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Day 21 (July 16, 2011): Near the Dawn of Technology on the Homa Peninsula
July 16, 2011
It turns out that Louis had misidentified the sediment layers in which the jaw and skeletal remains were buried. In fact, the remains included recent burials into soils forming on ancient sediments. This is one of the reasons why it’s a very good idea for scientific projects to work in teams. In our case, groups of geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, and so on, all bring different areas of expertise and different types of observation to bear on a given question.
Our Smithsonian team’s long-term goal is to reconstruct an exact geological history of the entire Homa Peninsula. We also seek to understand when early human species occupied this region, how they lived, and the environments they encountered. Geology is crucial to these matters. That’s why I’m excited to have the geologists from China with me to see what types of interesting questions their areas of expertise can help to answer – especially about the dating of the sediments that contain fossils.
Two days ago, we made a brief excursion to the Kanam West gullies to see where Leakey picked up the controversial jaw, and to try to better understand the sediments in which our team had previously dug an excellent series of fossil bones ranging in age from about 6 million to 3.5 million years old. So far, though, no finds of early human bones have been found in that time period here. That time period is also older than the oldest known stone tools, which have been found in Ethiopia back to about 2.6 million years old.
After a few hours, we ventured on to two other Oldowan sites that Tom has recently discovered. I was really impressed by the number of fossil and stone tools finds at these sites, and we hope to dig at both in the coming years.