Archaeology Magazine

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1.8-Million-year-Old Olduvai Gorge Landscape Reconstructed

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Olduvai Gorge landscape NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY—Gail M. Ashley of Rutgers University, Clayton R. Magill of the Geological Institute in Zurich, Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo of Complutense University in Madrid, and Katherine H. Freeman of Pennsylvania State University have reconstructed the landscape at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, some 1.8 million years ago, from a layer of bones and organic matter preserved in volcanic ash. The detailed landscape, which included a freshwater spring, wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands, will help paleoanthropologists to understand how early hominins, including Paranthropus boisei and Homo habilis, survived. “We were able to map out what the plants were on the landscape with respect to where the humans and their stone tools were found. That’s never been done before,” Ashley said in a press release. The information could help scientists determine if early humans were hunting or if they scavenged meat left by competing carnivores, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas. “The subject of eating meat is an important questions defining current research on hominins. We know that the increase in the size of the brain, just the evolution of humans, is probably tied to more protein,” she said. For more on the Olduvai Gorge, go to "Zinj and the Leakeys."

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