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Christine Lane BSc MSc PhD

Christine Lane BSc MSc PhD

Professor of Geography (1993)

Christine is a Geochronologist and Quaternary Geographer researching the mechanisms, timing and environmental impacts of past climatic change and explosive volcanism. Head of The Cambridge Tephra Laboratory.



  • 2016 - present, Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2014 - 2016, Lecturer in Quaternary Environmental Change, Geography, University of Manchester
  • 2012 - 2015 Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, University of Oxford / University of Manchester
  • 2009 - 2012 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford


  • PhD Archaeological Science: University of Oxford
  • MSc Quaternary Science: Royal Holloway University of London
  • BSc Geology: Cardiff, University of Wales.


Through my research I contribute to a better understanding of the driving mechanisms, spatial complexity and environmental impacts of climate variability, as well as the timing and impacts of explosive volcanic eruptions, on historic and prehistoric timescales. My primary expertise lies in tephrochronology. I have worked widely across Europe and Africa using far-traveled volcanic ash (tephra) layers as isochrons to align archives and test the pacing of regional climatic and environmental transitions, and frequency of volcanic events.

In particular, I am interested in the role of changing climates and environments on hominin evolution and dispersal during the Late Pleistocene, and on historical societies in more recent times. By using tephra layers to directly connect archaeological archives to the palaeoenvironmental record, precise correlations between climatic changes and human histories can be made.

Much of my current research focuses on building Late Quaternary tephrostratigraphies for volcanic regions of the East African Rift. Through the characterisation and correlation of visible and non-visible (crypto-) tephra layers in lake sediment archives, detailed stratified tephra records are contributing both to dating and correlation of important tropical palaeoclimate archives and to a better understanding of past volcanism and hazard in an understudied region.

Selected research projects

Improved Dating of Modern Human Evolution in the Middle–Late Pleistocene, East Africa

NERC Isotope Facility Grant. PIs C. Lane, N. Blegen, D. Mark (SUERC) 2019 - ongoing.

Dating Middle—Late Pleistocene archaeological and environmental sequences in equatorial East Africa is key to understanding modern human evolution, as well as subsequent dispersals of our species across and out of Africa. This project will use Ar-dating to provide age estimates for 21 key tephra layers correlated between archaeological and palaeoenvironment sequences across central and southern Kenya, to generate a chronostratigraphic framework within which the timing of human behavioural and biological evolution may be robustly evaluated alongside records of past climate change.

Volcanic tie-lines between records of past climates and early modern humans in Ethiopia

Cambridge Africa ALBORADA Research Fund. PIs C. Lane and A. Asrat (Addis Ababa) 2019 - ongoing.

Using volcanic ash layers sampled in the field and in sediment cores, to establish precise temporal tie-lines linking some of the most important early modern human sites in Northeast Africa to nearby records of past climate change. This project will provide both improved age constraints and essential local environmental context for our species' first appearance in eastern Africa.

INTegration of Ice core, MArine and TErrestrial records (INTIMATE)

From 2014-2019 I was Chair of the international INTIMATE research initiative; one of the leading bodies in palaeoclimate research. INTIMATE aims to reconstruct past abrupt and extreme climate changes over the last glacial cycle, through the precise INTegration of Ice-core, MArine, and TErrestrial records, on their own independent timescales. The combined data is used in climate models to better understand the mechanisms and impact of change, thereby reducing the uncertainty of future prediction.

Testing the 'megadrought' hypothesis: the timing, cause and impacts of climate change in equatorial Africa (DeepCHALLA-UK)

NERC standard grant. PI C. Lane. 2017-2020

Research into the timing, cause and impacts of tropical megadrought events recorded in the sediments of East African Lake Challa, a 90 m deep crater lake on the flank of Kilimanjaro. Lake Challa contains an exceptional sedimentary record, with the proven potential to reconstruct past hydroclimate at high chronological precision and with dating accuracy not previously achieved in the tropics.

DeepCHALLA: two glacial-interglacial cycles (>250,000 years) of climate and ecosystem dynamics on the East African equator.

