Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:55 AM
EARLY HUMAN LANDSCAPES IN EASTERN AFRICA AMIDST REGIONAL AND GLOBAL CHANGE
As humans we are fascinated with where we come from and what shapes our behavior. Building the environmental context for human evolution is a key component to understanding our origins. The sedimentary record provides a rich archive of human-environment interactions on landscape, regional and global scales. There are many tools (old, new and emerging) that can be used to characterize human environments but the challenge lies in using these tools in concert with one another to build an integrated picture of the environments that are relevant to human activity. Here I present three examples of reconstructing the human environment in Ethiopia and Kenya that use multiple proxy data types at different spatial scales to evaluate: (1) the degree of woody cover in the habitats of Ardipithecus ramidus during the early Pliocene, amidst early Pliocene warmth and the global expansion of C4 vegetation; (2) small-scale environmental gradients among the earliest stone tool makers 2.6 Ma, coincident with the onset of northern hemispheric glaciation and a reorganization of global climate; and (3) regional environmental heterogeneity associated with Homo between 2.0 and 1.6 Ma, during a time of increased regional aridity and the intensification of glacial-interglacial cycles. I use these examples to show that characterization of human landscapes requires study of both specific sedimentary deposits in which human activity is recorded and the regional and global contexts in which they occurred.