Articles | Volume 21
Sci. Dril., 21, 1–16, 2016
Sci. Dril., 21, 1–16, 2016

Science report 19 Feb 2016

Science report | 19 Feb 2016

The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project: inferring the environmental context of human evolution from eastern African rift lake deposits

A. Cohen1, C. Campisano2, R. Arrowsmith3, A. Asrat4, A. K. Behrensmeyer5, A. Deino6, C. Feibel7, A. Hill8,†, R. Johnson1, J. Kingston9, H. Lamb10, T. Lowenstein11, A. Noren12, D. Olago13, R. B. Owen14, R. Potts15, K. Reed2, R. Renaut16, F. Schäbitz17, J.-J. Tiercelin18, M. H. Trauth19, J. Wynn20, S. Ivory21, K. Brady12, R. O'Grady12, J. Rodysill22,a, J. Githiri23, J. Russell1, V. Foerster19, R. Dommain15, S. Rucina24, D. Deocampo25, J. Russell21, A. Billingsley1, C. Beck26, G. Dorenbeck17, L. Dullo13, D. Feary3, D. Garello2, R. Gromig27, T. Johnson28, A. Junginger29, M. Karanja13, E. Kimburi30, A. Mbuthia31, T. McCartney32, E. McNulty11, V. Muiruri14, E. Nambiro30, E. W. Negash33, D. Njagi13, J. N. Wilson20, N. Rabideaux25, T. Raub34, M. J. Sier35, P. Smith36, J. Urban17, M. Warren37, M. Yadeta4, C. Yost1, and B. Zinaye4 A. Cohen et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
  • 2Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
  • 3School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
  • 4School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, 1176, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • 5Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20013, USA
  • 6Berkeley Geochronology Center, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA
  • 7Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA
  • 8Peabody Museum, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
  • 9Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
  • 10Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth SY23 3DB, UK
  • 11Department of Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902, USA
  • 12CDSCO and LacCore, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
  • 13Department of Geology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 14Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
  • 15Human Origins Program, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20013, USA
  • 16Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon SK S7N 5E2, Canada
  • 17Seminar of Physical Geography and Education, University of Cologne, 50931 Cologne, Germany
  • 18CNRS Géosciences Rennes, Université de Rennes, 35042 Rennes, CEDEX, France
  • 19Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam, Germany
  • 20School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA
  • 21Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
  • 22LacCore, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
  • 23Department of Physics, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 24Earth Sciences Department, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 25Department of Geosciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA
  • 26Department of Geosciences, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY 13323, USA
  • 27Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, 50674 Cologne, Germany
  • 28Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Duluth, MN 55812, USA
  • 29Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany
  • 30National Oil Corporation of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
  • 31Tata Chemicals Magadi, Magadi, Kenya
  • 32Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA
  • 33Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
  • 34Department of Earth Sciences, University of St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9AJ Scotland, UK
  • 35Paleomagnetics Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, 3584 CD Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 36Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
  • 37ConocoPhillips, Houston, TX 77079, USA
  • acurrently at: USGS, Reston, VA, USA
  • deceased

Abstract. The role that climate and environmental history may have played in influencing human evolution has been the focus of considerable interest and controversy among paleoanthropologists for decades. Prior attempts to understand the environmental history side of this equation have centered around the study of outcrop sediments and fossils adjacent to where fossil hominins (ancestors or close relatives of modern humans) are found, or from the study of deep sea drill cores. However, outcrop sediments are often highly weathered and thus are unsuitable for some types of paleoclimatic records, and deep sea core records come from long distances away from the actual fossil and stone tool remains. The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) was developed to address these issues. The project has focused its efforts on the eastern African Rift Valley, where much of the evidence for early hominins has been recovered. We have collected about 2 km of sediment drill core from six basins in Kenya and Ethiopia, in lake deposits immediately adjacent to important fossil hominin and archaeological sites. Collectively these cores cover in time many of the key transitions and critical intervals in human evolutionary history over the last 4 Ma, such as the earliest stone tools, the origin of our own genus Homo, and the earliest anatomically modern Homo sapiens. Here we document the initial field, physical property, and core description results of the 2012–2014 HSPDP coring campaign.

Short summary
An initial description of the scientific rationale, drilling and core handling, and initial core description activities of the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP). HSPDP is a large international consortium whose objective is to collect cores from lakebeds in proximity to important fossil early human fossil sites in eastern Africa, to better understand the environmental and climatic context of human evolution.