Most Ethiopian fossil remain sites are located in the rift valley. The East African Rift Valley seems to have been the home of human evolution. Rich archeological evidences were found in the Awash and Omo valleys in Ethiopia.

The Omo paleoanthropological site
The Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia is momentarily the scene of vast paleo-anthropological research – the area is thought to be rich with animal- and human fossils. This site is located in southern Ethiopia along the Omo River. It was discovered in 1903 by a French Expedition led by Bourg de Bozas. The Omo sites are dated to be between 4 million and 100,000 years old. Four major geological formations are recorded here.

Among these, the most important Fossil and artifact bearing sites are the Shungura and Kibish. Australopithecus afaransis, Australopithecus aethiopicus, Australopithecus boisis, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and archaic Homo sapiens are found from these sites. Archeological materials from shungura formation are dated to 2.3 million years and this makes the Omo site the second oldest site of archaeological occurrence next to Gona, in the Afar. (Yonas, 2005)

The Fijej paleoanthropological site
The fejej paleoanthropological site is located in southern Ethiopia, in the Omo basin. The site was discovered in 1988. It is dated to be between 4.2 million years and late Stone Age. The fejej site is known for its site which shows the life ways of early Homo around 2 million years ago. Hominid remains attributed to Australopithecus afaransis, Homo habilis and Australopithecus boisis were recovered. New discoveries from this site await further investigations. (Yonas, 2005)

The Middle Awash paleoanthropological site
The Middle Awash site is located on both sides of the Awash River between Gewane town in the south and the messelu / Tallalak Rivers in the north. The site was first recorded by Maurice Taieb in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The most important hominid discoveries include: Ardipithecus Kadabba, Ardipithecus ramidus, Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus garhi, Homo erectus and Homo Sapiens Idaltu.

The Hadar paleoanthropological site
Like the Middle Awash site, Hadar site was first reported by the French Geologist Maurice Taieb in the beginning of the 1970’s. The site is located in the afar region. The Hadar site has produced many hominids include: Australopithecus afarensis and Homo Habilis. The most important specimens are Lucy and Selam. The site is inscribed in the world heritage site list on September 1980 as a part of lower Awash. (ali, 2004)

The Gona paleoanthropological site
The Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project (GPRP) study area is located in the west-central Afar region of Ethiopia and it encompasses more than 500 km2 area with artefact- and fossil-rich Plio- Pleistocene sediments. The study area is bounded to the east by the Hadar study area, to the north by the Mile-Bati Road, to the south by the Asbole River and to the west by the Western Ethiopian Escarpment. The major rivers within the study area, including the Kada Gona, the Ounda Gona, the Busidima and the Asbole, and associated small feeding streams, drain the surrounding areas flowing seasonally into the Awash River. (Semaw, 2000)

The importance of the gona site for its archaeological materials was recognized since mid 1970’s. Recent research in the site has resulted in the discovery of older hominids named Ardipithecus ramidus already known from the Middle Awash sites further south in the same geographical region. (Yonas, 2005)

The Melka-kunture paleoanthropological site
It is located about 60 Kms south of Addis Ababa, along the Awash River, near the Melka-kunture town. The site was first discovered in 1963. Hominid remains belonging to the genus Homo were also recovered.

The Konso paleoanthropological site
The Konso paleoanthropological site was discovered in 1991. This site is located in the southern part of Ethiopia, 595 Kms south of Addis Ababa, south of Lake Chamo, around the Konso village. Hominid remains attributed to Australopithecus boisis and Homo erectus are recovered from this site. (Yonas, 2005)

The Dikika and Busidima paleoanthropological site
It is located on both sides of the Awash River south of the Hadar and the Gona sites and the north of the Middle Awash Research area. The site was first reported along with the Hadar and the Middle Awash sites in early 1970’s. The site has produced many important hominid remains attributed to Australopithecus afaransis.

