Mariam Joseph Bundala
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalgary, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10099
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleBundala, Mariam (Calgary, U. of) "Middle Pleistocene paleoenvironmental reconstruction through phytolith analysis at the Manyara Beds, northern Tanzania "
The aim of this study is to understand how environmental change in East Africa impacted human evolution during the Middle Pleistocene. Dating from 780,000-633,000 years ago, the Manyara Beds sample a poorly studied stratigraphic interval in the Middle Pleistocene of Tanzania. I will use phytolith analysis to create a fine scale reconstruction of the paleovegetation. This data will scrutinize the link between hominin activities and microhabitats on the landscape. My study will shed light on the ecological preferences of the Manyara hominins, which are broadly ancestral to Homo sapiens and on the technological transition from the Early to Middle Stone Age in Africa. The specific aims include: (i) reconstruct the vegetation structure through time; (ii) reconstruct hominin microhabitat use, and (iii) identify specific plant consumption by hominins at the Manyara Beds. A pilot field campaign in 2019 demonstrated that phytoliths are abundant in the Lower Member of the Manyara Beds include (i) woody morphotypes such as verrucate spheroids and sclereids; (ii) short-cell: saddles, bilobates, crosses, rondels and trichomes grass types, and (iii) achene (sedge) types, documenting a variety of environment types. However, a detailed investigation is needed to confirm my preliminary identifications and conduct full quantitative vegetation reconstructions.