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Hydroclimate changes in eastern Africa over the past 200,000 years may have influenced early human dispersal

Schaebitz, Frank; Asrat, Asfawossen; Lamb, Henry F.; Cohen, Andrew S.; Foerster, Verena; Duesing, Walter; Kaboth-Bahr, Stefanie; Opitz, Stephan; Viehberg, Finn A.; Vogelsang, Ralf; Dean, Jonathan; Leng, Melanie J.; Junginger, Annett; Ramsey, Christopher Bronk; Chapot, Melissa S.; Deino, Alan; Lane, Christine S.; Roberts, Helen M.; Vidal, Céline; Tiedemann, Ralph; Trauth, Martin H.


Frank Schaebitz

Asfawossen Asrat

Henry F. Lamb

Andrew S. Cohen

Verena Foerster

Walter Duesing

Stefanie Kaboth-Bahr

Stephan Opitz

Finn A. Viehberg

Ralf Vogelsang

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Dr Jonathan Dean
Director of Admissions for Geography, Environmental Science & Earth Science | Lecturer in Quaternary Science

Melanie J. Leng

Annett Junginger

Christopher Bronk Ramsey

Melissa S. Chapot

Alan Deino

Christine S. Lane

Helen M. Roberts

Céline Vidal

Ralph Tiedemann

Martin H. Trauth


Reconstructions of climatic and environmental conditions can contribute to current debates about the factors that influenced early human dispersal within and beyond Africa. Here we analyse a 200,000-year multi-proxy paleoclimate record from Chew Bahir, a tectonic lake basin in the southern Ethiopian rift. Our record reveals two modes of climate change, both associated temporally and regionally with a specific type of human behavior. The first is a long-term trend towards greater aridity between 200,000 and 60,000 years ago, modulated by precession-driven wet-dry cycles. Here, more favorable wetter environmental conditions may have facilitated long-range human expansion into new territory, while less favorable dry periods may have led to spatial constriction and isolation of local human populations. The second mode of climate change observed since 60,000 years ago mimics millennial to centennial-scale Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles and Heinrich events. We hypothesize that human populations may have responded to these shorter climate fluctuations with local dispersal between montane and lowland habitats.


Schaebitz, F., Asrat, A., Lamb, H. F., Cohen, A. S., Foerster, V., Duesing, W., …Trauth, M. H. (2021). Hydroclimate changes in eastern Africa over the past 200,000 years may have influenced early human dispersal. Communications Earth & Environment, 2(1), Article 123.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2021
Online Publication Date Jun 14, 2021
Publication Date 2021-12
Deposit Date Jun 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Communications Earth & Environment
Print ISSN 2662-4435
Electronic ISSN 2662-4435
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Issue 1
Article Number 123
Keywords Limnology; Palaeoclimate; Palaeontology
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© The Author(s). <br /> Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit

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