Laetoli, Tanzania

Terry Harrison is co-director of an international multidisciplinary team investigating the geology and paleontology of the fossil hominin locality of Laetoli in northern Tanzania. The main hominin bearing sediments are Pliocene in age, dating from older than 4.2 million years to about 2.6 million years.

Laetoli is renowned as one of the most important paleontological and paleoanthropological localities in Africa. The site is important because it has yielded a number of fossil specimens and trails of footprints belonging to Australopithecus afarensis. In addition to hominins, the fauna from the site is remarkably diverse, and it serves as a key reference for comparisons with other Plio-Pleistocene sites in Africa. The primary objectives of the current project are to recover additional fossil hominins, and to obtain more detailed contextual information on the paleontology, geology, dating, and paleoecology. Recent investigations at Laetoli have led to the discovery of more than 40 new paleontological localities and the recovery of over 25,000 fossils, including new finds of Australopithecus afarensis and the first discovery of Paranthropus aethiopicus from Tanzania. 

Results of the initial phase of research have recently been published as a two-volume series (Harrison, T. [Ed.], Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human Evolution in Context, Volumes 1 and 2. Springer, Dordrecht).