Olduvai's oldest Oldowan

H. Stollhofen, I.G. Stanistreet, Nicholas Toth, K.D. Schick, A. Rodríguez-Cintas, R.M. Albert, P. Farrugia, J.K. Njau, M.C. Pante, E.W. Herrmann, L. Ruck, M.K. Bamford, R.J. Blumenschine, F.T. Masao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Previously, Olduvai Bed I excavations revealed Oldowan assemblages <1.85 Ma, mainly in the eastern gorge. New western gorge excavations locate a much older ∼2.0 Ma assemblage between the Coarse Feldspar Crystal Tuff (∼2.015 Ma) and Tuff IA (∼1.98 Ma) of Lower Bed I, predating the oldest eastern gorge DK assemblage below Tuff IB by ∼150 kyr. We characterize this newly discovered fossil and artifact assemblage, adding information on landscape and hominin resource use during the ∼2.3–2.0 Ma period, scarce in Oldowan sites. Assemblage lithics and bones, lithofacies boundaries, and phytolith samples were surveyed and mapped. Sedimentological facies analysis, tephrostratigraphic and sequence stratigraphic principles were applied to reconstruct paleoenvironments and sedimentary processes of sandy claystone (lake), sandstone (fluvial), and sandy diamictite (debris flow) as principal lithofacies. Artifacts, sized, weighed, categorized, were examined for petrography, retouch, and flake scar size. Taxonomic classifications and taphonomic descriptions of faunal remains were made, and phytoliths were categorized based on reference collections. Lithics are dominantly quartzite, mainly debitage and less frequently simple cores, retouched pieces, and percussors. Well-rounded spheroids and retouched flakes are rare. Identifiable taxa, Ceratotherium cf. simum (white rhinoceros) and Equus cf. oldowayensis (extinct zebra), accord with nearby open savanna grasslands, inferred from C3 grass, mixed and/or alternating with C4 grass-dominated phytolith assemblages. Palms, sedges, and dicots were also identified from phytoliths. Diatoms and sponge spicules imply nearby freshwater. The assemblage accumulated at the toe of a Ngorongoro Volcano-sourced fan-delta apron of stacked debris flows, fluvials, and tuffs, preserving fossil tree stumps and wooded grassland phytoliths farther upfan. It formed after the climax of Ngorongoro volcanic activity during a Paleolake Olduvai lowstand and was then buried and preserved by lacustrine clays, marking the first of two lake transgressions, signifying wetter climates. Orbital precessional lake cycles were superposed upon multimillennial (∼4.9 kyr) lake fluctuations. © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102910
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Volume150
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported here was supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG STO 275/9) to H.S. by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) BCS 1623873 to J.K.N. by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity to R.M.A. (HAR2016-75216), and by a grant of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity to A.R.-C. (BES-2014-067985), which is gratefully acknowledged. The Stone Age Institute organized and funded the Olduvai Gorge Coring Project (OGCP) with grants from the Kaman Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Fred Maytag Foundation, and Kay and Frank Woods and provided travel grants to P.F. M.C.P. E.W.H. and L.R. We specially thank PAST (Palaeontological Scientific Trust, South Africa) for grants funding excavations and fieldwork over several years and travel and subsistence costs of M.K.B. I.G.S. and H.S. We thank the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), and the Tanzanian Department of Antiquities for granting permission to work in the Olduvai area and NNHM (the National Natural History Museum of Tanzania, Arusha) for logistical support and curatorial management of excavation material. We are indebted to all of our field crew, with special thanks to Agustino Venance, Daniel Mainoya, Joseph Melau, Justin Mahu, Sikoy Lemuta, Singira Oltusi, Rogers Shitebelo, Naibor Mesi, Ikoyo Singoi, Siteyo Lembile, Elias Bura, and Lazaro Olkumeny. Anders Noren, Kristina Brady, and crew facilitated core sampling and storage logistics at the National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore), which is greatly appreciated. Co-Editor-in-Chief David Alba and his predecessor Michael Plavcan, the Associate Editor, Enrique Baquedano, and anonymous reviewers are thanked for their constructive comments.

Funding Information:
Research reported here was supported by the German Science Foundation ( DFG STO 275/9 ) to H.S., by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) BCS 1623873 to J.K.N., by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity to R.M.A. ( HAR2016-75216 ), and by a grant of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity to A.R.-C. ( BES-2014-067985 ), which is gratefully acknowledged. The Stone Age Institute organized and funded the Olduvai Gorge Coring Project (OGCP) with grants from the Kaman Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Fred Maytag Foundation, and Kay and Frank Woods and provided travel grants to P.F., M.C.P., E.W.H., and L.R. We specially thank PAST (Palaeontological Scientific Trust, South Africa) for grants funding excavations and fieldwork over several years and travel and subsistence costs of M.K.B., I.G.S., and H.S. We thank the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), and the Tanzanian Department of Antiquities for granting permission to work in the Olduvai area and NNHM (the National Natural History Museum of Tanzania, Arusha) for logistical support and curatorial management of excavation material. We are indebted to all of our field crew, with special thanks to Agustino Venance, Daniel Mainoya, Joseph Melau, Justin Mahu, Sikoy Lemuta, Singira Oltusi, Rogers Shitebelo, Naibor Mesi, Ikoyo Singoi, Siteyo Lembile, Elias Bura, and Lazaro Olkumeny. Anders Noren, Kristina Brady, and crew facilitated core sampling and storage logistics at the National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore), which is greatly appreciated. Co-Editor-in-Chief David Alba and his predecessor Michael Plavcan, the Associate Editor, Enrique Baquedano, and anonymous reviewers are thanked for their constructive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Hominin land use
  • Lower Bed I
  • Ngorongoro
  • Olduvai Gorge
  • Paleoecology
  • Paleovegetation
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Tanzania
  • Paleontology
  • Archaeology
  • Animals
  • Technology
  • Environment
  • Hominidae

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • OGDP

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article

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