2A Earth Core: The Hominin Project (2017)
An art and science collaboration
that examines climate change and human evolution
This short extract from 2A, a film that sequences hundreds of high-resolution photographs of earth cores extracted from southern Ethiopia into one 24-hour film, takes the viewer into the distant past some 500,000 years ago.
The layers are sedimentary records in Lake Chew Bahir (The Ocean Of Salt) in the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. Different layers have accumulated over time as the lake fluctuated between wet and dry environmental conditions.
The changing composition of the sediments tells us of past climatic environments, of droughts and floods in a varying landscape inhabited by our human ancestors. The film encourages reflection on the extent of time over which our human history has developed and the implicit connection between our existence and a habitable climate.
The film resulted from my art and science collaboration with the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP), an international team of scientists investigating the environmental conditions of early hominin evolution. This rare opportunity to be expedition artist for this project, fulfilled a lifetime ambition to travel and work alongside a team of committed individuals, who were stretching the boundaries of science and knowledge.
An artists map of lake Chew Bahir in Ethiopia made from dried salt.
A high resolution image of a diatom, a microscopic algae present in the sediment. (Image courtesy of the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth)
Earth cores such as these provide a record of Earth history for science to reveal past climatic conditions. These are from east Africa and are from a shorter core, going back some 40,000 years, and were exhibited as science artifacts, enabling the exhibition to be a hybrid space of science and art, gallery and museum, laboratory and studio.
In this work, titled 2B: We Came From this Place (2017) (by collaborators Julian Ruddock, Henry Lamb, Helen Roberts), nine cores extracted from the bottom of drill hole 2B in Chew Bahir were rehydrated, mixed and evaporated at the Department of Geography and Earth Science at Aberystwyth University. The mud, initially laid down approximately 500,000 years ago in the environment where our early ancestors emerged, signifies both our past and our present.