Elements: Into the Rift: The Geology of Human Origins in Eastern Africa

June 22, 2023

Spanning from the horn of Africa down to Lake Malawi, the East Africa Rift preserves a plethora of paleoanthropological sites (e.g., Olduvai Gorge, Turkana, Awash) that document our evolutionary journey spanning the last seven million years of Earth’s history. A common feature of these sites is that they are associated with volcanic­–sedimentary basins intimately related to the development of the rift. Radiometric and paleomagnetic geochronology helps establish age relations between different hominin species. Geochemical studies of primary tuffs help correlate between sites and identify specific volcanic sources. Authigenic minerals formed in rift lakes can help reconstruct past climates and environments. Recent excavations at Laetoli show that this valuable site is slowly disappearing owing to diagenetic processes, and preservation of the footprints is essential and urgently needed. 

Current Geochemical Society members can access this issue now via the Elements website using your email address (UserID) and member number (Password).