This bleak landscape is the focus of the Dikika Research Project (DRP): a hill slope in the Andedo drainage of the Lower Awash Valley in the Afar region of northwestern Ethiopia. Here, stone tools and other artifacts including the bones of the early hominid Australopithecus afarensis have been found dated to ~3.5 million years old.
The Lower Awash is bordered on the north by the important paleontological regions of Gona and Hadar valleys, and on the south by the Middle Awash valley. The DRP has been studying this piece of lower Awash Valley since 1999. The Dikika Research Project is a international project led by Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences and Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig.
The most famous fossil recovered by the DRP to date is Selam, 60% of a skeleton of a juvenile A. afarensis. Selam, also called the Dikika Baby or "Lucy's sister", was discovered here and reported in 2006. In 2010, the journal Nature reported still more exciting news: the discovery at Dikika that these Australopithecenes were butchering meat.
This photo essay will discuss the findings at the site called DIK-55, and explain why Australopithecenes butchering meat at 3.4 million years ago is so exciting.
Sources and Further Information
- Selam (the "Dikika Baby", A. afarensis discovered by Alemseleged et al.)
- Lucy (A. afarensis discovered by Donald Johansen)
McPherron SP, Alemseged Z, Marean CW, Wynn JG, Reed D, Geraads D, Bobe R, and Bearat HA. 2010. Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 466:857-860.