Yonatan Sahle Chemere
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationCape Town, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10262
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleChemere, Yonatan Sahle (Cape Town, U. of) "Chronological, behavioral and ecological contexts of Homo sapiens origins: Evidence from newly discovered hominin-bearing sites in Ethiopia’s Afar Rift"
Accumulating evidence supports the African origins and evolution of Homo sapiens anatomy and distinctive behaviors ~320-150 ka. Technological and other behaviors conventionally associated with the rise of our species appear in different parts of the continent starting ~300 ka, as do “sapiens-like” craniofacial features. However, these key transitions – and the contexts in which they occurred – were temporally and spatially more complex than often conceptualized. The paucity of securely dated hominin- and fauna-bearing occurrences relevant to this period obfuscates the timing, causes, and distinctiveness of these changes, and the assessment of models for their evolution. As it stands, elucidating these evolutionary patterns and processes, including the role of dynamic Middle Pleistocene environmental conditions, requires new data from African paleoanthropological sites. Exploratory work at newly discovered sites in Megeinta, Lower Awash Basin (Afar Rift), has yielded hominin, faunal and archaeological remains spanning the critical period ~460–154 ka. Ongoing paleobiological analyses of the hominin and faunal remains provide interesting insights. The proposed integrated research seeks to study a) archaeological materials to infer hominin behaviors, b) isotopic compositions of faunal and geogenic samples for paleoenvironmental reconstructions, and c) sedimentary samples to further refine the chronostratigraphic framework of the Megeinta research area.