2 million years our ancestors lived among palm trees and acacias

© M.Lopez-Herrera/ Enrique Baquedano
© M.Lopez-Herrera/ Enrique Baquedano

Large-scale excavations in the Olduvai gorge helped paleontologists clarify that our first ancestors lived among palm trees and acacias. Under their shade they shared the loot from killing giraffes, antelopes and other animals from the African savannas, says an article published in PNAS magazine.

„Our discovery represents the most ancient analogue of Pompeii, buried under the ashes of Vesuvius. This place was also buried by the eruption of a volcano, located a few dozen kilometers away of the gorge. It threw out so much ash that it coverred almost the whole territory with a thick layer of volcanic emissions, “ says Gail Ashley from Rutgers University (USA).

Ashley and her colleagues made a good use of these „Pompeiian“ times at the dawn of mankind to get the first complete picture of how our ancestors lived in the history of paleontology and anthropology.

For this purpose, the researchers conducted the largest excavations in different parts of the gorge with a total area of ​​25,000 sq. m and studied the structure of samples fossilized soil, animal remains and other indicators which helped identifying to what genus or species the flora and fauna of Olduvai belonged 1.8 million years ago.

That way the scientists found out how and where two types of hominids in the gorge at that time lived. Those were the first skilled people (Homo habilis) and parantropite (Paranthropus boisei).

Our supposed ancestors, as indicated by the research, preferred to live in small groves of palm trees and acacias that grew in the lands of Olduvai 1.8-2 million years ago. Judging by the remains of giraffes, antelopes and other ungulates in these groves, the first Homo ate not only plant foods, but also meat and shared the game in these forests.

The parantropite menu and their place of habitation were slightly different – they ate mainly plant and pretty solid food, mainly ferns and lived near ponds in swampy areas.