Olduvai Gorge is a ravine on the edge of the Serengeti Plain, Tanzania, East Africa. It is home to some of the world’s most important fossil hominins. Archeological finds include stone tools and skeletal remains of Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus, as well as bones of wild animals since extinct. Liverpool University scientists are investigating the chemical composition of carbonate rocks that lie beneath the surfaces where early human fossils have been found. The data will help geologists, paleoanthropologists and archaeologists understand how environmental pressures could have influenced the development of human ancestors and their use of the land.
Professor Ian Stanistreet said that research already suggests that environmental changes, such as from very dry conditions to very wet, were more extreme and took place more frequently than previously thought. It is unclear how this might have contributed to human evolution but evidence indicates that an ability to cope with hostile, rapidly-changing environments may have characterized and shaped the development of the human race.
The team is studying elements in the mineral calcium carbonate which were deposited in the mud and soil around and in a lake between 2 and 1.7 million years ago. Carbonates formed in the semi-arid environment through evaporation and concentration of soil and lake water. The chemical composition of calcium carbonate mirrors the chemical composition of the water from which it came.