Category Archives: ETHIOPIA

The Discovery of the Ancient ‘City of Giants’ in Ethiopia Could Rewrite Human History

The Discovery of the Ancient ‘City of Giants’ in Ethiopia Could Rewrite Human History

In 2017, a group of archaeologists and researchers discovered a long-forgotten city in eastern Ethiopia’s Harlaa region. It’s known as the ancient ‘City of Giants,’ which was built around the 10th century BC.

The discovery was made by an international team of archaeologists, including researchers from the University of Exeter and the Ethiopian Cultural Heritage Research and Conservation Authority.

Gigantic cities built and inhabited by giants are the subject of several stories and folklore. The traditions of several societies that were separated by great oceans all indicated that there were giants who lived on Earth, and numerous megalithic structures from different periods of history also suggest their existence.

According to Mesoamerican mythology, the Quinametzin were a race of giants tasked with erecting the mythological metropolis of Teotihuacán, which was built by the gods of the sun.

A variation on this theme can be found all over the world: huge cities, monuments, and massive structures that were impossible for normal people to construct at the time they were built, thanks to advances in science.

In this part of Ethiopia, that is exactly what happens. According to current residents, enormous buildings constructed of massive blocks encircled the site of Harlaa, giving rise to the popular belief that it was once home to a legendary “City of Giants.”

Locals have uncovered coins from various countries, as well as ancient ceramics, over the course of the years, they say. Also discovered were enormous building stones that could not be moved by people without the aid of modern machines.

The settlement, located near Ethiopia’s second largest city of Dire Dawa, in the east of the country, consisted of buildings constructed with large stone blocks, which gave rise to a legend that once giants lived there

The fact that these structures were constructed by regular humans was thought to be impossible for a long time as a result of these factors. Several notable finds were made as a result of the excavation of the archaic town.

The Lost City in Harlaa

The specialists were taken aback when they discovered antiquities from faraway regions in a surprising find. Objects from Egypt, India, and China were discovered by specialists, proving the region’s commercial capability.

A mosque from the 12th century, similar to those discovered in Tanzania, as well as an independent territory of Somaliland, a region that is still not officially recognized as a country, were also discovered by the researchers.

The discovery, according to archaeologists, demonstrates that there were historical linkages between different Islamic communities in Africa throughout that time period, and

Archeologist Timothy Insoll, a professor at the University of Exeter, who led the research said: “This discovery revolutionizes our understanding of trade in an archaeologically neglected part of Ethiopia.

What we have found shows this area was the center of trade in that region. The city was a rich, cosmopolitan center for jewelry making and pieces were then taken to be sold around the region and beyond.

Residents of Harlaa were a mixed community of foreigners and local people who traded with others in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and possibly as far away as the Arabian Gulf.”

A City of Giants?

Residents of the Harlaa region believe that it could only have been erected by giants, according to their beliefs. Their reasoning is that the size of the stone blocks used to construct these structures could only be carried by enormous giants. It was also obvious that these were not ordinary people because of the enormous size of the buildings, as well.

Following an analysis of more than three hundred corpses discovered in the local cemetery, archaeologists discovered that the inhabitants were of middling stature, and hence were not considered giants.

Young adults and teenagers were buried in the tombs discovered, according to Insoll, who is also in charge of supervising the archaeologists working on the dig. For the time period, they were all of the ordinary height.

While acknowledging the data provided by the specialists, the indigenous people maintain that they are not convinced by their findings and maintain that only giants were capable of constructing these monumental structures. It is not the first time that modern science has dismissed a legend that has existed for hundreds of years as a mere piece of folklore.

What is it about the inhabitants that makes them so certain that the giants were responsible for the construction of the Harlaa structures? During these years, did they make any observations? It’s not like they’d have any motive to fabricate or lie about anything like that.

Despite the fact that the tombs do not provide evidence of the existence of giants, this does not rule out the possibility that the giants were involved in the building of the site.

Many believe that these beings were not buried in the same location because they are considered to be large and powerful entities. Others disagree.

