Tracing our roots: Kendra Chritz heads to Kenya in search of hominin fossils

June 9, 2023

This summer assistant EOAS professor Dr. Kendra Chritz is headed to the Turkana Basin in Kenya in search of ancient hominin fossils. Specifically, Dr. Chritz and her colleagues from the Lothagam Research Project are on the lookout for hominins dating back 6-10 million years, close to the time when our lineage diverged from chimpanzees. Members of the Lothagam Project will use clues contained within fossils, including morphological features and chemical isotope markers, to reconstruct the ancient climate, ecosystem, and diet of our earliest ancestors. 

The aptly named Lothagam Research Project will bring crews of local and international scientists to Lothagam, an iconic paleontological site within the Turkana Basin. As part of the East African Rift system, diverging continental plates around the Turkana Basin are splitting apart to reveal fossils that have been preserved in layers of ash and sedimentary rock for millions of years. Heavy sampling in Lothagam throughout the 1960s to the early 1990s led to an abundance of mammalian fossil discoveries, dating from 5 million years and older, the target age and location likely to yield fossil evidence of human-chimpanzee evolutionary divergence. Now, around three decades later, the paleontologists of the Lothagam Research Project are returning with the hope that 30 years of erosion have revealed more clues of the life and environment of some of the earliest hominins. 

Head to our youtube channel to hear Dr. Kendra Chritz describe her research as part of the Lothagam Project.