The Gaili paleoanthropological site
The Gaili paleoanthropological site is located to the east of the Gadamytu town along the Addis Ababa – Gawane road. Hominid fossils discovered from this site include Australopithecus afaransis and Australopithecus anamesis. (Yonas, 2005)

The Kessem – Kebena paleoanthropological site
The Kessem – Kebena paleoanthropological site was discovered in 1988. The site is located between the kessem and the kebena Rivers to the west and north of the Yalow village. (Yonas, 2005)

The Gadamota Archaeological site
The Gadamota Archaeological site is located about 165 Kms south of Addis Ababa near Zuway town. (Teklie, class room lecture)

Ethiopia’s Paleoanthroplogical Evidences
It is important to realize that in eastern Africa, especially in Ethiopia the majority of the fossil discoveries have been made within recent years. Study of many is as yet at a preliminary stage, and there is often considerable controversy about their attribution to named species and, on occasion, their dating. Likewise, new finds are steadily being announced; these may require the modification or abandonment of existing theories. The following paleoanthroplogical evidences are discovered in the abovementioned paleoanthropological sites of Ethiopia.

Ardipithecus ramidus
It is older than Lucy by more than one million years ago! The oldest hominid fossils found so far, Ardipithecus ramidus, have been dated at 5.8 million years old. The fossils of these individuals, who lived in Ethiopia, show that the skull was balanced at the top of the skeleton for walking erect. Meanwhile, other animal fossils found nearby indicate that A. ramidus definitely lived in the forest. If careful studies of the A. ramidus bones show that it really did walk upright, the savanna hypothesis will be disproved.

It is well-known from Aramis in the middle Awash study area and Gona, Afar rift, Ethiopia. The meaning of Ardipithecus ramidus is “root of the ground ape,” after the Afar words ‘Ardi’ (ground) and ‘ramid’ (roots). The earliest known hominid was a small creature, which stood upright, with thin enameled teeth and a skull closer to those of apes, suggesting close links with ancestral chimpanzees. Ardipithecus ramidus is known from relatively high altitude, closed-canopy woodlands of Ethiopia. Ardipithecus ramidus apparently lived in more wooded terrain than many of its successors and must lie close to the first hominids to diverge from the African apes. (Caption, national museum)

A site beside the Aramis tributary of the Middle Awash River in Ethiopia has yielded a partial hominid skeleton plus fragments of several other individuals, all now attributed to Ardipithecus ramidus and dated to about 4.4 million years ago (White et al. 1994).

Ardipithecus Kadaba
Paleoanthropologists working in the Middle Awash Valley of the Afar region, Ethiopia, have recovered more fossils of an early hominid known as Ardipithecus Kadaba. The species name comes from the afar word “Kadaba” which means “big father” or “basal family member”. (Caption on national museum display) The fossils date to between 5.54 and 5.77 million years ago. The primitive teeth show that Ardipithecus Kadaba was the earliest specious of its genus, and may represent the first species on the human branch of the family tree just after the evolutionary split between lines leading to modern chimpanzees and humans. (caption national museum)

Ardipithecus Kadaba was first named in 2001 as a chronologically older species of Ardipithecus ramidus. The younger sub species had already been named by the Middle Awash team in 1994 and dated to 4.4 million years old. According to Haile Selasie now elevate the subspecies kadabba is now the earliest, most primitive species of Ardipithecus.

Ardipithecus Kadaba predates the younger “Lucy” skeleton by about 2.5 million years. The more evolved 4.4 million years, named Australopihecus anamensis, appear to be the direct ancestors of Australopithecus afaransis, the “Lucy” species.

Australopithecus anamensis
It is known in Ethiopia from Aramis and Assa Issie, middle Awash study area, Afar rift. Australopithecus anamensis was first announced and named in 1995 with Kenya fossils and are considered the earliest species of Australopithecus. The Aramis and Assa Issie fossils were found in 1994 and between 2000 and 2005, respectively. These fossils confirm that the earliest known species of Australopithecus lived in Ethiopia in the same general area as did Ardipithecus ramidus, but at slightly younger age. (National Museum, display)

Australopithecus anamensis (anam in is “lake” in turkana) is a name given to complete upper and lower hominid jaws, some teeth, and limb fragments of almost eighty individuals. A.anamensis is intermediate in time between Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus afarensis, and is morphologically distinct from both in several ways. The new genus and species Ardipithecus ramidus was named for fossils from horizons at Aramis in Ethiopia that have been securely dated by single-crystal 40Ar/39Ar laser fusion dating to just less than 4.4 mya.

Australopithecus afarensis
Australopithecus afarensis is much more comprehensively represented by fossils dating between 3.6 and 3.0 million years ago. Here, it is appropriate to note that A. afarensis was a relatively lightly built or gracile species showing several features, principally in the teeth and face, which distinguish it from later australopithecines (Johanson and White 1979).

