To put their geology skills to the test, students set out to make a geological map of area 1, which is near our home in Ileret. This map not only included essential features such as a key, a compass showing where north is, and a scale, but also important geological features including tuffs, ancient river banks and faults.
After exploring Ileret, students were ready to load up into the lorry and travel to Koobi Fora for a camping trip. Koobi Fora is known for its large preservation of hominid fossils as well as its remarkable geological features.
On our way to Koobi Fora, we stopped at an ancient elephant site that was excavated in 1974. The skeleton was so large that instead of bringing it to a museum, the researchers built a museum around it!
We also stopped at the old Koobi Fora base camp. While not in much use anymore, this camp was established in 1968 by Richard Leakey and has been the place of great paleoanthropology research throughout the decades. Lucky for us, the base camp is located on Lake Turkana’s shore and the students were able to enjoy a swim after the long lorry ride.
Finally, after a long days journey, we reached our fly camp. Here we were able to rest and refuel as we prepared for the field adventures to come.
After a good nights rest, Professor Feibel and Dr. Raynolds took the students on a once in a lifetime experience through the outcrops of Koobi Fora. This area is unlike anywhere else in the world and is ideal for students eager to learn geological features. The landscape of Koobi Fora has been shaped by unique volcanic, tectonic, and sedimentation processes that have preserved the dynamic lake river system of Lake Turkana. This preservation is observable in beautifully exposed outcrops spanning the modern landscape. Thus, Koobi Fora provides the perfect place for students to put their skills of reconstructing paleoenvironments, knowledge of rocks and minerals, and use of geological tools such as the Brunton compass, Jacob’s staff and GPS, all together to gain full understanding of the geology in this area.
Students were given a treat when they were taken to the site where KNM-ER 1808, an ancient hominid specimen, was found.
KNM-ER 1808 is a 1.7 million year old partial skeleton from a homo erectus. 1808’s femur (thigh bone) has an interesting overgrowth of bone, indicative of bleeding just before, and likely the cause of, death. Scientists believe that this may have been due to an excess of vitamin A. One way an ancient hominid could have received too much vitamin A is from eating carnivore livers! It is truly spectacular how we can learn so much about the past from what we currently observe.
Koobi Fora provided an excellent opportunity for students to practice the skills they have learned during their module and to witness geological formations unlike anywhere else in the world. While the geology course has ended, the students will carry fundamental knowledge of the geological context behind all other anthropological research in the Turkana Basin with them as the continue through the field school.