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Habermann J.M.,Friedrich - Alexander - University, Erlangen - Nuremberg | McHenry L.J.,University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee | Stollhofen H.,Friedrich - Alexander - University, Erlangen - Nuremberg | Tolosana-Delgado R.,Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology | And 3 more authors.
Sedimentary Geology | Year: 2016

The chronology of Pleistocene flora and fauna, including hominin remains and associated Oldowan industries in Bed I, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, is primarily based on 40Ar/39Ar dating of intercalated tuffs and lavas, combined with detailed tephrostratigraphic correlations within the basin. Although a high-resolution chronostratigraphic framework has been established for the eastern part of the Olduvai Basin, the western subbasin is less well known due in part to major lateral facies changes within Bed I combined with discontinuous exposure. We address these correlation difficulties using the discriminative power of the chemical composition of the major juvenile mineral phases (augite, anorthoclase, plagioclase) from tuffs, volcaniclastic sandstones, siliciclastic units, and lavas. We statistically evaluate these compositions, obtained from electron probe micro-analysis, applying principal component analysis and discriminant analysis to develop discriminant models that successfully classify most Bed I volcanic units. The correlations, resulting from integrated analyses of all target minerals, provide a basin-wide Bed I chemostratigraphic framework at high lateral and vertical resolution, consistent with the known geological context, that expands and refines the geochemical databases currently available. Correlation of proximal ignimbrites at the First Fault with medial and distal Lower Bed I successions of the western basin enables assessment of lateral facies and thickness trends that confirm Ngorongoro Volcano as the primary source for Lower Bed I, whereas Upper Bed I sediment supply is mainly from Olmoti Volcano. Compositional similarity between Tuff IA, Bed I lava, and Mafic Tuffs II and III single-grain fingerprints, together with north- and northwestward thinning of Bed I lava, suggests a common Ngorongoro source for these units. The techniques applied herein improve upon previous work by evaluating compositional affinities with statistical rigor rather than primarily relying on visual comparison of bivariate plots. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.

Blumenschine R.J.,Rutgers University | Stanistreet I.G.,University of Liverpool | Njau J.K.,Indiana University | Njau J.K.,The Stone Age Institute | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2012

We establish through 13 excavations the landscape context and nature of hominin activities across the Zinjanthropus land surface from which the Leakeys recovered the FLK 22 and FLK NN 1 paleoanthropological assemblages. The land surface was created by fluvial incision of the eastern margin of paleo-Lake Olduvai following a major lake withdrawal. Erosion was uneven, leaving a peninsula bounded by a river channel, the FLK Fault, and a freshwater wetland. This FLK Peninsula supported groves of trees that attracted hominins and carnivores, and that preserved the dense concentrations of carcass remains and stone tools they left behind, including those at FLK 22. Some carcasses appear to have been acquired at the ecotone of the Peninsula and Wetland, where another dense artifact and bone assemblage accumulated. A lesser topographic high at the edge of a Typha marsh in the Wetland was the site of FLK NN 1 and a scatter of large stone tools used possibly for rootstock processing. Our landscape reconstruction delimits the vegetation mosaic indicated by previous work and provides a topographical explanation for the existence of FLK 22 and FLK NN 1. Both are unexpected if the FLK area was the flat, featureless lake margin terrain typical of lake basins similar to paleo-Olduvai. The results show that the Leakeys' sites were not isolated occupation floors but rather parts of a land surface utilized intensively by hominins. Although commonly considered to have been home bases, their likely high predation risk, evidenced by large carnivore feeding traces and the remains of four hominin individuals, suggests visits to them were brief and limited to feeding. Finally, stratigraphic observations confirm that FLK NN 3 accumulated on an older land surface, refuting the hypothesis that the OH 8 foot found there is the same individual as the OH 35 leg from FLK 22. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

McHenry L.J.,University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee | Njau J.K.,Indiana University | Njau J.K.,The Stone Age Institute | de la Torre I.,University College London | Pante M.C.,Colorado State University
Quaternary Research (United States) | Year: 2016

