Outstanding questions about human evolution include systematic connections between critical landscape resources—such as water and food—and how these shaped the competitive and biodiverse environment(s) that our ancestors inhabited. Here, we report fossil n-alkyl lipid biomarkers and their associated δ13C values across a newly discovered Olduvai Gorge site (AGS) dated to 1.84 million years ago, enabling a multiproxy analysis of the distributions of critical local landscape resources across an explicit locus of hominin activity. Our results reveal that AGS was a seasonally waterlogged, largely unvegetated lakeside site situated near an ephemeral freshwater river surrounded by arid-adapted C4 grasses. The sparse vegetation at AGS contrasts with reconstructed (micro)habitats at the other anthropogenic sites at Olduvai Gorge, suggesting that central-provisioning places depended more heavily on water access than vegetation viz. woody plants as is often observed for modern hunter-gatherers. As hominins at AGS performed similar butchering activities as at other Bed I sites, our results suggest they did not need the shelter of trees and thus occupied a competitive position within the predatory guild.
ASJC Scopus subject areas