Ana Catarina Midoes Lopes Branco Vital (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

Pleistocene Palaeoecology of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) through the study of archaeological sediments

This project will draw on archaeological, palaeoanthropological and geological data to achieve an understanding of how Early Pleistocene hominins occupied the Olduvai basin (Tanzania). Olduvai Gorge is particularly rich in human remains and artefacts, having produced crucial data on our taxonomic tree, the evolution of hominins, and on two early stone tool technocomplexes – Oldowan and Acheulean. Moreover, part of the research interest devoted to this region is due to its geological framework, as archaeological sites were affected by tectonic, faulting, tilting and subsidence events. The main goal of this project is to reconstruct palaeoenvironmental changes at Olduvai Gorge, and how these influenced the hominin occupation of this area. To reach such a goal, this project will analyse sediments from lacustrine and peri-lacustrine deposits throughout Olduvai Gorge, focusing on their clayey composition. Clay minerals are important environmental markers, for which their study in this project will help shed light on the type and duration of palaeoenvironmental changes that occurred at this region. Such a study will include, for instance, geochemical, micromorphological and petrographic analyses. The information gathered from these analyses will then be compared to palaeoanthropological data obtained for this area, in an effort to understand how these changes influenced the livelihood of hominin groups. This project represents a further addition of knowledge to a very important part of our deep past, especially concerning our Genus’ adaptability to changing landscapes. The importance of this project also relies on the possibility of shedding new light on behavioural differences between two groups of hominins, Homo habilis and Homo erectus, in regards to how they occupied this particular landscape.

Primary supervisor: Ignacio de la Torre
Secondary supervisor: Manuel Arroyo-Kalin, UCL

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