International Continental Scientific Drilling Project. PI: D. Verschuren, Ghent. 2014 - on-going.

The wider ICDP project on Lake Challa will study tropical hydroclimate and ecosystem development throughout the full ~250,000 year sediment record. Visible and non-visible tephra layers will be characterised and dated throughout the core, contributing to a high precision chronology and a first continuous tephrostratigraphic archive for the region.

A 500,000 year environmental record from Chew Bahir, south Ethiopia: testing hypotheses of climate-driven human evolution, innovation, and dispersal.

NERC standard grant. PI: H. Lamb. 2014-2017.

The youngest site within the wider Hominin Sites Palaeolake Drilling Project, Chew Bahir lies between the Ethiopian and Omo-Turkana Rifts and will provide a detailed record palaeoclimate for the Middle - Late Pleistocene. Far-travelled ashes preserved within the ~300 metre record will help us to date and correlate the palaeolake sediments.

Into and out of the Younger Dryas at Haemelsee, Northern Germany

A collaborative research project between early career and experienced researchers from across Europe, that came out of the first EU COST funded INTIMATE Example training school in 2013. PI: S. Engels (Birkbeck), C. Lane, D. Sachse (GFZ Potsdam).

The sediments at Haemelsee record in detail the local to regional environmental responses to that palaeoclimate and palaeohydrological changes that occurred during the last Glacial to Interglacial Transition. Using a multi-proxy technique we aim to make precise regional comparisons of the timing and sequence of change at the onset and termination of the Younger Dryas Stadial.

Graduate supervision

Potential PhD applicants

I welcome applications for PhD research and I am currently advertising three projects (as co-supervisor) through the Cambridge Climate Life and Earth (C-CLEAR) NERC-funded Doctoral Training Programme (open competition - funding limited to UK/EU students):

  • CE122: Do extra-terrestrial impacts offer global stratigraphical markers? (Supervisors: Victoria Peck, British Antarctic Survey; Christine Lane, Geography; Iris Buisman, Earth Sciences)
  • CE123: Diverse climate and society impacts of Icelandic volcanic eruptions (Supervisors: Clive Oppenheimer, Anja Schmidt, Ulf Buentgen, Christine Lane, Geography)
  • SE127: Long-range impacts of the Youngest Toba Tuff eruption, 74,000 years ago (Supervisors: Clive Oppenheimer, Christine Lane, Celine Vidal, Geography)

Follow the links to read about the projects on the DTP web page, where potential applicants can also find full details on other projects and how to apply

I also welcome early discussions with strong candidates with proposal ideas for MPhil or PhD research around the following broader topics: Quaternary tephrochronologies in East Africa; Archaeological applications of tephrochronology; Resolving records of abrupt climate change; Tephra records of volcanic impacts and/or hazard.

If you are interested in applying for PhD study, I would be happy to hear from you. Please also check details on our Graduate Admissions pages for funding opportunities and the application procedure.

PhD students

Hannah Wynton, University of Cambridge. 2019 - on-going.

Explosive volcanism in the Kenyan Rift: a tephrostratigraphic perspective.

Co-supervisor: C. Oppenheimer.

Amy McGuire, University of Cambridge. 2016 - on-going.

The Quaternary climate of the eastern Mediterranean: Insights into changes in climate and environment and their impact on human populations.

Catherine Martin-Jones, University of Aberystwyth. 2012 - 2016.

Towards a Quaternary tephrostratigraphy of Ethiopia.

Co-supervisors: H. Lamb and N. Pearce.

Cassian Bramham-Law, University of Oxford. 2009 - 2013.

The role of lacustrine systems and the reoccupation of the North European Plain following the Last Glacial Maximum.

Co-supervisor: N. Barton.

Masters students

Sophie Vineberg, MPhil Polar Studies, University of Cambridge: 2017 - 2018.

The first detection of Holocene cryptotephra deposits in lacustrine sediments from southeast Greenland.

