7th Annual Meeting Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project

Participants Group Photo at the Chiromo Campus, University of Nairobi, Kenya


The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) is an international consortium of geoscientists and paleoanthropologists engaged in using drill cores collected from six sites in Kenya and Ethiopia to better constrain the environmental context of human origins in Africa. The drill sites are all located in the East African Rift Valley, primarily focused around lacustrine depocenter targets, where the most complete deposition records of the basins can be found. Drilling was conducted for all HSPDP sites from 2012-2014. Since that time our team has been actively researching both the vast array of drill core material collected (almost 2 kilometers of sediment!) and the paleoenvironmental, paleoecologic and paleoclimatic implications of these records, which range in age from the late Pliocene to today. We welcome your interest in our project!

The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) has collected approximately 2,000 meters of lake sediments from key localities in Kenya and Ethiopia to vastly improve our understanding of the paleoenvironmental/paleoclimatic context of human evolution. Using a combined data collection and modeling approach we aim to fundamentally transform the debate concerning how environmental dynamics at global, regional and local scales may have shaped hominin evolutionary history.

Understanding the relationship between Earth system history and human evolution is an enduring challenge of broad scientific and public interest. Research on this relationship is transdisciplinary across Earth, environmental and anthropological sciences. Key questions include: How did climate and tectonic change interact during critical intervals of human evolution? What processes regulated this history on local and regional scales? Do local records of climate change reflect global changes? How and when did climatic and tectonic processes combine to influence hominin habitats, food resources, and demography? Were these changing conditions related to evolutionary processes and events in the hominin lineage? A recent NRC report (2010) noted how our understanding of the environmental dynamics underpinning human evolution is poised for major advances, because: 1) the places where we can acquire highly resolved paleorecords to evaluate key hypotheses are now well known, and 2) the scientific community interested in this issue has developed a rapidly expanding array of analytical tools available to produce quantitative environmental reconstructions--techniques that previously have not been applied to low-quality outcrop records in hominin-bearing areas. We will obtain continuous paleoenvironmental records by drilling long cores from five high-priority areas in Ethiopia (Northern Awash River and Chew Bahir areas) and Kenya (West Turkana, Tugen Hills and Southern Kenya Rift/Lake Magadi) where highly-resolved, continuous lacustrine paleoclimate records can be collected through important time intervals in the same basins that contain fossils and artifacts. Rather than assume a linkage between environmental history and evolution, we have designed this study as a series of data collection and modeling exercises to explicitly test overarching and local hypotheses about environmental/evolutionary dynamics. Our study will provide a series of well constrained historical experiments, in which congruence of environmental and biotic change can be evaluated.



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