More than 230,000 Years Ago, The Earliest Human Remains Were Discovered in Eastern Africa

More than 230,000 Years Ago, The Earliest Human Remains Were Discovered in Eastern Africa

Ancient human fossils discovered in Ethiopia are much older than previously thought, experts claim, saying they could be as much as 230,000 years old.

The remains – known as Omo I – were discovered in Ethiopia in the late 1960s, and are one of the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens fossils, with earlier attempts to date them placing them at just under 200,000 years old.

However, a new study by the University of Cambridge found that the remains have to pre-date a colossal volcanic eruption in the area, which happened 230,000 years ago. 

To make the discovery the team dated the chemical fingerprints of volcanic ash layers, found above and below the sediment where the fossils were discovered. 

The Omo Kibish Formation in southwestern Ethiopia, within the East African Rift valley. The oldest human remains in east Africa date back at least 30,000 years earlier than previously thought to around a quarter of a million years ago
The remains – known as Omo I – were discovered in Ethiopia in the late 1960s, and are one of the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens fossils, with earlier attempts to date them placing them at less than 200,000 years old

The team said that while this pushes the minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa back by 30,000 years, future studies may extend the age even further. 

In 2017, archaeologists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest Homo sapiens fossils — a 300,000-year-old skull at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. 

To date, the volcanic remains, the team collected pumice rock samples from the volcanic deposits and ground them down to sub-millimeter size. Scientists have been trying to precisely date the oldest fossils in eastern Africa, widely recognized as representing our species, Homo sapiens, ever since they were discovered in the 1960s.

Earlier attempts to date them suggested they were less than 200,000 years old.  The Omo I remains were found in the Omo Kibish Formation in southwestern Ethiopia, which sits within the East African Rift valley.  The region is an area of high volcanic activity and a rich source of early human remains and artifacts.

The team said that while this pushes the minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa back by 30,000 years, future studies may extend the age even further

By dating layers of volcanic ash above and below where fossil materials are found, scientists identified Omo I as one of the earliest examples of our species ever found.

‘Using these methods, the generally accepted age of the Omo fossils is under 200,000 years, but there’s been a lot of uncertainty around this date,’ said Dr. Céline Vidal from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, the paper’s lead author. 

‘The fossils were found in a sequence, below a thick layer of volcanic ash that nobody had managed to date because the ash is too fine-grained.’

To date the volcanic remains, the team collected pumice rock samples from the volcanic deposits and ground them down to sub-millimeter size

The four-year project, led by British volcanologist Professor Clive Oppenheimer. is attempting to date all major volcanic eruptions in the Ethiopian Rift. Each eruption has its own fingerprint – its own evolutionary story below the surface, which is determined by the pathway the magma followed,’ said Dr. Vidal. 

‘Once you’ve crushed the rock, you free the minerals within, and then you can date them, and identify the chemical signature of the volcanic glass that holds the minerals together.’

The researchers carried out a geochemical analysis on the crushed rock to link the fingerprint of the volcanic ash, from the Kamoya Hominin Site, with an eruption of the Shala volcano. 

The team then dated pumice samples from the volcano, 250 miles from the site the human remains were discovered, to 230,000 years ago.  Since the Omo I fossils were found deeper than this particular ash layer, they must be more than 230,000 years old, the team explained.

‘First I found there was a geochemical match, but we didn’t have the age of the Shala eruption,’ said Vidal.

‘I immediately sent the samples of Shala volcano to our colleagues in Glasgow so they could measure the age of the rocks. 

Scientists have been trying to precisely date the oldest fossils in eastern Africa widely recognised as representing our species, Homo sapiens, ever since they were discovered in the 1960s

When I received the results and found out that the oldest Homo sapiens from the region were older than previously assumed, I was really excited. Professor Asfawossen Asrat, a co-author of the study from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said: ‘The Omo Kibish Formation is an extensive sedimentary deposit which has been barely accessed and investigated in the past.

