We’ve had an incredible first few weeks at TBI Turkwel! After our time at Mpala, we’ve hit the ground running and have been really busy visiting the incredible sites in the Turkana Basin and enjoying life at TBI!
As part of the Environments, Ecosystems and Evolution course taught by Dr. Nicholas Taylor, we created toilet paper timelines, starting from the beginning of the planet earth, traveling all the way through time until the present, highlighting key events such as the development of eukaryotes, the first recorded precipitation and of course, the evolution of our species.
We had a midweek trip to the Lodwar Museum, where the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta was detained before independence. The Turkana County Government has recently built a new library at the museum, which currently also hosts the “Turkana Tools” exhibition, which was developed by the West Turkana Archeological Project, led by Dr. Sonia Harmand. You can read more about this exhibition here.
We visited the main outcrops that sit to the west of TBI, these are mostly about 3 million years old, and are geologically very interesting, with a mixture of riparian, lake and other deposits, interspersed with visible fault lines, volcanic tuffs and holocene beach deposits. This is an incredible backyard in which to become familiar with the geology of the Turkana Basin.
We also went to the South Turkwel hominid sites, where some incredible fossils have been found. This really highlighted the challenges paleontologists face in finding hominid fossils in this vast landscape.
The Napudet Miocene site is littered with incredible mid-miocene fossils, including a petrified forest. We explored these and the ongoing excavations with John Ekusi, who in 2014, while working on Dr. Isaiah Nengo’s project in the Napudet Miocene site, found an incredible juvenile ape skull, now named Alesi. This beautiful skull is the most complete of its kind, and the preservation is so good that CT scans of the inner ear tell us a lot about this species balance and mobility.
After a few introductory lectures on lithics, we all got to give knapping a go! (With mixed results!!) This exercise highlights the skill required to source the right rocks, and the morphology required for the dexterity to make usable tools!
A final treat this week was an impromptu lecture from Dr. Louise Leakey, who shared the story of prehistory research in the Turkana Basin, littered with anecdotes from the field.
Watch this space for more updates about the archeology and paleontology courses and to learn about how we’re spending the rest of our time in this incredible place!
(All photos, credit: Medina Lubisia)