Australopithecus afarensis is an early species of Australopithecus from which the later species evolved. Many of the best and the most abundant fossils of this species have been discovered at Hadar, Afar rift. Two major fossil evidences that are discovered here as follows.

Lucy
Australopithecus afarensis is best known from the Hadar region of Ethiopia. The first and best known Australopithecus afarensis discovered on November 30, 1974 in the world was the fossil known as Lucy, found in the Hadar Valley and described by Donald Johansen, Tim White and Yves Coppens. Fragments of 13 hominins were discovered at Hadar including children.
Later on the night of November 30th there was much celebration and excitement over the discovery of what appeared to be a fairly complete hominid skeleton. There was drinking, dancing and singing; the Beatles’ song “Lucy in sky with diamonds” was playing over and over. As a result, the name is stuck from the song. It displays considerable difference in size. Some individuals stood 1.5 m (5 feet) tall and probably weighted approximately 68 KG. (kirs, 2007)

Selam
Selam is the name of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis found in an area called Dikidik Ethiopia's Afar triangle. The first reports were in Nature on September 21, 2006 by a team led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Selam means peace in several Ethiopian languages. She represents the earliest and most complete skeleton of a child human ancestor ever discovered in the history of paleoanthropology. She was about three years old when she died and belongs to the ancient species Australopithecus afarensis. She lived and died 3.3 million years ago; i.e. 150, 000 years before “Lucy”.

Selam, sometimes known as the Dikika baby, is the most complete fossil of a juvenile Australopithecus found to date. The find included most of the skull, shoulders, part of the vertebral column, parts of both knees and legs, parts of the right arm, and several ribs.
Selam is a girl estimated at about 3 years old based on comparisons with modern chimpanzee growth rates. She was found in 2001 in the Rift Valley south of the Awash River, and recovered from the bed of an ancient shallow, slow moving channel that filled about 3.4 million years ago. Researchers believe the Dikika Infant was likely accidentally buried in the channel as an intact corpse.

Kadmu
Kadmu was found in mudstone at the base of an exposure of Upward-coarsening clay stone, siltstone, and sandstone. The first element, a proximal ulna, was found by Alemayehu Asfaw on February 10, 2005, from Korsi Dora vertebrate locality kadmu in\ the Woranso-Mille paleontological study area of the Afar region, Ethiopia. However, the specimen’s specific locality, kadmu, is isolated from known stratigraphy by a normal fault trending northwest–southeast. Fortunately, it has been possible, through radiometric dating and pale magnetic reversal stratigraphy, to constrain the age of this isolated block to ca. 3.60–3.58 Ma. (Haile-Selassie, 2010)

Australopithecus aethiopicus
It is known from Kenya and Ethiopia, Australopithecus aethiopicus is the basal species of “robust” Australopithecus thought to have evolved from Australopithecus Afarensis, and later became the more specialized Australopithecus boisie. The species name shares with the other “robust” Australopithecus species large molars and premolars and large chewing muscles constructed to produce strong vertical forces. They probably crushed and ground, hard and tough food items at times of increasingly dry and seasonal environmental conditions. (Caption, national museum)

Australopithecus Garhi
Between 1996 and 1998 archiologist Giday WoldeGabriel and his collegues discovered Australopithecus Garhi in the Afar region dating around 2.5 million years old. Similarly the Bouri area of the Middle Awash Basin has yielded remains of an australopithecine, designated A. garhi and dated around 2.5 million years ago, which, it has been suggested, shows features transitional to those of Homo (Asfaw et al. 1999; de Heinzelin et al. 1999).

Australopithecus Garhi (Garhi means “surprise” in the local dialect), stood at about 1.46 m (4 feet 10 inches) tall and had protruding features, not unlike those of a chimpanzee. The lower molars are three times the size of those of modern humans, the canines almost as large. Australopithecus Garhi’s brain was only a third the size of that of a modern human. The legs are long and human like, while the arms are long and more like an ape’s. (Caption, national museum)

Australopithecus Garhi is a remarkable find and will renew debate over the identity of the very first human tool maker. That this hominid was eating meat suggests that a switch to a high energy, high fat meat diet was under way. This, in turn, may have led to an increase in brain size among some hominids, which occurred only a few hundred thousand years later.

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