skull University of Minnesota
Anthropolgy Labs

Rusinga Island, Kenya is the focus of paleontological field research by University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students. On the periphery of an ancient, extinct volcano, Rusinga preserves a vast sample of living organisms that inhabited East African between 20-17 million years ago. Of particular interest are the fossil primates, which include some of the earliest members of the ape-and-human lineage. The goal of our ongoing research is to understand the environmental parameters within which our early ancestors evolved and diversified. To do this, we need to study not only the fossil primates but all of the animal and plant remains with which they are associated, plus the geology and geochemistry of the surrounding strata.

The slideshows below give an overview of the different aspects of the research.

This research is a collaborative effort with the National Museums of Kenya, and includes work on the neighboring Mfangano Island and the mainland site of Karungu. Minnesota faculty member Kieran McNulty co-directs the project with Holly Dunsworth and William Harcourt-Smith, and senior researchers David Fox, Daniel Peppe, Thomas Lehmann, Christian Tryon, Fredrick Manthi, and Julian Ogondo. Minnesota graduate students are also heavily involved in the work, with Kirsten Jenkins studying the site formation processes and Niki Garrett analyzing the soil and tooth geochemistry.

Use the following links to view photographic introductions to the different aspects of our research: