University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Biological Anthropology Seminar Series > T.H.E. G.A.P.P.P, i.e. (re) Thinking Human Evolution: Gorongosa African Paleo-Primate Project

T.H.E. G.A.P.P.P, i.e. (re) Thinking Human Evolution: Gorongosa African Paleo-Primate Project

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A major puzzle in human origins research is the question of where in Africa our lineage originated, and under what environmental conditions, but answers to these questions are hampered by major gaps in the geographic distribution of Mio-Pliocene paleontological sites and by the absence of holistic approaches to the study of human evolution. To help fill these gaps, we initiated in 2016 a multi-disciplinary long-term research project on human origins at Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, which is located at the southern end of the East African Rift System. The main objective is to integrate paleontological evidence with studies of modern behavioural ecology to test key hypotheses in human evolution. We aim to find and analyse new fossil sites, and to use the behavioural repertoire of extant primates ranging in a complex mosaic environment as a model to understand key behavioural innovations in our lineage. Primatologists, palaeontologists, geologists, archaeologists and ecologists are working daily side-by-side, collecting data that converge on a single over-arching goal: to integrate palaeontological evidence with studies of extant primates to finally mind the (Rift) gap of human evolution. I will discuss our first results indicating that a) The Urema Rift is a key fossiliferous area, bearing both open air and cave sites, b) The extant primates of Gorongosa are uniquely relevant as behavioural models, due to their quasi-experimental ecological conditions, c) Gorongosa modern ecosystem is an analogue without parallel for the environments where hominins evolved, and d) The emerging fossil record from the Urema Rift may allow us to test, for the first time, key paleobiogeographic hypotheses during critical periods of hominoid evolution.

This talk is part of the Biological Anthropology Seminar Series series.

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