A recent find of Australopithecus anamensis is dated to about 4.2 million years ago, which separates it only 200 thousand years from an earlier fossil of the more primitive Ardipithecus ramidus (at 4.4 million years ago). Australopithecus garhi fossils are dated as recent as the very early Pleistocene, or 2.5 mya; fossils of Homo erectus in the Daka member at the site (at 1 mya) and Homo sapiens idaltu (at 160 ka ago) are found in the middle and late Pleistocene. And patches of fire-baked clay, disputed as evidences of the controlled use of fire, are also found in that later period.
Sediments at the site were originally deposited in lakes or rivers, and carbonates found there contain low carbon isotope ratios. This information suggests that the environment of the Middle Awash was wet during the late Miocene, and that this currently arid region was occupied then by woodland or grassy woodland habitats. Fossil remains of other vertebrates found with the hominins, including the cane rat, further suggest such an environment. The region was the site of periodic volcanism, which probably created distinct ecological regions inhabited by different species of vertebrate animals.