Charlotte Hipkiss, University of Manchester: 2016 - 2018.

Holocene cryptotephrochronology of the Mohos peat sequence, NE Romania.

Amy McGuire, University of Manchester: 2014 - 2015.

Exploring the potential of cryptotephra layers for dating archaeological sites in Africa.


Selected publications


  • Valero-Garcés, B. L., González-Sampériz, P., Gil Romera, G., Benito, B. M., Moreno, A., Oliva-Urcia, B., Aranbarri, J., García-Prieto, E., Frugone, M., Morellón, M., Arnold, L.J., Demuroi, M., Hardiman, M., Blockley, S.P.E., Lane, C.S. 2019. A multi-dating approach to age-modelling long continental records: The 135 ka El Cañizar de Villarquemado sequence (NE Spain). Quaternary Geochronology, 101006.


  • Lane, C. S., Martin-Jones, C. M., & Johnson, T. C. 2018. A cryptotephra record from the Lake Victoria sediment core record of Holocene palaeoenvironmental change. Holocene, 28 (12), 1909-1917.

  • Smith, E.I., Jacobs, Z., Johnsen, R., Ren, M., Fisher, E.C., Oestmo, S., Wilkins, J., Harris, J.A., Karkanas, P., Fitch, S., Ciravolo, A., Keenan, D., Cleghorn, N. Lane, C.S., Matthews, T. and Marean, C.W. 2018. Humans thrived in South Africa through the Toba eruption about 74,000 years ago. Nature, 555(7697), p.511.

  • Jones, G., Lane, C.S., Brauer, A., Davies, S.M., De Bruijn, R., Engels, S., Haliuc, A., Hoek, W.Z., Merkt, J., Sachse, D., Turner, F., Wagner-Cremer, F. The Lateglacial to early Holocene tephrochronological record from Lake Hämelsee, Germany: a key site within the European tephra framework. Boreas, 47 (1) 28-40.


  • Lane, C.S., Lowe, D.J., Blockley, S.P.E., Suzuki, T. and Smith, V.C. 2017. Advancing tephrochronology as a global dating tool: Applications in volcanology, archaeology and palaeoclimatic research. Quaternary Geochronology, 40, 1-7.
  • Martin-Jones, C.M., Lane, C.S., Pearce, N.J., Smith, V.C., Lamb, H.F., Schaebitz, F., Viehberg, F., Brown, M.C., Frank, U. and Asrat, A., 2017. Recurrent explosive eruptions from a high-risk Main Ethiopian Rift volcano throughout the Holocene. Geology, 45(12), 1127-1130.
  • Martin-Jones, C., Lane, C.S., Pearce, N. J. G., Smith, V.C., Lamb, H. F., Oppenheimer, C., Asrat, A. and Schaebitz, F. Glass compositions and tempo of post-17 ka eruptions from the Afar Triangle recorded in sediments from lakes Ashenge and Hayk, Ethiopia. Quaternary Geochronology, 37, 15-31.
  • Spano, N.G., Lane, C.S., Francis, S.W. and Johnson, T.C., 2017. Discovery of Mount Mazama cryptotephra in Lake Superior (North America): Implications and potential applications. Geology, 45(12), pp.1071-1074.
  • Van der Bilt, W., Lane, C.S., Bakke, J. 2017. Ultra-distal Kamchatkan ash on Arctic Svalbard: towards hemispheric cryptotephra correlation. Quaternary Science Reviews, 164, 230-235


