Sarah K Hlubik

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

George Washington U.

Grant number

Gr. 9974

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Hlubik, Sarah (George Washington U.) "Finding Prometheus: Investigating fire on the Koobi Fora Landscape between 2.1-1 million years ago"

The origins of humanly used fire has been proposed as a crucial behavioral adaptation that facilitated the evolution of our genus. The larger brain and body of Homo erectus, which appeared around 2 million years ago, likely overcame increased nutritional requirements through increases in caloric return from foods. The Cooking Hypothesis postulates that use of fire to cook food would have increased the return rates of food items already in the diet of Homo erectus. It would have further enhanced certain foods by denaturing toxins within plants and killing parasites in meat. Until recently the archaeological record did not coincide with the timing expected by the Cooking Hypothesis. Archaeological sites between 2 and 1 million years old show sparse evidence for the intersection of fire and human behavior. Here we will investigate archaeological and environmental evidence for fire at two time slices of the Early Pleistocene. We explore evidence from sites and fossil soils (paleosols) dating to ~1.9 and ~1.5 million years ago. These data are tied to a regional record through ancient lakebed sediments to identify the extent of fire in the Koobi Fora Formation of northern Kenya.