Our closer look into the stratigraphy of the Omo Kibish Formation, particularly the ash layers, allowed us to push the age of the oldest Homo sapiens in the region to at least 230,000 years.

Unlike other Middle Pleistocene fossils which are thought to belong to the early stages of the Homo sapiens lineage, Omo I possesses unequivocal modern human characteristics, according to co-author Dr. Aurélien Mounier, from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

He gave the example of a ‘tall and globular cranial vault and a chin’, before claiming that the new date estimate made the remains ‘the oldest unchallenged Homo sapiens in Africa.

Until the Jebel Irhous discovery four years ago, most researchers believed that all humans living today descended from a population that lived in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. 

‘We can only date humanity based on the fossils that we have, so it’s impossible to say that this is the definitive age of our species,’ said Vidal.  The study of human evolution is always in motion: boundaries and timelines change as our understanding improves. 

But these fossils show just how resilient humans are: that we survived, thrived and migrated in an area that was so prone to natural disasters. It’s probably no coincidence that our earliest ancestors lived in such a geologically active rift valley – it collected rainfall in lakes, providing fresh water and attracting animals, and served as a natural migration corridor stretching thousands of kilometres,’ said Oppenheimer. 

The Omo I remains were found in the Omo Kibish Formation in southwestern Ethiopia, which sits within the East African Rift valley

The volcanoes provided fantastic materials to make stone tools and from time to time we had to develop our cognitive skills when large eruptions transformed the landscape.

Our forensic approach provides a new minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, but the challenge still remains to provide a cap, a maximum age, for their emergence, which is widely believed to have taken place in this region,’ said co-author Professor Christine Lane, head of the Cambridge Tephra Laboratory. 

It’s possible that new finds and new studies may extend the age of our species even further back in time. There are many other ash layers we are trying to correlate with eruptions of the Ethiopian Rift and ash deposits from other sedimentary formations,’ said Vidal. ‘In time, we hope to better constrain the age of other fossils in the region.’

A 3.8-million-year-old skull reveals the face of Lucy’s possible ancestors

A 3.8-million-year-old skull reveals the face of Lucy’s possible ancestors

The cranium of a male Australopithecus anamensis, a close relative of Lucy, provides clues about one of the earliest hominins to walk on two legs

The remarkably complete skull of a human ancestor of the genus Australopithecus fills in some of the gaps in the human evolutionary tree.

Spotting the intact Australopithecus skull in the Ethiopian dirt caused paleoanthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie to literally jump for joy. “It was something that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of cranial fossils,” he says.

The chance discovery by Haile-Selassie and an Ethiopian shepherd has created a captivating portrait of 3.8-million-year-old face, providing an unprecedented look at a hominin species from a key stage of human evolution. Experts say the extraordinary fossil can help redefine the branches of humans’ evolutionary tree during a time when our ancestors had just evolved efficient ways to walk upright.

“This cranium looks set to become another celebrated icon of human evolution,” Fred Spoor, a human evolution researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, writes in a News & Views article that accompanied Haile-Selassie and colleagues’ new study in the journal Nature.

The amazingly complete skull surfaced at Woranso-Mille, in Ethiopia’s Afar region, back in 2022. But it has taken 3 and a half years of hard work to answer the first question that arose—just what kind of skull is it?

Composite image of human hands holding “MRD” by Jennifer Taylor.

Haile-Selassie and colleagues compared the skull (dubbed MRD after part of its collection ID number) with a wide variety of hominin fossils from across Africa. They sized up different morphological features to see what species the cranium represents and where it fits in the interconnected lineages of our family tree. The results identify the skull as belonging to a male Australopithecus anamensis. The hominin species is theorized to have vanished a bit earlier than 3.8 million years ago after giving rise to a later lineage, Australopithecus afarensis, to which the famed fossil Lucy belongs. A. anamensis has traits of both apes (climbing arms and wrists) and humans (changes in the ankles and knee joints to facilitate walking on two feet).

