The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project: High-Resolution Paleoclimate Records from the East African Rift System and Their Implications for Understanding the Environmental Context of Hominin Evolution

Citation:
Olago D, Campisano CJ, Cohen AS, Arrowsmith RJ, Asrat A, Behrensmeyer AK, et al. "The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project: High-Resolution Paleoclimate Records from the East African Rift System and Their Implications for Understanding the Environmental Context of Hominin Evolution." Paleo Anthropology. 2017;1:43.

Abstract:

The possibility of a causal relationship between Earth history processes and hominin evolution in Africa has been the subject of intensive paleoanthropological research for the last 25 years. One fundamental question is: can any geohistorical processes, in particular, climatic ones, be characterized with sufficient precision to enable temporal correlation with events in hominin evolution and provide support for a possible causal mechanism for evolutionary changes? Previous attempts to link paleoclimate and hominin evolution have centered on evidence from the outcrops where the hominin fossils are found, as understanding whether and how hominin populations responded to habitat change must be examined at the local basinal scale. However, these outcrop records typically provide incomplete, low-resolution climate and environmental histories, and surface weathering often precludes the application of highly sensitive, state-of-the-art paleoenvironmental methods. continuous and well-preserved deep-sea drill core records have provided an alternative approach to reconstructing the context of hominin evolution, but have been collected at great distances from hominin sites and typically integrate information over vast spatial scales. The goal of the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) is to analyze climate and other Earth system dynamics using detailed paleoenvironmental data acquired through scientific drilling of lacustrine depocenters at or near six key paleoanthropological sites in Kenya and Ethiopia. This review provides an overview of a unique collaboration of paleoanthropologists and earth scientists who have joined together to explicitly explore key hypotheses linking environmental history and mammalian (including hominin) evolution and potentially develop new testable hypotheses. With a focus on continuous, high-resolution proxies at timescales relevant to both biological and cultural evolution, the HSPDP aims to dramatically expand our understanding of the environmental history of eastern Africa during a significant portion of the Late Neogene and Quaternary, and to generate useful models of long-term environmental dynamics in the region.

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