results from an interdisciplinary discussion of upscaling approaches in socio-environmental research with a special focus on the migration of modern humans in Central Europe during the last 30,000 years. Based on case studies from different disciplines, we develop a classification system for upscaling approaches used in past socio-environmental research. Finally, we present an initial upscaling framework that fosters the development of an interdisciplinary concept of scales and allows for a consideration of system properties like scale dependency, nonlinearity and contingency. The upscaling framework includes the following steps: i) the identification of relevant spatial and temporal scales at which socio-environmental interactions operate; ii) the definition of appropriate parameters to describe scale-specific interactions; iii) a comparison of process and observation scales to evaluate the potential of local archive data for larger scale generalization and for reconstructing scale-specific past socio-environmental interactions; iv) the identification and adaption of appropriate upscaling approaches for the relevant scales; v) the development of scale-specific models of socio-environmental interactions, and vi) the connection of models in a nested hierarchy. Our intention is not to present final results, but rather to stimulate future discussions and to provide a basic reference on scale issues in the emerging field of integrated socio-environmental research.


Schlummer, M., Hoffmann, T., Dikau, R., Eickmeier, M., Fischer, P., Gerlach, R., Holzkämper, J., Kalis, A., Kretschmer, I., Lauer, F., Maier, A., Meesenburg, J., Meurers-Balke, J., Münch, U., Pätzold, S., Steininger, F., Stobbe, A., Zimmermann, A. (2014): From point to area: Upscaling approaches for Late Quaternary archaeological and environmental data. – In: Earth-Science Reviews, Vol. 131, DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2014.01.004

Authors Schlummer, Manuela and Hoffmann, Thomas and Dikau, Richard and Eickmeier, Michael and Fischer, Peter and Gerlach, Renate and Holzkämper, Jörg and Kalis, Arie J. and Kretschmer, Inga and Lauer, Franziska and Maier, Andreas and Meesenburg, Janina and Meurers-Balke, Jutta and Münch, Ulla and Pätzold, Stefan and Steininger, Florian and Stobbe, Astrid and Zimmermann, Andreas
Type article
Title From point to area: Upscaling approaches for Late Quaternary archaeological and environmental data
DOI 10.1016/j.earscirev.2014.01.004
Journal Earth-Science Reviews
Year 2014
Volume 131
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