The OLDowan: emergence and evolution of an early hominid culture in eastern Africa

Unveil the impact of environmental dynamics on the prehistoric cultures of the Shungura Formation
(Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia) and in eastern Africa from 2.8 to 1.8 million years ago

Principal investigators

Type of project

OLD is a collaborative research project of the French National Agency for Research, 2017-2021.

Research question

This transdisciplinary research aims at understanding the effect of environmental and biological constraints on the emergence and evolution of the Oldowan culture in the local context of a valley (Lower Omo, Shungura Formation) in comparison with the regional record (eastern Africa) earlier than 1.8 million years ago millions.

Some results

A spatial analysis of Oldowan occurrences at Shunugra (ca. 2.3 million years ago) showed that these occurrences came from some restricted settlements of stone-tool makers near the Omo paleoriver.

Faunal analyses suggest a diversity of habitats and the abundance of plants adapted to dry conditions during the making of the Oldowan tools at Shungura.

Finally, OLD efforts led to further document the postcranial morphology of the robust australopiths locally contemporaneous of the Oldowan culture.


The consortium OLD involves PACEA (De la Préhistoire à l’Actuel : Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie, coordination du projet) and PALEVOPRIM. It regroups about thirty scientists (including two postdocs), field missions (Plio-Pleistocene of Ethiopia), many study missions in Africa, as well as an important analytical focus on technology and paleoenvironments.

Find out more

Iconic publications

Rowan J., Martine P., Likius A., Merceron G., Boisserie J.-R., in press. New Pliocene remains of Camelus grattardi (Mammalia, Camelidae) from the Shungura Formation, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia and the evolution of African camels. Historical Biology.

Daver G., Berillon G., Jacquier C., Ardagna Y., Yadeta M., Maurin T., Souron A., Blondel C., Coppens Y., Boisserie J.-R., in press. New hominin postcranial remains from locality OMO 323, Shungura Formation, Lower Omo Valley, southwestern Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution.

Blondel C., Rowan J., Merceron G., Bibi F., Negash E., Barr W., Boisserie J.-R., 2018. Feeding ecology of Tragelaphini (Bovidae) from the Shungura Formation, Omo Valley, Ethiopia: contribution of dental wear analyses. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 496, 103-120.

Maurin T., Bertran P., Delagnes A., Boisserie J.-R., 2017. Early hominin landscape use in the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia: insights from the taphonomical analysis of Oldowan occurrences in the Shungura Formation (Member F). Journal of Human Evolution 111, 33-53.



Tél. : +33 (0)5 49 45 37 53

Guylaine REYNAUD

Tél. : +33 (0)5 49 45 37 26

Fax : +33.(0)5 49 45 40 17


Université de Poitiers – UFR SFA


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