TUKUL 1: African Prehistory

tukul1 Open air museum Tukul 2 Tukul 3 Tukul 4 panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5 panel 6 panel 7 panel 8 panel 9 Open air museum Tukul 2 Tukul 3 Tukul 4 panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5 panel 6 panel 7 panel 8 panel 9 Open air museum Tukul 2 Tukul 3 Tukul 4 panel 1 panel 2 panel 3 panel 4 panel 5 panel 6 panel 7 panel 8 panel 9



The site

The Peninj Group is a Plio-Pleistocene sedimentary unit located in the southwest sector of the Magadi-Natron basin in Tanzania. It was formed between 2.0 and 1.0 Myr.


The stratigraphic sequence was first described by G. Isaac, who found the first archaeological sites here in 1963. It is constituted of a ca. 80 m deep sequence of fluvial and lake deposits alternating with volcanic tuff, resting on a thick layer of basalt (known as Sambu lavas) deposited between 3.5, 2.0, and 1.9/1.77 Myr. Sediments resembling those of the Peninj Group are found both in the middle and upper part of the Sambu lavas (respectively called Naikuruku and Hajaro).
The latter, K/Ar-dated to 2.0 Myr, form the base of the Peninj Group, which Isaac subdivided in two units, the prevalently alluvial Humbu Formation, where the archaeological and paleontological layers are, and the Moinik Formation, of lacustrine origin.

Location of Peninj area and stratigraphy of ST site complex


A perfectly preserved mandible of a female Australopithecus robustus was found at Peninj in 1964, in a layer dated to about 1.4 Myr.

The sites

Several sites with lithic and faunal remains, dated between 1.7 and 1.4 Myr and referable to the Oldowan and an early phase of the Acheulean, were discovered in G. Isaac first explorations, as well as in recent ones conducted by a group of Spanish researchers from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid.

During more recent investigations, microanalyses conducted on the sediments adhering to some handaxes and pollen analyses have revealed residues of acacia wood adhering to the edges of the artifacts.

This is the first significant and well-documented evidence of wood working in the Lower Pleistocene.

Peninj-ST site complex.
Hierarchical centripetal bifacial cores

Peninj-ST site complex.
Light duty scrapers



G. Ll. Isaac 1965, The stratigraphy of the Peninj Group and the provenance of the Natron Australopithecine mandible, Quaternaria, 7, pp. 101-130.

G. Ll. Isaac 1967, The stratigraphy of the Peninj Group: Early Middle Pleistocene Formations West of Lake Natron, Tanzania, in W.W. Bishop, J. D. Clark (eds), Background to Evolution in Africa, Chicago University Press, pp. 229-257.

M. Dominguez-Rodrigo, J.A. López-Saez, J. A. Vincens, A. Alcalá, L. Luque, J. Serralonga 2001, Fossil pollen from the Upper Humbu Formation of Peninj (Tanzania): hominid adaptation to a dry open Plio-Pleistocene savannah environment, Journal of Human Evolution, 40, pp. 151-157.

R. Mora, M. Dominguez-Rodrigo, O. de la Torre, L. Luque, L. Alcalá 2003, The Archaeology of the Peninj “ST Complex” (Lake Natron, Tanzania), in Jorge Martinez, Rafael Mora, Ignacio de la Torre (eds), Rather more than smashing stones, First Hominid Technology Workshop, Barcelona, pp. 77-116.

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