May 2024: Thesis offer

Thesis offer

PhD at the crossroads of geology and paleoanthropology (M/F)

Application Deadline: 14 May 2024

Start date of the thesis: 1 October 2024

Description of the thesis topic

Hominin evolution in the changing landscapes of the East African Rift:

The aim of this interdisciplinary thesis is to explore how the geological and climatic history of the East African Rift has impacted the biological evolution and dispersal patterns of early humans. To do this, it is necessary to consider all the processes that shape the environment: geodynamics, tectonics, volcanism, climate, flora, fauna, etc. Existing data will be supplemented by fieldwork, in order to reconstruct environmental boundary conditions continuously in time and space. These will then be used to model paleoenvironments and landscape evolution. Finally, macro-ecological numerical models will be used to quantify the impact of abiotic forcings on hominin diversification and dispersal between eastern and southern Africa, as well as outside the African continent.


  • Barboni et al., 2019. Springs, palm groves, and the record of early hominins in Africa, Rev. Paleobotany and Palynology.
  • Boës et al., 2024, Aridity, availability of drinking water and freshwater foods, and hominin and archeological sites during the Late Pliocene–Early Pleistocene in the western region of the Turkana Basin (Kenya): A review.
  • Husson et al., 2022, Javanese Homo erectus on the move in SE Asia circa 1.8 Ma, Scientific Reports. Nutz et al., 2020, Plio-Pleistocene sedimentation in West Turkana: Paleolake fluctuations, paleolandscapes and controlling factors, Earth-Science Reviews.
  • Prat, 2017, First hominin settlements out of Africa. Tempo and dispersal mode: Review and perspectives, Comptes Rendus Palevol. – Salles et al., 2024, Physiography, foraging mobility, and the first peopling of Sahul, Nature Communications.
  • Sepulchre et al., Tectonic Uplift and Eastern Africa Aridification, 2006, Science.
  • Stab et al., 2016, Modes of rifting in magma-rich settings: Tectono-magmatic evolution of Central Afar, Tectonics.

Work context

The PhD project, funded by the CNRS 80|PRIME initiative, will be developed as part of a CNRS Inter-Institute collaboration (INSU-INEE) built between ISTerre (Institut des Sciences de la Terre, Grenoble), HNHP (Histoire naturelle de l’Homme préhistorique, Paris), Palevoprim (Paléontologie Evolution Paléoécosystèmes Paléoprimatologie) laboratories, and involving a network of partners (Univ. Sydney, CRPG Nancy, ISTEP Paris, LSCE Saclay, CEREGE Aix-en-Provence).

The PhD student will be based at ISTerre (Grenoble) but will be required to spend time in the partner laboratories. The thesis will be carried out in the Tectonics, Reliefs, Basins team at ISTerre, which is made up of 33 people including 15 permanent researchers and teacher-researchers, post-docs, engineers and 10 PhD students.

The doctoral school will be STEP (Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences).


Great African Rift
Interdisciplinary Group

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