This site located in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, is key to understanding late Oldowan industry and the disappearance of the species Homo habilis in East Africa.
Alfonso Benito Calvo, a geologist at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), has collaborated in a study published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, on recent excavations at the MNK Skull site, (Tanzania), whose object was to review the formation of the level in which archaeological materials accumulated, where the first remains of Homo habilis were encountered in the 1960s.
The site MNK Skull lies in Bed II of the Olduvai Gorge stratigraphic sequence, and it was formed around 1,670,000 years ago, before the volcanic eruption that formed the layer of ash or volcanic tuff known as IIB, close to the shoreline of the Palaeolake Olduvai, whose waters had receded inward into the basin.
The CENIEH has participated in this research with a geospatial analysis of the lithic and faunal remains recovered in the excavations, conducted using the IT equipment of the Digital Mapping and 3D Analysis Laboratory, which is directed by Benito.
The new results show that the archaeological occupation took place over time on the surface of the ground, until a mudflow affected the area, entraining and burying the materials.
“The natural risks associated to volcanic eruptions, floods or earth movements were also frequent in the past and affected human occupations, but they also helped to bury and preserve the archaeological assemblage until our own time”, explains Benito.
This work, with the backing of the Tanzanian authorities, is led by the CSIC and the CENIEH, and availed of the participation of scientists from institutions in Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. It is financed by the projects ORACEAF (Starting Grants 283366) and BICAEHFID (Advance Grants 832980), from the European Research Council (ERC).