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IGA Lecture: Dr John Murray (NUI Galway) – Searching for our Pleistocene human ancestors at Azokh Cave, in the South Caucasus

12 February, 2015 @ 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM GMT

Dear Members,

Dr John Murray (NUI Galway) will be giving a talk on some of our very distant European cousins. The talk will take place Thursday [note], February 12th, 2015, at 6:30 pm in the Geological Survey of Ireland (Beggars Bush, Dublin 2). Coffee and biccies will be served from 6:00 pm.

The origin of man, the evolution of our species, and how and when man started living in Europe. Come along and see if you can spot a family resemblance.

See you there!


Azokh Cave is located in the mountainous terrain of the South Caucasus and contains sediments dating from at least middle Pleistocene times to the present. The site was discovered by M.M. Huseinov in 1960, who directed excavations there over the course of the following 20 years. During this time, many animal fossils and stone tool artefacts were recovered. However, it was the discovery in 1968 of a fragment of a hominin mandible, thought to represent a transitional evolutionary form between Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis, which propelled the site to prominence.

In 2002 excavations were resumed at Azokh Cave by the present international and multidisciplinary research group and this work has continued to the present. This talk will present the results of this more recent phase of investigation, the geological component of which has included mapping the cave system out in 3-dimensions, describing the lithostratigraphy in detail and using radiometric dating methods to establish the age of the succession. The talk will also provide a flavour of what it is like to travel to this part of the world and conduct fieldwork with an international archaeological team.


Dr John Murray is a lecturer in palaeontology in Earth & Ocean Sciences, at the School of Natural Sciences in NUI Galway. He holds a B.A. and PhD from Trinity College Dublin and lectured there for two years before moving to Galway in 2003. He has wide-ranging research interests in all aspects of palaeontology, palaeoclimatology and carbonate sedimentology, with particular reference to the Carboniferous. His PhD work focussed on the Viséan (Carboniferous) stratigraphy of the Shannon Basin in southwest Ireland. Recent research has investigated the timing and magnitude of the Permo-Carboniferous glaciation, utilising stable isotope proxies preserved in conodont microfossils, and also the Late Pleistocene to Holocene palaeoenvironmental history of Galway Bay. For the past decade John has conducted extensive fieldwork and actively collaborated with the international Azokh Cave Research Project, which is examining Middle to Late Pleistocene hominid evolution and migration through the southern Caucasus.


12 February, 2015
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM GMT
Event Category:


IGA Council Members