Early to Middle Pleistocene Transition: Evolution and Diversity of African Hominin Populations (Trans-Evol)

Ce site est en anglais, pour plus d'informations sur la mission archéologique Trans-Evol en français, c'est ici.

The Trans-Evol project carries out archaeological excavations in West Turkana (Kenya) in order to document the morphological and cultural diversity of hominin fossil populations during the Early to Middle Pleistocene transition (i.e. EMPT, 1250-750 ka). This period is characterised by major environmental changes along with morphological (encephalisation) and behavioural (specialisation/expansion of Acheulean, new modes of huntings) innovations within the Homo genus. Unfortunately, to date, the African fossil record only counts with three well-preserved hominin remains from this period (Daka, Buia, Olorgaseilie).

Trans-Evol’s principal aim is to deepen our understanding of this key time period of human evolution through the discovery and the study of new African archaeological sites where hominin activities can be attested. 

To achieve this aim, the project relies on a large collaborative team of specialists (i.e. archaeology, archaeozoology, palaeontology, geochronology, and palaeoanthropology) from several international institutions.

The project started during the 2017 In Africa project field season with the identification of four areas of interest in South Turkana. In 2018, geological sampling was done to chronologically characterise one of those sites (Kanyimangin) where excavations started in 2019.

The archaeological research project Trans-Evol is a collaboration between the UMR 7194 Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique (A. Mounier, PI, CNRS), the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies (LCHES, M. Mirazón Lahr, University of Cambridge) and the Earth Sciences Department (F. Kyalo Manthi, National Museums of Kenya - NMK). The project is being supported logistically by the Turkana Basin Institute (i.e. TBI), the French Embassy in Nairobi and the IFRA in Nairobi. The project is funded by a five-year International Research Project CNRS/INEE grant (65 k€, 2020-2024), a four-year MEAE grant from the French Foreign Office (38 k€, 2021-2024) and a Research Grant from the Fyssen Foundation (21 k€, 2021-2023).

Trans-Evol is a collaboration between A. Mounier (CNRS, PI), F. Kyalo Manthi (NMK) and M. Mirazón Lahr (University of Cambridge).

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A) map of East Africa, showing the location of the Trans-Evol and In Africa projects, along with the sites where hominins from the EMPT were found (Buia, Bouri and Olorgesailie; B) KNM-OL 45500 from Olorgesaillie (Potts et al. 2004); C) BOU-VP-2/66 from Bouri (Asfaw et al. 2002); D) UA-31 from Buia (Ghinassi et al. 2015).

Map of the area where the Trans-Evol (in red) project operates. 10 sites of interests have been identified since August 2017. 


During archaeological surveys lead in 2017, 2021 and 2022 10 archaeological sites of interest have been identified. 

This map present their position in the South of the Turkana Basin. 

One of them, Kanyimangin (A), has been mostly characterised. Preliminary geochronological and biochronological results indicates an age estimate between 0.90 and 1.19 million years ago, which is fully compatible with the focused time period of the project: the EMPT. The site has yielded substantial lithic (n=344) and faunal (n=2155) assemblages in part from buried contexts. The latter comprises 212 individual specimens (NISP) distributed across 20 taxa. 

Nakwakitela (B) and Kamalikol (C) were identified in June 2022. They both present lithic artefacts and fauna that could be dated from the EMPT.