In pollen dating geological happenings

To be more precise, we are living in an interglacial: a warmer interval within an ice age when the glaciers have retreated towards the poles.

Geologists have identified and dated a number of ice ages in the geological record: The methods of dating events have already been explained in other articles; later in this article we shall discuss how we identify ice ages.

This time is coincident with the beginning of the Gelasian Age, which was officially designated by the IUGS and the ICS in 2009 as the lowermost stage of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Below this rubble lies a potential economic and social boon for the troubled nation — a massive copper deposit estimated to be worth US billion at today's high prices.

The deposit, called Aynak, has never been developed into a viable mine, but international corporations are now competing to win a major mining concession there.

Current evidence suggests that all of the major events in hominin evolution have occurred in East Africa.

Over the last two decades, there has been intensive work undertaken to understand African palaeoclimate and tectonics in order to put together a coherent picture of how the environment of East Africa has varied in the past.

, 968-971 (2007) | doi:10.1038/449968a News Feature Under the rubble of war-torn Afghanistan lie natural resources worth billions.

Rex Dalton reports from Kabul on the scientists risking their lives to see them developed for the good of the country.

In a canyon just outside Kabul, the rocky terrain is strewn with debris symbolizing the troubled past and tenuous future of war-torn Afghanistan.

Exploratory cores, drilled decades ago by Soviets probing for minerals, are scattered across a landscape peppered with landmines.

It seems the unusual geology and climate of East Africa created periods of highly variable local climate, which, it has been suggested could have driven hominin speciation, encephalisation and dispersal out of Africa.

One example is the significant hominin speciation and brain expansion event at ∼1.8 Ma that seems to have been coeval with the occurrence of highly variable, extensive, deep-water lakes.

What happens at Aynak could eventually serve as a model for developing Afghanistan's other natural resources, ranging from mineral wealth to reserves of coal and petroleum.