The CENIEH continues collaborating on the reconstruction of the landscape of Olduvai Gorge

The CENIEH is participating in a new excavation campaign at the Tanzanian archaeological Frida Leakey Korongo West, situated in Olduvai Gorge, where dense accumulations of bones of large mammals such as the hippopotamus have been found, scattered among the stone tools manufactured and used by Homo erectus

In these first months of the year, a new excavation campaign has been undertaken at the site Frida Leakey Korongo West (FLKW) situated at Olduvai Gorge, (Tanzania), where 1.5 million years ago, Homo erectus lived alongside large mammals such as the hippopotamus, of which abundant remains have been found with numerous traces of defleshing, clear evidence that they were consumed by the hominins.

In this campaign, in which the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has participated, a large surface has been opened up (20 m2), to delve in detail into the activities that H. erectus engaged in in those landscapes, formerly dominated by river plains and shallow lagoons, as made clear by the work carried out by the geologist at the CENIEH, Alfonso Benito Calvo.

“We have carried out a sedimentological stratigraphic study of the deposits where FLKW lies to understand the evolution of the processes which gave rise to this site and reconstruct what the environment was like, especially the fluvial dynamics, as the landscape was characterized by rivers which drained a plain where the hominins lived”, comments Benito Calvo.

Meat resources

The study of the archaeological record discovered during the 2019 campaign, together with  the abundant remains of hippopotamus recovered, will afford knowledge of how the hominins obtained these meat resources: either through direct confrontation with these aggressive animals (which today cause around 3000 deaths per annum), or, less dramatically, by scavenging the carcasses of hippopotamuses found dead.

Campaña 2019 en FLKW (Olduvai)

In either case, the flesh would have provided the basic, necessary proteins for the maintenance of the group and, above all, for the development of the brain, as H. erectus was a hominin of significant cerebral capacity, with a volume of approximately 1000 cubic centimeters.

Evidence has also been found that these hominins exploited raw materials from their environment to knap the tools they used to deflesh the animals, characterized by edges sufficiently sharp to butcher the muscle masses of these impressive animals.

In addition to the CENIEH, the participants in this campaign are: the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, the Institute of Archaeology at University College London (UCL), Indiana University, Tanzanian Antiquities and the Fundación Palarq.