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More specifically, the team's objectives are including the following activities: - Conducting test pits (very limited, targeted excavations) at selective Bed II sites that have been determined to contain possible evidence related to the emergence of Acheulean tools at Olduvai; - Applying the new landscape sampling approach across Middle and Upper Bed II deposits and conducting random test pits in the various paleo-ecological settings; - Applying advanced dating methodologies to Bed II volcanic ashes to produce higher-resolution, more accurate dates for Bed II locations; - Measuring stratigraphic sections at and between key archaeological sites to determine their relative order and paleoecological contexts; - Determining the correlation of volcanic ash layers between sites to test previous proposed correlations and then establishing the basin-wide stratigraphic framework for Bed II; and finally, - Reconstructing the paleo-environments at Olduvai during the 1.7-1.3 Ma time period.
New research suggests that between three million and 3.5 million years ago, the diet of our very early ancestors in central Africa is likely to have consisted mainly of tropical grasses and sedges.
The findings are published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An international research team extracted information from the fossilised teeth of three Australopithecus bahrelghazali individuals -- the first early hominins excavated at two sites in Chad.
The Oldowan is considered to have been made and used during the Lower Paleolithic, from 2.6 to 1.7 million years ago, whereas the Acheulean emerged about 1.76 million years ago and was used by early humans up to about 300,000 years ago or later.
To find answers, the team will be reappraising the chronological stratigraphy of Bed II, known to have yielded previous significant finds, and will be re-excavating some of the later beds of the best known fossil and stone tool sites.
Associate professor of anthropology Nathaniel Dominy of Dartmouth College, along with colleagues Vivek Venkataraman and Thomas Kraft, compared African Twa hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists living nearby, the Bakiga, in Uganda.
In the Philippines, they compared the Agta hunter-gatherers to the Manobo agriculturalists.
This stone tool is most often associated with Homo erectus, a hominin considered by many scientists to be a possible human (Homo) ancestor.
These beds reveal a record of a very important time period (1.79 - 1.15 million years ago), a record that contains evidence of critical changes in the area's fauna, stone tools and climate, such as the disappearance of Homo habilis, a very early hominin and possible human ancestor, and the emergence of Homo erectus, a later hominin considered to be the earliest human ancestor to exit Africa and spread across Eurasia.
Scientists suggest that these same beds may include evidence of the long-sought transition from the more primitive Oldowan stone tools to the appearance of the more advanced Acheulean tools.
Along with being among the earliest possible bipedal primates, it has also been thought to be closely related to the genus Homo (which includes the modern human species Homo sapiens), either as a direct ancestor or indirectly through an unknown earlier ancestor.
A chopping tool from Olduvai Gorge, 1 - 2 million years old.