Bed II is a critical part of early Pleistocene Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Its deposits include transitions from humid to more arid conditions (with associated faunal changes), from Homo habilis to erectus, and from Oldowan to Acheulean technology. Bed II (~. 1.8-1.2 Ma) is stratigraphically and environmentally complex, with facies changes, faulting, and unconformities, making site-to-site correlation over the ~. 20 km of exposure difficult. Bed II tuffs are thinner, less evenly preserved, and more reworked than those of Bed I. Five marker tuffs (Tuffs IIA-IID, Bird Print Tuff (BPT)), plus local tephra, were collected from multiple sites and characterized using stratigraphic position, mineral assemblage, and electron probe microanalysis of phenocryst (feldspar, hornblende, augite, titanomagnetite) and glass (where available) composition. Lowermost Bed II tuffs are dominantly nephelinitic, Middle Bed II tuffs (BPT, Tuff IIC) have basaltic components, and upper Bed II Tuff IID is trachytic. The BPT and Tuff IID are identified widely using phenocryst compositions (high-Ca plagioclase and high-Ti hornblende, respectively), though IID was originally (Hay, 1976) misidentified as Tuff IIC at Loc 91 (SHK Annexe) in the Side Gorge. This work helps establish a high-resolution basin-wide paleolandscape context for the Oldowan-Acheulean transition and helps link hominin, faunal and archaeological records. © 2015 University of Washington.

Habermann J.M.,Friedrich - Alexander - University, Erlangen - Nuremberg | Stanistreet I.G.,University of Liverpool | Stanistreet I.G.,The Stone Age Institute | Stollhofen H.,Friedrich - Alexander - University, Erlangen - Nuremberg | And 6 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2016

The discovery of fossil rooted tree stumps in lowermost Lower Bed I from the western Olduvai Basin, Tanzania, age-bracketed by the Naabi Ignimbrite (2.038 ± 0.005 Ma) and TuffIA (1.88 ± 0.05 Ma), provides the first direct, in situ, and to date oldest evidence of living trees at Olduvai Gorge. The tree relicts occur in an interval dominated by low-viscosity mass flow and braided fluvial sediments, deposited at the toe of a largely Ngorongoro Volcano-sourced volcaniclastic fan apron that comprised a widely spaced network of ephemeral braided streams draining northward into the Olduvai Basin. Preservation of the trees occurred through their engulfment by mass flows, post-mortem mold formation resulting from differential decay of woody tissues, and subsequent fluvially-related sediment infill, calcite precipitation, and cast formation. Rhizolith preservation was triggered by the interaction of root-induced organic and inorganic processes to form rhizocretionary calcareous root casts. Phytolith analyses were carried out to complete the paleoenvironmental reconstruction. They imply a pronounced seasonality and indicate a wooded landscape with grasses, shrubs, and sedges growing nearby, comparable to the low, open riverine woodland (unit 4c) along the Garusi River and tributaries in the Laetoli area. Among the tree stump cluster were found outsized lithic clasts and those consisting of quartzite were identified as Oldowan stone tool artifacts. In the context of hominin activity, the identification of wooded grassland in association with nearby freshwater drainages and Oldowan artifacts significantly extends our paleoenvironmental purview on the basal parts of Lower Bed I, and highlights the hitherto underrated role of the yet poorly explored western Olduvai Gorge area as a potential ecologically attractive setting and habitat for early hominins. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Stout D.,Emory University | Semaw S.,The Stone Age Institute | Semaw S.,Indiana University Bloomington | Rogers M.J.,Southern Connecticut State University | Cauche D.,French Natural History Museum
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2010

Inter-site technological variation in the archaeological record is one of the richest potential sources of information about Plio-Pleistocene hominid behavior and evolution. However, appropriate methods for describing and comparing Oldowan assemblages have yet to be agreed upon, and interpretation of the early record remains highly controversial. Particularly salient is disagreement over whether the Oldowan is a single technological phenomenon or is more accurately divided into multiple regional and/or chronological traditions, perhaps including a less developed Pre-Oldowan phase in the late Pliocene. Some of this disagreement reflects theoretical and methodological differences between research traditions and some is more directly evidential. Here we present a framework for describing and interpreting Oldowan variation and apply it to three Pliocene assemblages (EG-10, EG-12, and OGS-7) from Gona, all dated to c. 2.6 million years (Ma). Results indicate proficient knapping and a full range of Oldowan reduction strategies in these earliest known occurrences, consistent with the idea of an Oldowan " technological stasis" from 2.6-1.6. Ma. Patterns of variation in raw material selection and predominant reduction strategy at each site clearly indicate the importance of cultural transmission in the Oldowan, but confounding ecological and economic variation continue to render interpretation in terms of multiple tool making traditions or species inappropriate. We propose that cultural transmission and ecological adaptation should be recognized as complementary, rather than mutually exclusive, mechanisms in future attempts to explain Oldowan technological variation. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

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