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Journal Articles Earth and Planetary Science Letters Year : 2011

An astronomically-tuned climate framework for hominins in the Turkana Basin

Josephine C.A. Joordens
  • Function : Author
Hubert B. Vonhof
  • Function : Author
Craig S. Feibel
  • Function : Author
Lucas J. Lourens
  • Function : Author
Guillaume Dupont-Nivet
Et Al.
  • Function : Author


Understanding the influence of orbital climate cycles on hominin evolution remains a key challenge in paleoanthropology. The two major unresolved issues are: the absence of a climate proxy yielding highresolution (b20 kyr) terrestrial climate records, and the lack of age control on hominin fossil occurrences at sufficiently high resolution. Here we present a novel climate proxy, strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) of lacustrine fish fossils from the Turkana Basin, that solves these issues by recording orbitally forced variation in summer monsoon intensity over the Ethiopian Highlands. We successfully applied the climate proxy to a ~150 kyr time interval of ~2 million year old paleolake deposits containing hominin fossils. Existing age control of the studied interval was improved by a new magnetostratigraphic record precisely locating the base of the Olduvai chron (C2n) near the bottom of the sequence. Spectral analysis demonstrates that 87Sr/86Sr variability is primarily determined by precession, which enables us to place hominin fossils in an astronomically-tuned climate framework. The Sr climate proxy is potentially applicable to all homininbearing lake deposits in the Turkana Basin, ranging in age from ~4.2 to 0.8 million years ago (Ma). Our results demonstrate that between ~2 and 1.85 Ma the Turkana Basin remained well-watered and inhabited by hominins even during periods of precession maxima when summer monsoon intensity was lowest. This is in contrast to other basins in the East African Rift System (EARS) that were impacted heavily by precessionforced droughts. We hypothesize that during lake phases, the Turkana Basin was an aridity refugium for permanent-water dependent fauna - including hominins - over the precessional climate cycles.

Dates and versions

insu-00670840 , version 1 (16-02-2012)



Josephine C.A. Joordens, Hubert B. Vonhof, Craig S. Feibel, Lucas J. Lourens, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, et al.. An astronomically-tuned climate framework for hominins in the Turkana Basin. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2011, 307 (1-2), pp.1-8. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2011.05.005⟩. ⟨insu-00670840⟩
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