  • Egan, J., Fletcher, W.J., Allott, T.E.H., Lane, C.S., Blackford, J.J., Clark, D.T. 2016. The impact and significance of tephra deposition on a Holocene forest environment in the North Cascades, Washington, USA. Quaternary Science Reviews, 137, 135-155.
  • Mithen, S., Wicks, K., Pirie, A., Reide, F., Lane, C.S., Banerjea, R., Cullen, V.L., Gittins, M, and Pankhurst, N. 2015. A Lateglacial archaeological site in the far north-west of Europe at Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, western Scotland: Ahrensburgian-style artefacts, absolute dating and geoarchaeology. Journal of Quaternary Science, 30, 396-416. doi:10.1002/jqs.278
  • Lane, C.S., Brauer, A., Martin-Puertas, C., Blockley, S.P.E., Smith, V.C., Tomlinson, E.L. 2015. The Late Quaternary tephrostratigraphy of annually laminated sediments from Meerfelder Maar, Germany. Quaternary Science Reviews, 122, 192-206. doi:/10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.05.025
  • Lowe, J.J., Bronk Ramsey, C., Housely, R., Lane, C.S. and Tomlinson, E.L., RESET team, RESET associates. 2015. The RESET project: constructing a European tephra lattice for refined synchronisation of environmental and archaeological events during the last c. 100 ka. Quaternary Science Reviews, 118, 1-17. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.04.006
  • Barton, R.N.E., Lane, C.S., White, D., Albert, P., Collcutt, S.N., Ditchfield, P., Bouzouggar, A., Farr, L., Oh, A., Ottolini, L., Smith, V., Van Peer, P., Kindermann, K. 2015. The role of cryptotephra in refining the chronology of Late Pleistocene human evolution and cultural change in North Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews, 118, 151-169. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.09.008
  • Blockley, S.P.E., Brauer, A., Davies, S., Hardiman, M., Harding, P., Lane, C.S., MacLeod, A., Matthews, I.P., Pyne-O'Donnell, S.; Rasmussen, S.O., Wulf, S., Zanchetta, G. 2014. Tephrochronology and the extended intimate (integration of icecore, marine and terrestrial records) event stratigraphy 8-128 ka b2k. Quaternary Science Reviews, 106, 88-100. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.11.002


  • Bronk Ramsey, C., Albert, P., Blockley, S.P.E., Hardiman, M., Lane, C.S., Macleod, A., Matthews, I.P., Palmer, A. and Staff, R.A. 2014. Integrating timescales with time-transfer functions: a practical approach for an INTIMATE database. Quaternary Science Reviews, 106, 67-80. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.05.028
  • Douka K., Jacobs Z., Lane C.S., Grün R., Farr L., Hunt C., Inglis R., Reynolds T., Albert P., Aubert M. and Barker G.W.W. 2014. The chronostratigraphy of the Haua Fteah cave (Cyrenaica, northeast Libya). Journal of Human Evolution, 66, 39-63. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.10.001
  • Johnson, T.C. and Lane, C.S. 2014. Comment on "The Latest on Volcanic Eruptions and Climate". EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 95 (39), 353. doi:10.1002/2014EO390008
  • Karkanas, P., White, D., Lane, C.S., Cullen, V.L., Stringer, C., Davies, S.W.G., Smith, V.C., Ntinou, M., Tsartsidou, G. and Kyparissi-Apostolika, N. 2015. Tephra correlations and climatic events between the MIS6/5 transition and the beginning of MIS3 in Theopetra Cave, central Greece. Quaternary Science Reviews, 118, 170-181. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.05.027
  • Lane, C.S., Cullen, V.C., White, D., Bramham-Law, C.W.F., Smith, V.C. 2014. Cryptotephra as a dating and correlation tool in archaeological sites. Journal of Archaeological Science, 42, 42-50. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2013.10.033


