It is the beginning of November and we are well into the short rainy season in East Africa. Clouds have been building up for a few weeks and we have several heavy rains so far. One good thing the rains brought us is cool air. But on top of that, we got swarms of bugs! Some fly into our soup, others form huge cyclones at night, attracted by the lights in our camp! Fortunately, they are harmless creatures that are trying to seize the short moment of rains to breed. However, the rains have affected our plans for fieldwork because we have to drive across dried riverbeds to get to our field sites. Some ancient sediments at the field sites consist of mostly clay, which turns into mud puddles when there is water! As a result, we have postponed our trip to Area 13 and Area 15 where the TBI hominin fossil hunters found exciting fossils a few years ago. Let’s hope that the weather is going to get better over the week.
In the classroom, students continued to learn with Dr. Jason Lewis about the next important period of human evolution when the australopithecines roamed Africa. The australopiths are a group of human ancestors and distant relatives who lived in Africa from around 4 million years ago to 1.2 million years ago. This group of ancient hominins have been traditionally grouped into “gracile” and “robust” groups. The gracile group has been believed to be ancestral to our own lineage: Homo. The robust group, on the other hand, appeared later in the geological sequence have more derived features that point to a different masticatory adaptation. Students learned in great details what distinctive features are found in each group and where they have been found in Africa.