Title of the session


Session Organizer(s)

Pamela R. Willoughby,
Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2H4.
Email: Pam.Willoughby@ualberta.ca.  

Delivery format


Nature of a session

This session is open for contributions. I am soliciting participation from a variety of people but am willing to accept any others.

Session abstract

Explanations of key stages in African human evolution are often presented as a result of hominins responding to environmental stresses.  Stresses could operate at global, regional, and/or local levels. Global stresses include cooling over the course of the Pliocene and/or the waxing and waning of Northern Hemisphere glaciers during the Pleistocene.  Impacts in Africa could include periods such as Green Sahara, as opposed to desert expansions in dry periods.  Regional factors include forces such as volcanism and geological uplift in eastern and central Africa and rising and falling ocean levels.  Local changes could include bush fires and flooding.  How did hominins respond to such forces? Given that the record of hominins in Africa goes back around 5 million years, and the archaeological record to at least 2.6 million years ago, can our understanding of past resilience help us to understand current and future issues in human adaptation?


We are looking for speakers who wish to discuss aspects of hominin resilience in the face of such forces.  Presentations could include everything from case studies of human adaptation at particular sites up to continental responses.  The environmental context of human evolution in Africa can also be discussed.  Results could have been the speciation of various kinds of hominins; the origins of bipedal locomotion; the origins of material culture; where and how our own species came into existence during the Middle Stone Age; and how changes at the end of the Pleistocene produced the first African pastoralists and farmers.

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