  • Albert, P.G., Tomlinson, E.L., Lane, C.S., Wulf, S., Smith, V., Coltelli, M., Keller, J., Lo Castro, D., Manning, C.J., Müller, W & Menzies, M.A. 2013. Late glacial explosive activity on Mount Etna: implications for proximal-distal tephra correlations and the synchronisation of Mediterranean archives. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 256, 9-26.
  • Bramham-Law, C.W.F., Theuerkauf, M., Lane, C.S., Mangerud, J. 2013. New findings regarding the Saksunarvatn Ash in Germany. Journal of Quaternary Science, 28 (3), 248-257.
  • Lane, C.S., Brauer, A., Blockley, S.P.E. and Dulski, P. 2013. Volcanic ash reveals time-transgressive abrupt climate change during the Younger Dryas. Geology, 41, 1251-1254. doi:10.1130/G34867.1
  • Lane, C.S., Chorn, B.T., Johnson, T.C. 2013. Ash from the Toba super-eruption in Lake Malawi shows no volcanic winter in East Africa at 75 ka. PNAS. vol. 110, 20, 8025-8029. doi/10.1073/pnas.1301474110
  • Veres, D., Lane, C.S., Timar-Gabor, A., Hambach, U., Constantin, D., Szakács, A., Onac, B.P. and Panaiotu, C.G. 2013. The Campanian Ignimbrite/Y5 tephra layer - a regional stratigraphic marker for Isotope Stage 3 deposits in the Lower Danube region. Quaternary International, 293, 22-33. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.042


  • Blockley, S.P.E., Lane, C.S., Hardiman, M., Rasmussen, S., Seierstad, I., Steffensen, J.P., Svensson, A., Lotter, A.F, Turney, C.S., Ramsey C.B. and INTIMATE members. 2012. Synchronisation of palaeoenvironmental records over the last 60,000 years, and an extended INTIMATE event stratigraphy to 48,000 b2k. Quaternary Science Reviews, 36, 2-10. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.09.017
  • Lane, C.S., Blockley, S.P.E., Lotter, A.F., Finsinger, W., Filippi, M.L. and Matthews, I.P. 2012. A regional tephrostratigraphic framework for central and southern European climate archives during the Last Glacial to Interglacial Transition: comparisons north and south of the Alps. Quaternary Science Reviews, 36, 50-58. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.10.015
  • Lane, C.S., Blockley, S.P.E., Mangerud, J., Smith, V.C., Lohne, Ø.S., Tomlinson, E.L., Matthews, I.P. and Lotter, A.F. 2012. Was the 12.1 ka Icelandic Vedde Ash one of a kind? 2012. Quaternary Science Reviews, 33, 87-99. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.11.011
  • Lowe, J., Barton, N. Blockley, S., Bronk Ramsey, C., Cullen, V.L., Davies, W., Gamble, C., Grant, K., Hardiman, M., Housley, R., Lane, C.S., Lee, S., Lewis, M., MacLeod, A., Menzies, M, Müller, W., Pollard, M., Price, C., Roberts, A.P., Rohling, E.J., Satow, C., Smith, V.C., Stringer, C.B., Tomlinson, E.L., White, D., Albert, P., Arienzo, I., Barker, G., Boric´, D., Carandente, A., Civetta, L., Ferrier, C., Guadelli, J-L., Karkanas, P., Koumouzelis, M., Müller, U.C., Orsi, G.O., Pross, J., Rosi, M., Shalamanov-Korobar, L., Sirakov, N., and Tzedakis, P.C. 2012. Volcanic ash layers illuminate the resilience of Neanderthals and early modern humans to natural hazards. PNAS, 109, 13532-13537. doi:10.1073/pnas.1204579109
  • Tomlinson, E.L., Arienzo, I., Wulf, S., Smith, V.C., Carandente, A., Civetta, L., Hardiman, M., Lane, C.S., Orsi, G., Rosi, M., Thirlwall, M., Muller W. and Menzies, M.A. 2012. Geochemistry of the Phlegraean Fields (Italy) proximal sources for major Mediterranean tephras: Implications for the dispersal of Plinian and co-ignimbritic components of explosive eruptions. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 93, 102-128.

External activities

  • INTegration of Ice-core, MArine, and TErrestrial records (INTIMATE) network (2014-2019 chair).
  • Member of the Hominin Sites and Palaeolakes Drilling Project.
  • Southern Hemisphere Assessment of PalaeoEnvironments, INQUA inter-congress focus group. INTIMATE (northern hemisphere) liaison.
  • Lead Guest Editor on the 2017 International Focus Group on Tephrochronology (INTAV) Special Issue in Quaternary Geochronology (vol 40).