Zenobia Jacobs is an archaeologist and ARC Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow in the Centre for Archaeological Science and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. Her technical speciality is geochronology, with a focus on the development of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating methods for individual sand-sized grains of quartz and their application to archaeological questions of global significance.
Her work has concentrated on providing a reliable timeline for modern human evolution in South Africa, but her current interests also include archaeological questions in North Africa and southern Europe, as well as geological topics such as long-term changes in sea level and climate. Zenobia is presently collaborating with archaeologists in Africa, Europe and the USA to generate high-resolution OSL chronologies for when and where Homo sapiens first showed signs of symbolic behaviour, and whether Neanderthals developed similar behaviours independently. Such information will help shed light on the important turning points in human evolution and what factors triggered the first wave of human migrations out of Africa to populate the rest of the world, including Australia.
In recognition of Zenobia’s outstanding contributions to developing and applying single-grain OSL dating techniques to archaeological questions, she was awarded the Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal by the International Union for Quaternary Research in 2009, as well as a prestigious L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship to investigate when people first settled Australia.
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