The valley is home to one of the most important paleontological sites in Africa. The more than 4 million year old finds are an important link in the human family tree. Outstanding are the fossil remains of “Lucy”, an Australopithecus afarensis, discovered in 1974.
Valley on the lower reaches of the Awash River: facts
|Official title:||Valley on the lower reaches of the Awash River|
|Cultural monument:||In the desert-like landscape of the Lower Awash Valley, 3.5 million year old fossilized bone fragments from “Lucy” and another 316 fossils belonging to around 40 human species were found; »Australopithecus afarensis« (»Southern Man of Afar«) as a scientific term for the »human«; Height about 120 cm|
|Country:||Ethiopia, Welo; See itypeusa|
|Location:||Lower Awash Valley, in northeast Ethiopia, near the border with Djibouti|
|Meaning:||one of the most important paleontological sites in Africa and a source for determining human origins|
Valley on the lower reaches of the Awash River: history
|around 3.5 million to 1.7 million years ago||Habitat of humans|
|1974||Find of »Lucy«|
|1977||Cessation of excavations in the course of the Ethiopian civil war after 6000 bones of primeval animals have been secured|
|1992||new scientific digs|
The cradle of humanity
First, US researcher Donald Johanson came across animal fossils during his excavations in the winter of 1974 near the city of Hadar. On that November day, Johanson’s archaeological yield was not limited to the remains of prehistoric elephants: “AL 288-1”, as the location in the hilly steppe landscape near the Afar Depression was soberly scientifically called, contained it in the history of research on most complete surviving remains of a human-like being. With painstaking detailed work, the American-French team succeeded in putting together a good 40 percent of the skeleton. Based on the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, which was heard from all transistor radios at the time, the researchers nicknamed their find “Lucy”. When the age determination was completed,
Classified in the specially created hominid species »Australopithecus afarensis«, Lucy and the other human-like species from the Awash Valley belong to the genus of Australopithecines. The experts today agree that the Australopithecines lived exclusively in Africa. Researcher Mary Leakey was able to prove that her representatives in the southern and eastern parts of the continent were already walking in a human-like manner – albeit probably far less elegantly than Homo sapiens – on two legs: her team was in Laetoli (Tanzania) at a length of 24 meters found a fossilized and 3.5 million year old footprint. Because the excavation sites around Hadar produced the largest collection of Australopithecus fossils to date,
That the soil in this river valley harbors further surprises has become clear since the excavations were resumed at the beginning of the nineties. The fossils uncovered in the village of Aramis in 1993 and attributed to Lucy’s predecessors are around a million years older. They impressively prove that the cradle of mankind was most likely in this part of Africa. Lucy and her companions had rather short arms compared to their long torso and legs. Their muscular hands, which had long fingers, resembled the hands of great apes. This peculiarity suggests that the australopithecines, whose male representatives were significantly larger than the female beings, also lived in trees in certain ape-style situations and needed strong hands. to be able to move safely from branch to branch. Today’s human being is characterized by extreme dexterity, Lucy and her conspecifics who had chimpanzee-like skulls, on the other hand, could neither arch their hands nor bring the tips of their thumbs and forefingers together. Weighing around 400 grams, the australopitecins had a brain as big as today’s chimpanzees. Representatives of both sexes had strongly developed jaws, but their rounded dental arches and smaller canines indicate a higher level of development. Weighing around 400 grams, the australopitecins had a brain as big as today’s chimpanzees. Representatives of both sexes had strongly developed jaws, but their rounded dental arches and smaller canines indicate a higher level of development. Weighing around 400 grams, the australopitecins had a brain as big as today’s chimpanzees. Representatives of both sexes had strongly developed jaws, but their rounded dental arches and smaller canines indicate a higher level of development.
Plant and animal fossils provided the scientists working on site with important knowledge about the prehistoric appearance of the Awash Valley. According to this, tree savannahs shaped this hot and humid habitat, which Lucy and her relatives shared with “hipparions” – small wild horses -, trunk-bearing “dinotheria”, primeval rhinos and tiger-like saber-toothed cats.
If the people resembling themselves wanted to assert themselves there, they inevitably had to develop a faster mode of locomotion: “Bipedality”, as the upright gait without the use of hands is called, plays a key role in evolutionary history. It formed the most important basis for the development of craft activities.