Reconstructing the Environmental Context of Human Origins in Eastern Africa Through Scientific Drilling

Andrew S. Cohen, Christopher J. Campisano, J. Ramon Arrowsmith, Asfawossen Asrat, Catherine C. Beck, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Alan L. Deino, Craig S. Feibel, Verena Foerster, John D. Kingston, Henry F. Lamb, Tim K. Lowenstein, Rachel L. Lupien, Veronica Muiruri, Daniel O. Olago, R. Bernhart Owen, Richard Potts, James M. Russell, Frank Schaebitz, Jeffery R. StoneMartin H. Trauth, Chad L. Yost

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Paleoanthropologists have long speculated about the role of environmental change in shaping human evolution in Africa. In recent years, drill cores of late Neogene lacustrine sedimentary rocks have yielded valuable high-resolution records of climatic and ecosystem change. Eastern African Rift sediments (primarily lake beds) provide an extraordinary range of data in close proximity to important fossil hominin and archaeological sites, allowing critical study of hypotheses that connect environmental history and hominin evolution. We review recent drill-core studies spanning the Plio-Pleistocene boundary (an interval of hominin diversification, including the earliest members of our genus Homo and the oldest stone tools), and the Mid-Upper Pleistocene (spanning the origin of Homo sapiens in Africa and our early technological and dispersal history). Proposed drilling of Africa's oldest lakes promises to extend such records back to the late Miocene. squf High-resolution paleoenvironmental records are critical for understanding external drivers of human evolution. squf African lake basin drill cores play a critical role in enhancing hominin paleoenvironmental records given their continuity and proximity to key paleoanthropological sites. squf The oldest African lakes have the potential to reveal a comprehensive paleoenvironmental context for the entire late Neogene history of hominin evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-476
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Publication statusPublished - May 31 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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