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Earth and Environmental Sciences pres.

Smith Lecture: The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP): How lakebeds are reshaping our understanding of the environmental context of human origins

Andy Cohen, University of Arizona

For over 100 years scientists have debated the possible role environmental history may have played in shaping the evolution, dispersal and extinction of our species and our close relatives (Hominins). Records of this history can be derived from the fluvial, cave and paleosol deposits in which the fossils and stone tools are typically found, from deep sea offshore marine drill cores, or from drill cores collected from the deposits of ancient lakes that span the African rift valley. In this talk I will describe recent findings from HSPDP, a large international consortium focused on the latter approach, as well as finding from other lake drilling projects of relevance to hominin history. Lake beds drilled by HSPDP have provided highly resolved records of environmental and climatic change. We have targeted sites in close proximity to important fossil hominin and archaeological sites, which span critical intervals in hominin evolutionary history, and which are providing a regional scale view of the ecological and climatic conditions experienced by our species and close relatives over the last ~3.5 Ma. I will also discuss future plans for extending lacustrine drill core records back through the entire span on hominin history, since the Late Miocene.

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