Dynamics of Plio-Pleistocene environments in East Africa through the study of clay sediments

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Javier Cuadros

Earth Sciences Department, NHM

Javier Cuadros's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Climatic change is an important factor affecting hominin colonization and development. The rhythm and duration of paleoenvironmental changes is recorded in lake sequences, which are essential to reconstruct the extent of climatic variability in Plio-Pleistocene continental settings.

The Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) is a world-renown palaeoanthropological site related to hominin fossils, and where palaeoenvironmental studies are facilitated by the existence of a palaeolake. This project will study lacustrine and peri- lacustrine sediments to reconstruct landscapes and climate in Olduvai 1.7-1.5 million years ago.

The study will contribute to better understanding the ecological contexts around the lake where Homo habilis and Homo erectus lived, and the changes undergone by their communities. Clay minerals are exceptional recorders of environmental conditions and change, and a robust tool complementary to fossil and palynological investigation. Clay minerals and other environmental markers will be used to reproduce the environment dynamics of this important site for human development.

Policy Impact of Research:

Environmental changes in Olduvai 1.7-1.5 million years ago are key to unravel the causes of the hominin community dynamics in this crucial location and period for human development.

Information will improve the accuracy of palaeoenvironmental investigation using clay minerals.

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