EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Hominin life and evolution across changing African landscapes in the Pleistocene

William Gosling
William Gosling
  • University of Amsterdam, Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, Amsterdam, Netherlands (

Climate change is often linked with evolutionary processes, but the effect of this driver is mediated by the environment in which the organisms live. In relation to hominins, climatic conditions play an important role in determining the availability of resources critical to development and evolution, including water, materials for tools, and food. Over the last c. 1 million years the spatial distribution of water and vegetative resources across Africa has shifted dramatically, and in tandem. The most significant change in this time period occurred c. 300,000 years ago when the predominance of wetter conditions, and relatively more abundant vegetative resources, shifted from western to eastern Africa. Around this time Homo sapiens and Middle Stone Age technologies emerged. While the changing landscape of Africa would not have necessarily have excluded hominins from occupying particular regions, they would have altered the chances for interaction between different populations through the creation of new geographic connections. These new connections between hominin populations would have promoted different cultural and genetic exchanges, which consequently could have driven development and evolutionary processes. To understand the environmental backdrop to hominin development and evolution we need to explore the changes that occurred within the landscapes in which they lived. Here landscape scale (site specific) changes in environmental resources are considered from key locations in western and eastern Africa. These insights are then placed within the context of climate and vegetation change across the continent to develop ideas about how the changing landscapes could have facilitated, and driven, cultural development and evolutionary processes in hominins during the Pleistocene.

How to cite: Gosling, W.: Hominin life and evolution across changing African landscapes in the Pleistocene, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14725,, 2023.