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Editor's Notes

Within Evidence of variable climate and resources during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene at Gona, Ethiopia, White studies the geochemistry of paleoclimate reconstructions and how the increase of rainfall and the presence of grasslands affects the resources available to Homo sapiens living in Gona at during AHP time. The student uses stratigraphy, geochronology, and paleopedology to reconstruct the Late Pleistocene and AHP paleoenvironments.

Abstract

The African Humid Period (AHP) spanned a period of approximately 15 to 5 thousand years ago (ka) and resulted in Northern and Eastern Africa being wetter than today. This climate change event impacted flora, fauna, and humans to an unknown extent. Much of the work on the AHP across Eastern Africa utilizes lacustrine and marine proxies rather than river-based (fluvial). Gona, located in the Afar region of Ethiopia, is known for its extensive archaeological and fossil records in fluvial deposits. However, the paleoenvironment of the AHP at Gona has not been investigated. This study uses stratigraphy, geochronology, and paleopedology to reconstruct the Late Pleistocene and AHP paleoenvironments. We examine two paleosols, the Odele and Erole paleosols, located in the Asbole study region of Gona. The Odele paleosol is between the Korina Tuff (<39 >ka) and the Kilaitoli Tuff (~25.7 ka) and weathered during late-stage MIS-3 and MIS-2 during the Late Pleistocene. The Erole paleosol, a relict soil that weathered during the AHP, is ~15 m above the Kilaitoli Tuff and immediately above a calibrated 14C age of 12 ka. Both paleosols formed along paleo-tributaries of the ancestral Awash River, as only matrix-supported gravels are found. The Erole paleosol is darker and may have more organic matter than the Odele paleosol. Average strain calculations using paleosol geochemistry show a volumetric collapse on the order of 34 ± 4% in the Erole paleosol and little to no dilation/collapse in the Odele paleosol, 0 ± 2%. Calculations of open-system mass transport of elements through the profiles (Tau) show an 18 ± 7% loss of SiO2 and a 69 ± 5% loss of CaO in the Erole paleosol, which are greater than the 2 ± 1% loss of SiO2 and 1 ± 3% loss of CaO in the Odele paleosol. These strain and tau results suggest more intense weathering and elemental loss in the Erole paleosol. The geochemistry is consistent with recent paleoclimate reconstructions, where an increase in collapse and elemental loss from the Odele to the Erole paleosol coincides with increased rainfall from the Late Pleistocene to the AHP. Specific paleoenvironmental indicators, as well as the evident increase of rainfall and the presence of grasslands, provide more abundant and diverse resources to Homo sapiens living in Gona during AHP time.

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