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Oldest evidence of toolmaking hominins in a grassland-dominated ecosystem

By Thomas W. Plummer, Peter W. Ditchfield, Laura C. Bishop, John D. Kingston, Joseph V. Ferraro, David R. Braun, Fritz Hertel and Richard Potts

Abstract

Background: Major biological and cultural innovations in late Pliocene hominin evolution are frequently linked to the spread or fluctuating presence of C₄ vegetation with a shift towards a cooler, drier and more variable global climatic regime beginning approximately 3 million years ago (Ma), evidence for grassland-dominated ecosystems in continental Africa and hominin activies within such ecosystems have been lacking. Methodology/Principal Findings: We report stable isotopic analyses of pedogenic carbonates and ungulate enamel, as well as faunal data from ~2.0 Ma archeological occurrences at Kanjera South, Kenya. These documente repeated hominin activities within a grassland-dominated ecosystem. Conclusions/Significance: These data demonstrate what hitherto had been speculated based on indirect evidence: that grassland-dominated ecosystems did in fact exist during the Plio-Pleistocene, and that early <em>Homo</em> was active in open settings. Comparison with other Oldowan occurrences indicates that by 2.0 Ma hominins, almost certainly of the genus <em>Homo</em>, used a broad spectrum of habitats in East Africa, from open grassland to riparian forest. This strongly contrasts with the habitat usage of <em>Australopithecus</em>, and may signal an important shift in hominin landscape usage.Citation: Plummer, T. W. et al. (2009). 'Oldest evidence of toolmaking hominins in a grassland-dominated ecosystem', PLoS ONE, 4(9): e7199. © 2009 Plummer et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Topics: Archeology, Anthropology
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007199
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