Investigation Of Paleoanthropological Sites Associated With The East African Rift Valley

Investigator:

John Kingston

Geology & Geophysics

Description:

Sedimentary sequences in, and associated with, the East African Rift Valley have yielded many of the early hominid/hominoid fossil material on which our theories of the early stages of human evolution are based. Locations of Miocene and Pliocene fossil hominid localities in East Africa range from Eritrea, where the rift system steps onto the continent, down to Malawi. A number of sites also are known from South Africa and as far west as Chad. A key to recovering further material and correlating known sites is developing an understanding of where within the complex half-graben structure the sites form and are subsequently exposed for prospecting. In particular, we are focusing on a portion of the central Kenyan Rift Valley west of Lake Baringo where fossiliferous sediments spanning the last 15 million years are exposed along the flanks of an uplifted fault block (Tugen Hills) within the rift valley. Landsat imagery will allow us to provide a 3-dimensional model of the sites relative to the existing topography as well as the geologic structure of the region, hopefully pointing to potential areas for further investigation as well as linking the 200+ known fossil localities in the region in a geologic, rift-valley structure context.

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18 January 1999