(Short-term and Extreme climates causing Agricultural risks at the FRontier Of the Neolithic Transition)

Welcome to the website of the SEAFRONT project, a research group awarded by the DFG under the Emmy-Noether programme for a six-year period, involving research collaborations between the Leibniz Zentrum für Archäologie (LEIZA) and archaeologists in Greece, Spain, Denmark, Australia, and France.

Our research is concerned with bridging the gap between temporal and spatial scales of climatic changes and human responses. The decisions of prehistoric individuals were often based on how they perceived their immediate environment and can thus only insufficiently be connected to remote climate archives on decadal- or centennial scales (e.g. marine cores or glacial records).

We are tackling this problem in the context of the Neolithic Dispersal across the Mediterranean, when pioneering farmers were advancing to new shores with a variety of success. Climatic conditions and the resulting agricultural risks are one part of this success, but differences in spatial and temporal resolution make their immediate impact intangible.

This project is using seasonally resolved climatic data from within archaeological layers in the form of mollusc shells, and is thus directly accessing local weather conditions that were observable by prehistoric populations.
Using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, we are aiming to analyse over 4,000 shells across 5 sites to provide robust climatic models from the bottom up and in stratigraphic context with other archaeological information.

The second phase of the project will be the 1st of February 2024 with new job applications published in advance.
For any question related to the project, please get in touch via email or twitter (see contact details below).


A fieldwork journey in Sicilian prehistory

The fieldwork aimed to visit the Mesolithic-Neolithic sites of Grotta dell’Uzzo (Trapani) and Grotta d’Oriente (Favignana), as well as collecting modern shell samples from areas around these sites. The modern shell analysis with the use of LIBS and stable isotope analysis will be a preparatory step for the analysis of the archaeological samples during the second phase of the SEAFRONT project.

SEAFRONT visits the NEaar-Labs in York

In October our research group visited the North East Amino Acid Racemization (NEaar) Lab at the Department of Chemistry of the University of York to date limpet shells using the AAR technique. During our two week visit, we had the opportunity to work together with the members of the lab of Professor Kirsty Penkman dedicated to providing amino acid racemization analysis.


Applying laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and elemental imaging on marine shells for archaeological and environmental research

LIBS analysis of marine mollusc shells is a growing field, requiring custom instrumentation. However, its efficiency in studying temperature variation and ecological aspects outweighs initial efforts. We provide specifications for a Mg/Ca imaging LIBS system, enabling easy adaptation to labs. We applied it to 101 shells, producing 234 images, with minimal damage. LIBS shows potential in paleoclimatology, marine ecology, and archaeology.

Annual Growth Patterns and Interspecimen Variability in Mg/Ca Records of Archaeological Ostrea edulis (European Oyster) from the Late Mesolithic Site of Conors Island

The European Oyster has not recovered from these times at all and currently, researchers as well as industrial fisheries are trying to build up sustainable population sizes again. The problem with this large-scale endeavour is that we currently have only limited knowledge what such a population would look like in terms of its demography, life expectancy, or individual growth. Our article, presents a new way of determining archaeological oyster ages in a very quick and inexpensive way, so that we can access this information in many places around Europe and throughout time.

Extensive elemental mapping unlocks Mg/Ca ratios as climate proxy in seasonal records of Mediterranean limpets

Here, we show for the first time that extensive spatial mapping of multiple mollusc specimens using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) across a wider region can resolve enigmatic patterns within the elemental record caused by physiological influences.

This and other projects



Short-term and Extreme climates causing Agricultural risks at the FRontier Of the Neolithic Transition


ArChaeological and Climatic data from ELEmental ratios using Rapid Analysis of shell carbonaTE


Dynamic Landscapes, Coastal Environments and Human Dispersals.

Niklas Hausmann

Niklas Hausmann

Emmy Noether Group Leader

Leibniz Zentrum für Archäologie (LEIZA)

Niklas is a coastal archaeologist at LEIZA leading the Emmy Noether project SEAFRONT and specialises in the analysis of high-resolution climate archives found in mollusc shells.

Niklas did his PhD at the University of York as part of Geoff Bailey's ERC Project DISPERSE, where he studied the mobility and subsistence strategies of coastal populations in the southern Red Sea. His research on the seasonal consumption of shellfish, which had led to the accumulation of over 3,000 shell middens on the Farasan Islands (Saudi Arabia), involved the analysis of oxygen isotope ratios to reconstruct past sea surface temperatures and to reveal seasons of mollusc collections.

This research led Niklas to move to Greece on a Marie Curie fellowship at the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser, where he led the ACCELERATE Project. Within this project, he aimed to make the geochemical analysis of mollusc shells more efficient through the use of Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS).
His research now involves shells from all over the world including the UK, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Japan, the Philippines, Tasmania, New Zealand, the US, Canada, and Brazil, with shells from the modern period as well as over 30,000 years old.