A recent study of South Africa's Wonderwerk Cave led by anthropologists at the University of Toronto (U of T) shows that the climate in southern Africa almost two million years ago was not a modern African environment – it was much wetter
In a work published in Nature Ecology & Evolution lead author Michaela Ecker, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Anthropology at UT, alongside an international team of scientists, including Michael Chazan, director of the Archaeological Center from U of T, reconstructed the environmental changes in the interior of southern Africa over a period of nearly two million years.
"The impact of climate and environmental changes on human evolution is largely understood in East African research," said Ecker. "Our research created the first comprehensive paleoenvironmental sequence for the interior of southern Africa using a combination of environmental reconstruction techniques at Wonderwerk Cave."
While East African research shows increasing dryness and the spread of grasslands, the study showed that while at the same time, southern Africa was significantly wetter and harbored a plant community that is different from the others in the modern African savannah ̵
"Understanding the environment People have evolved That's the key to improving our knowledge of our species and its evolution," said Ecker. "Our work at Wonderwerk Cave shows how humanity existed in various environmental contexts in the past – contexts that are significantly different from today's environments."
This is the latest U-T research from the Wonderwork Cave, a massive excavation site in the Kuruman Hills of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Chazan has already discovered early evidence of the fire of human ancestors, as well as the earliest evidence of burrowing human ancestors based on excavations conducted by South African archaeologist Peter Beaumont. Previous research has established a chronology for the human occupation of the cavern front of two million years.
The results are described in the study "The Paleoecological Context of the Oldowan Acheulean in Southern Africa" Natural Ecology & Evolution . Research funding was provided by the Science and Social Sciences Council of Canada, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Boise Fund Trust of the University of Oxford, and the Quaternary Research Association. Other members of the team include James Brink and Lloyd Rossouw of the National Museum, Bloemfontein, Liora Horwitz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Julia Lee-Thorp of the University of Oxford.
The research at Wonderwerk Cave is being conducted in collaboration with McGregor Museum, Kimberley and under approval of the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
Materials provided by University of Toronto . Original written by Alexa Zulak. Note: Content can be edited by style and length.