Nature 443, 332-336 (21 September 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05048; Received 24 April 2006; Accepted 6 July 2006

Geological and palaeontological context of a Pliocene juvenile hominin at Dikika, Ethiopia

Jonathan G. Wynn1,7, Zeresenay Alemseged2, René Bobe3, Denis Geraads4, Denné Reed5 and Diana C. Roman6

Since 1999, the Dikika Research Project (DRP; initiated by Z.A.) has conducted surveys and excavations in badlands that expose Pliocene and Pleistocene sediments south of the Awash River in Ethiopia, between surrounding hominin localities at Hadar1, Gona2 and the Middle Awash region3. Here we report our geological mapping and stratigraphic measurement of the DRP area, and the context of a remarkably well-preserved skeleton of the earliest known juvenile hominin at the Dikika DIK-1 locality4. Our mapping of the DRP area permits a complete definition of the hominin-bearing Hadar Formation and provides a cohesive structural and tectonic framework defining its relationships to adjacent strata. Our findings reveal the basin-scale tectonic, depositional and palaeoenvironmental history of the area, as well as a clear taphonomic and palaeontological context for the juvenile hominin. Such data are crucial for understanding the environmental context of human evolution5, 6, and can be integrated into larger-scale tectonic and palaeoenvironmental studies7, 8. Our basin-scale approach to palaeoenvironments provides a means to elucidate the complex geological history occurring at the scale of temporally and geographically controlled fossil point localities3, 9, 10, 11, which occur within the rich tectonic and depositional history of the Awash Valley.

  1. School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9AL, Scotland, UK
  2. Department of Human Evolution, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  3. Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-1619, USA
  4. CNRS UPR 2147, 44 rue de l'Amiral Mouchez, F-75014 Paris, France
  5. Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA
  6. Department of Geology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA
  7. †Present address: Department of Geology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA (J.G.W.)

Correspondence to: Jonathan G. Wynn1,7 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.G.W. (Email: jwynn@cas.usf.edu).

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