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Lothagam Research Project

The late Miocene origin of the hominin clade occurred in the context of major abiotic and biotic changes, including global cooling and aridification, the expansion of grassland ecosystems, and extensive faunal exchange between Africa and Eurasia. Though geochemical, geochronological, and paleontological datasets have clarified the timing of these key events, we still know little of how shifts in ancient African environments and biotas translated to changes in the structure and functioning of the local ecosystems within which the earliest hominins evolved. This knowledge gap largely stems from the scarcity of fossiliferous sites ~ 10-6 Ma in eastern Africa, with the site of Lothagam (West Turkana Basin, Kenya) being an outstanding exception.


The Lothagam Research Project (co-directors J. Rowan and I. Lazagabaster) is a paleontological field work project aiming to enhance our understanding of the earliest phases of human evolution in eastern Africa. In addition to the new field work, we are incorporating existing collections housed at the Kenya National Museum (Nairobi) into our systematic, paleobiological, and paleoecological studies of the Turkana Basin's late Miocene ecosystems.

The LRP team includes:

Paleoanthropology and Paleontology

Ignacio Lazagabaster (CENIEH, Spain)

Alejandra Ortiz (New York University, USA)

María Ríos (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal)

John Rowan (University at Albany, USA)

Gary Schwartz (Arizona State University, USA)

Clément Zanolli (Université de Bordeaux, France)


Geology, Geochemistry, and Paleoecology

Scott Blumenthal (University of Oregon, USA)

Kendra Chritz (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Craig Feibel (Rutgers University, USA)

Greg Henkes (Stony Brook University, USA)

Rahab Kinyanjui (National Museums of Kenya)

Gary Stinchcomb (University of Memphis, USA)

Kevin Uno (Harvard University, USA)

PhD Student Researchers

Emmanuel Aoron (Harvard University, USA)

Melissa Boyd (Rutgers University, USA)

Eve Omondi (University at Albany, USA)

Christianne Ormsby (University at Albany, USA)

Chris Rowan (Columbia University, USA)

Linet Sankau (Arizona State University, USA)

Jensen Wainwright (University of Oregon, USA)

The LRP has received generous funding support from the Turkana Basin Institute and the Simons Foundation. We also work closely with teams exploring other Miocene sites in the Turkana area as members of the Turkana Miocene Project.
Nengo Obituary (2022)
Dr. Isaiah Nengo, founding co-director of the Lothagam Research Project, passed away unexpectedly in January 2022. He was passionate about the evolution of Miocene hominoids and helping young African researchers join the paleosciences community. A tribute to Isaiah's life and work can be downloaded from the link above.
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