The 3 to 2 millions of years ago (Ma) period is critical since it corresponds to a major shift in hominin evolution in eastern Africa when Australopithecus was replaced by the two sister taxa represented by Paranthropus and Homo and when the Late Pliocene Earth’s average surface temperature became cooler and the global climate became more unstable, resulting in more open landscapes. This event was first observed in the Shungura formation (Omo valley, southern Ethiopia) and subsequently described as the “(H)Omo event” by Yves Coppens. However, contemporaneous hominin-bearing deposits in southern Africa, if any, are yet not clearly identified. More specifically, the absence of hominin-bearing stratigraphic sequence spanning the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene boundary (2.6 Ma) within a southern African single site limits the conclusions that can be drawn about early hominin dispersals in Africa. Consequently, biogeographic and phylogenetic hypotheses have been greatly weakened.

By focusing our attention on relevant information recorded in the fossiliferous sediments at the site of Kromdraai (Gauteng province, South Africa) from its early and previously unrealized stratigraphic record, the Kromdraai Research Project aims to address this issue. We also test the assumption that hominins and other mammalian groups in southern Africa did not evolved entirely independently from those in eastern Africa. We finally reconstruct new palaeobiological and paleoenvironmental aspects of not only Paranthropus robustus and early Homo but also of carnivore and other extinct species recovered at Kromdraai during nearly continuous fieldwork undertaken since 2014

Main coordinator : J Braga, CAGT