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East African Research Projects

The Human Origins Program has been conducting research in East Africa for over 25 years. Read about some of our current field projects here, and explore one of our field sites in the Adventures in the Rift Valley interactive!

 The Olorgesailie Drill rig on a grassland surrounded by acaia trees with Mt. Olorgesailie in the distance

Olorgesailie Drilling Project

Drilling cores from ancient lake sediments at early human sites represents the leading edge of research on environmental change and human evolution. Over the months to come, follow here the development of this new approach.

Early humans slaughtering an elephant.

Adventures in the Rift Valley: Interactive

Since 1985, Smithsonian scientists have worked with the National Museums of Kenya to excavate the landscapes of Olorgesailie, Kenya. See how the team searches for evidence to answer questions about how human ancestors lived during the past one million years.

Image of the site at Kanam, Kenya.

Kanam, Kenya

Smithsonian research with the National Museums of Kenya has explored the fossil layers at Kanam, located on the Homa Peninsula, western Kenya. Dated more than 6 million to about 3 million years old, the oldest layers fall in the time of the earliest human ancestors. New work at the site will focus on one of the most interesting, and controversial, periods in human evolution.

Image of site at Kanjera, Kenya.

Kanjera, Kenya

Digs at Kanjera, western Kenya, show that the oldest known stone toolmakers lived in a variety of habitats, including a grassland environment at this site. Find out about the research here.

Image of scientist taking notes at Ol Pejeta.

Ol Pejeta, Kenya

What can modern animal bones tell us about the past? A lot! This research project, set in a Kenyan wildlife conservancy, explores how studying modern animal bones can help us reconstruct habitats and predation at fossil sites.

Image of catwalk around the site of Olorgesailie.

Olorgesailie, Kenya

Fieldwork at the Olorgesailie site, in cooperation with the National Museums of Kenya, seeks to understand the life and times of early humans in the East African Rift Valley over the past 1 million years.

Olorgesailie Achulean Handaxes and MSA points and pigments

Evolution of Human Innovation

Evidence of Innovation Dates to a Period When Humans Faced an Unpredictable and Uncertain Environment, According to Three New Studies

Page last updated: September 14, 2018