Link: A visit to Ethiopian paleoanthropology

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I’m frankly amazed I didn’t link to this Nautilus article when it came out last year: “Digging Through the World’s Oldest Graveyard”. In it, Amy Maxmen travels to Ethiopia and profiles two paleoanthropologists: Zeresenay Alemseged and Berhane Asfaw. The section on Alemseged’s work spends some time discussing the evidence of early cutmarks at Dikika, Ethiopia, evidence that has attracted many detractors:

Alemseged responded to the criticism by suggesting his colleagues may be fighting to keep their stories intact. “The resistance is not based on scientific grounds,” he said. In the museum facility, his team sorts through piles of rocks and bones collected in Dikika, in search of more evidence. His colleague, William Kimbel, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, who works in the region where Lucy was found, is doing the same. With a cadre of young Ethiopian and international students now trained in the new facility, more paleontologists will be scouring Ethiopia than ever before. “Mark my words, we will find stone tools from 3.4 million years ago,” Alemseged said. “I can’t tell you where exactly they will be, but they will be discovered.”

The section describing Asfaw’s biography and work is especially well done. The post-Derg expedition to map fossil sites down the length of the Ethiopian rift was one of the most significant events in the history of studying human origins, and hasn’t received the attention from historians and biographers that it deserves.

This is a really nice article because it gives the essential background information, some details that don’t appear elsewhere, and gives the scientists space to describe their ideas.