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Natural Variability of the Pre-Aksumite Afromontane: a control for deforestation analysis

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Corinna McMurtrey

The Aksumite Empire was a prosperous African civilization that thrived on the Tigray Plateau in modern-day Ethiopia between c. 50 BCE and 700 CE. Their advanced agriculture techniques and fertile volcanic soils aided in productive yields able to support their population. Located on the East African Rift Zone, the Tigray Plateau was formed from ancient volcanic activity. Because of this geologic history, the deposition of volcanic ash provided a resource that ultimately improved soil quality for agricultural use. However, volcanic activity can also produce short-term climate changes that severely hinder agricultural activities. As the impact of volcanism on the Aksumite Empire has yet to be explored, my proposed Undergraduate Research Opportunity aims to understand the impact of volcanism on the Aksumite Empire's agricultural production and if volcanic activity played a role in their ultimate collapse. This research will be conducted by processing and analyzing sediment samples previously collected from a valley system near the modern town of Adigrat, on the Tigray Plateau, Ethiopia. These sediment samples will be analyzed using X-ray fluorescence (XRF), which can detect and measure most soil elements providing insight on mineralogical content, including elements that will aid in identifying periods of volcanic ash or tephra fallout. This research will also explore the evidence of fire activity from charcoal analysis of sediment samples to examine potential links among climate, fire, volcanism, and agriculture. Although fire may be both natural and human-caused, this analysis will provide an opportunity to explore if fire was used as tool during Aksumite agricultural production.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #D73
SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Mitchell Power