Environmental dynamics during the onset of the Middle Stone Age in eastern Africa

Richard Potts*, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, J. Tyler Faith, Christian A. Tryon, Alison S. Brooks, John E. Yellen, Alan L. Deino, Rahab Kinyanjui, Jennifer B. Clark, Catherine M. Haradon, Naomi E. Levin, Hanneke J.M. Meijer, Elizabeth G. Veatch, R. Bernhart Owen, Robin W. Renaut

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    122 Citations (Scopus)


    Development of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) before 300,000 years ago raises the question of how environmental change influenced the evolution of behaviors characteristic of early Homo sapiens. We used temporally well-constrained sedimentological and paleoenvironmental data to investigate environmental dynamics before and after the appearance of the early MSA in the Olorgesailie basin, Kenya. In contrast to the Acheulean archeological record in the same basin, MSA sites are associated with a markedly different faunal community, more pronounced erosion-deposition cycles, tectonic activity, and enhanced wet-dry variability. Aspects of Acheulean technology in this region imply that, as early as 615,000 years ago, greater stone material selectivity and wider resource procurement coincided with an increased pace of land-lake fluctuation, potentially anticipating the adaptability of MSA hominins.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)86-90
    Number of pages5
    Issue number6384
    Early online date15 Mar 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • General


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