A team of Rutgers University paleoanthropologists recreated the landscape in Africa approximately 1.8 million years ago. They found that life, even then, was quite stressful because of food competition.

The reconstructed African landscape was based on the data found at an archeological site in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The first excavation took place in 1959 when scientists found not just stone tools but also fossils of animals and hominin species.

Based on the soil samples and fossil analysis, Rutgers professor Gail M. Ashley and her colleagues recreated the early African landscape including terrains, plants and animals that surround the early humans' habitat. The reimagined landscape also included grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and freshwater springs.

By analyzing the location of the unearthed stone tools and human fossils, the researchers were able to hypothesize what kinds of plants were present back then. They mapped out the land using soil samples from one geological bed where the two different species of hominins were discovered — the Homo habilis and the Paranthropus boisei.

The Paranthropus boisei was a small-brained, stout hominin species while the Homo habilis resembles the modern humans more with lighter bones. The Homo habilis' brain was relatively larger compared to that of the Paranthropus boisei. The two hominin species both had an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years with a height of about 4.5 to 5.5 feet.

Many of the unearthed hominin bones were found in areas that were once vast woodlands. The findings suggested that the early humans dragged animal cadavers in the woodlands to eat them. The acacia and palm trees provided cover so they can eat safely.

"[But] it was tough living. It was a very stressful life because they were in continual competition with carnivores for their food," said Ashley.

The team is unsure if the early human species already hunted at that particular point in time. There was a possibility that they're feeding on the kills of other animal predators.

It also remains unconcluded if the early humans camped there. However, data suggested that early humans frequent the area for a long period of time due to the woodlands and freshwater. The findings also implied that a volcanic eruption near the site covered the area with ash that helped preserve the bones of both animals and early humans.

"Think about it as a Pompeii-like event where you had a volcanic eruption. [The eruption] spewed out a lot of ash that completely blanketed the landscape," said Ashley.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Photo: Vincent Lit | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.