Drilling ancient African lakes sheds light on human evolution

Related Articles

Related Articles

How was human evolution and migration influenced by past changes in climate?

This question has led Aberystwyth University researchers to drill day and night to great depths in a dried up lake in east Africa.

The Chew Bahir Drilling Project, in a remote part of south Ethiopia, will provide a sedimentary record of changes in rainfall, temperature and vegetation, spanning the last 500,000 years of human evolution.

 

Chew Bahir, is one of a chain of lake basins in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, close to the sites of the earliest known fossils of our species, modern human Homo sapiens.

Speaking of the importance of the project, Professor Henry Lamb, of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, said: “Ideas about how climatic change may have influenced the emergence and dispersal of modern humans have remained largely speculative.

We are now going to be able to place the fossil and archaeological data against a detailed record of climatic variation. This will allow us to make more rigorous tests of these hypotheses.”

Coring was recently completed by an international team, reaching a final depth of 278m, in two adjacent drill holes.

Based on earlier pilot drilling, these cores should provide a sedimentary record of at least the last half million years. Work had to stop after the breakage and loss of 32 drilling rods, including the crucial drill bits.

Conditions on the mudflats of the ancient lake were arduous. The team of scientists and drillers, from Germany, Ethiopia, USA and the UK, had to contend with mosquitoes, trucks stuck in the mud, heat, rain and dust storms, together with all the logistical difficulties of operating in a remote and challenging environment.

The cores are now being logged at LacCore, the US National Lacustrine Core Facility at the University of Minnesota.

The team will reconvene in April to study the cores and distribute samples for specialist analysis and dating at labs in the UK and Germany.

Aberystwyth University

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Inside the Ice Giants of Space

A new theoretical method paves the way to modelling the interior of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune, thanks to computer simulations on the water contained within them.

Innovative Method Opens up New Perspectives for Reconstructing Climatic Conditions of Past Eras

Corals precipitate their calcareous skeletons (calcium carbonate) from seawater. Over thousands of years, vast coral reefs form due to the deposition of this calcium carbonate.

New Study Supports Predictions That the Arctic Could be Free of Sea Ice by 2035

A new study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, supports predictions that the Arctic could be free of sea ice by 2035.

Rare ‘Boomerang’ Earthquake Observed Along Atlantic Ocean Fault Line

Scientists have tracked a 'boomerang' earthquake in the ocean for the first time, providing clues about how they could cause devastation on land.

The Evolution of Colourful Feathers Shines Light on the Missing Link in Evolution by Natural Selection

There's a paradox within the theory of evolution: The life forms that exist today are here because they were able to change when past environments disappeared. Yet, organisms evolve to fit into specific environmental niches.

Study Confirms the Power of Deinosuchus & its ‘Teeth the Size of Bananas’

A new study, revisiting fossil specimens from the enormous crocodylian, Deinosuchus, has confirmed that the beast had teeth "the size of bananas", capable to take down even the very largest of dinosaurs.

The Lost Town of Trellech

Trellech is a small rural village in south-east Wales, but during the 13th century, it was one of the largest medieval towns in all of Wales.

The Varangian Guard – When Vikings Served the Eastern Roman Empire

The Varangian Guard was an elite unit that served as the personal bodyguards for the emperors of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.