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West Africa's Role in Human Evolution

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - aWARE (West Africa's Role in Human Evolution)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2020-07-31

The pan African model of human evolution proposes that all of the African continent may have played some role in the origin of our species. However investigating this model further is hampered by the fact that currently about 75-80% of the African continent has been barely explored for what it can contribute to the story of human origins. The aWARE project proposed to address this problem and contribute towards understanding the character of our pan African evolution through a fieldwork programme in West Africa, one of the most poorly understood regions of the continent for this field of research. This research is therefore both important scientifically, but also important for society because our shared origins concern all humans.

The overall objectives of the project, therefore, were to first make the pan-African evolution model as explicit as possible in order to test hypotheses through West African fieldwork, generate new data from fieldwork in West Africa, and use these to test the hypotheses posed. In terms of training, my aims were to learn better computational methods of data analysis, in order to better integrate multiple sources of evidence and use a simulation approach to resolve different possible interpretations of the results.
In the six months I spent on the project before terminating it due to the offer of a permanent job, I set up fieldwork agreements with the respective West African countries involved, and set up the project's broader collaborative network for processing analysing the samples that would be generated. I also submitted and published a paper with my collaborators on the broad character of the pan African model of human origins and have submitted another detailing parameters of investigation. Due to the short term of the project, no data has yet been obtained and analysed.
Given the short duration of the project (6 months), it is not possible to describe the projected impacts in full. However, the six months of the project did permit a substantial theoretical and systemic in understanding of the character of pan-African evolution that sets up research directions and questions for many years to come.
PI with collaborators in West Africa