Lesson 2: Africa Geologic History and Paleontology


This lesson will take you back in time - geologic time, that is! You will learn how the physical Earth has changed through the process of plate tectonics and how volcanoes and earthquakes have shaped the landscape. Be prepared to explore the different types of dating techniques that give us the scale we need to set dates to geologic events. The process of fossilization and how we learn from fossils is an important part of this unit, as well as the discussion on early hominids.

Learning Objectives

By the end of Lesson 2, successful students will be able to:

  • Understand the relationship between plate tectonics and volcanic/seismic activity.
  • Recognize and explain three types of movement that occur at plate boundaries.
  • Describe the proportion of time that humans have existed in relation to geologic time
  • Explain different methods of geologic dating including the following:
    • Understand when to use each method of dating
    • Calculate percent of radioactive parent isotopes remaining after a half-life
    • Be able to identify a half-life from a growth curve
    • Identify the steps necessary for the isochron method
  • Describe the continental activities in Africa through geological time.
  • Explain how evidence in Africa Rift helped in understanding human origins.
  • Explain why some organisms are fossilized while most are not

Reading Assignment


The following item is due by the end of this lesson (see the Calendar tab in ANGEL for specific due date). Detailed information about the assignment and submission directions are included in this lesson.

  • Assignment and Discussion Forum Posting (graded as Discussion Forum): Virtual Dating Lab
  • Topic-Specific Assignment: The Dating Game
  • Discussion Forum Posting : Dinosaur Hunting in Africa


If you have any questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them to the Lesson 2 Discussion Forum. (That discussion forum can be accessed at any time by clicking on the Communicate tab in ANGEL, above, and then looking in the Discussion Forums section.)