Geology Faculty Publications

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Scientific Drilling


Understanding the evolution of humans and our close relatives is one of the enduring scientific issues of modern times. Since the time of Charles Darwin, scientists have speculated on how and when we evolved and what conditions drove this evolutionary story. The detective work required to address these questions is necessarily interdisciplinary, involving research in anthropology, archaeology, human genetics and genomics, and the earth sciences. In addition to the difficult tasks of finding, describing, and interpreting hominin fossils (the taxonomic tribe which includes Homo sapiens and our close fossil relatives from the last 6 Ma), much of modern geological research associated with paleoanthropology involves understanding the geochronologic and paleoenvironmental context of those fossils. When were they entombed in the sediments? What were the local and regional climatic conditions that early hominins experienced? How did local (watershed scale) and regional climate processes combine with regional tectonic boundary conditions to influence hominin food resources, foraging patterns, and demography? How and when did these conditions vary from humid to dry, or cool to warm? Can the history of those conditions (Vrba, 1988; Potts, 1996) be related to the evolution, diversification, stasis, or extinction of hominin species?

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Copernicus Publications



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