Palaeovegetation changes recorded in Palaeolake Olduvai OGCP Core 2A (2.09–2.12 Ma) Naibor Soit Formation Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Rodríguez-Cintas A, Albert RM, Bamford MK, Stanistreet IG, Stollhofen H, Stone JR, Rivera-Rondón C, Pronzato R, Njau JK, Schick K, Toth N (2020)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2020


Book Volume: 557

Article Number: 109928

DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2020.109928


For five decades Olduvai Gorge has been a key site to reconstruct and understand the relationship between environmental and landscape conditions and use of affordances by early African hominin populations. Following the first Olduvai Gorge Coring project (OGCP) during 2014, a multiproxy microbiological analysis, which includes phytoliths, pollen, diatoms, sponge spicules and chrysophyte cysts, was undertaken on samples collected from various borehole cores. The aim of the study is to better understand palaeoenvironmental and palaeovegetation conditions and changes through time and their relationship to hominin presence and evolution. This study details the first palaeobotanical and palaeoenvironmental study of Borehole 2A at Olduvai Gorge. It represents the as yet oldest known sedimentary sequence in the Olduvai Basin for a portion of the pre-Bed I Naibor Soit Formation; this is a unit that is not accessible in any natural exposures in Olduvai Gorge, and has only recently been encountered by drilling. Here we present the results from a particularly phytolith-prone portion between ~2.09 Ma and 2.12 Ma. Phytolith results indicate a savannah environment dominated by grasses, where Poaceae were a key component and where the C3 Pooideae grasses were mostly dominant, alternating with C4 grasses. Oscillations between grass subfamilies, C3 Pooideae, C4 Chloridoideae, and C4 Panicoideae to lesser degrees, indicate five substantial climatic shifts, varying between more humid and arid conditions. Associated with phytoliths, freshwater indicators such as diatoms, sponge spicules and chrysophyte cysts were also identified, suggesting the presence of wetlands in the lake catchment area. Pollen is extremely rare in the sediments but when present, comprises fungal spores and Poaceae pollen, thus supporting the wetland and grassland reconstructions, respectively. These results offer for the first time, a whole picture of the palaeovegetation and associated palaeoenvironments for this pre-Bed I period. Together with previous results from other areas and chronological periods, they improve our understanding of the evolution and adaptation of early hominins and their close relationship to the surrounding landscape.

Authors with CRIS profile

Involved external institutions

How to cite


Rodríguez-Cintas, A., Albert, R.M., Bamford, M.K., Stanistreet, I.G., Stollhofen, H., Stone, J.R.,... Toth, N. (2020). Palaeovegetation changes recorded in Palaeolake Olduvai OGCP Core 2A (2.09–2.12 Ma) Naibor Soit Formation Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 557.


Rodríguez-Cintas, A., et al. "Palaeovegetation changes recorded in Palaeolake Olduvai OGCP Core 2A (2.09–2.12 Ma) Naibor Soit Formation Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania." Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 557 (2020).

BibTeX: Download