Most previous fossil specimens of A. anamensis are limited to small bits of bone, such as a tooth, partial jaw, or fragment of arm or shin. The opportunity to study a nearly complete braincase and face confirms the “southern ape” as a unique species and shines light on the differences between two of our most ancient hominin ancestors, A. anamensis and A. afarensis.

“Most of A. anamensis’ own traits are quite primitive,” Haile-Selassie says, noting the individual’s small brain, protruding face and large canine teeth. “There are a few features exclusively shared with A. afarensis, like the orbital region in the frontal area. But everything else is really primitive. If you look at it from the back, it looks like an ape. This is something that I never expected to see in a species that is hypothesized to be the ancestor of A. afarensis. So it changed the whole gamut of ideas in terms of the relationship between those two.”

The skull also casts doubt on prevailing ideas that the older lineage directly gave rise to the younger, instead suggesting that the two lived together, coexisting for at least 100,000 years. But the study authors stress that it’s still quite possible that early populations of A. anamensis gave rise to A. afarensis perhaps 4 million years ago—they just didn’t die out immediately afterwards.

“Probably a small population of A. anamensis isolated itself from the main population, underwent major changes, and over time distinguished itself from the parent species of A. anamensis. That’s probably how A. afarensis appeared,” Haile-Selassie says.

A reconstruction of the facial morphology of the 3.8 million-year-old ‘MRD’ specimen of Australopithecus anamensis

The research team argues that the relationship between the two ancient hominin species, believed to be ancestors to our own genus Homo, may be a prime example of a nonlinear evolutionary scenario common in other non-human species. Anagenesis, when one species evolves so completely into another species that the progenitor disappears, is not the primary way the branches on our family tree diverged.

“Just because one species gave rise to another, it doesn’t mean that the source species (ancestor) disappeared,” Rick Potts, head of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program who was not involved in the new study, says via email from a dig in Kenya. “We’ve known for some time that the human family tree is branching and diverse, like the evolutionary trees of almost all other species. The new cranium is significant because it illustrates this pattern of biodiversity in a poorly known period of hominin evolution, just as our ancestors evolved a stronger and stronger commitment to walking on two legs.”

Paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey and colleagues reported in 1995 that A. anamensis was the first known species to evolve an expanded knee joint that allowed each of its legs to briefly bear all of its body weight during bipedal walking. Bipedalism set our ancestors apart from the apes, enabling ancient hominins to take advantage of a wider range of habitats than those available to tree climbers.

A second, related study helped to more precisely date the cranium fossil by investigating minerals and volcanic layers where it was found. The work also helped describe the long-vanished world in which A. anamensis and his kin lived.

The 3.8 million-year-old cranium of the ‘MRD’ specimen of Australopithecus anamensis.

The skull was buried in sand that was deposited in a river delta on the shores of an ancient lake. The sediment deposits also held botanical remains, revealing that the environment around the ancient lake was predominantly dry shrubland, but there was a mixture of other local ecosystems as well.

“There were forests around the shores of the lake and along the river that flowed into it, but the surrounding area was dry with few trees,” Beverly Saylor, a geologist at Case Western Reserve University and lead author of the second study, said at a press conference. The evidence suggests that, like contemporaries from other sites, the male hominin likely dined on a tough, ape-like diet of seeds, grasses and similar fare.

Haile-Selassie and colleagues have been working in the area of Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia, for 15 years. When a local shepherd showed up in camp to announce the find of some intriguing fossils, Haile-Selassie was skeptical, especially because locals had often dragged him to visit supposed fossil sites simply because they needed a ride somewhere. He asked Habib Wogris, the local chief who organizes fieldwork in the region each year, to take an hour-long walk with the shepherd to visit the site of his find.

“The chief has seen a lot of teeth of hominins from the site and he realized that this tooth looked like a hominin tooth,” Haile-Selassie says. “As soon as he returned and opened his hand and I saw the tooth, I said, ‘Where did you find it?’ They said, ‘let’s go and we’ll show you.’”

The fossil site was in the region’s high ground, where the shepherd had moved his flock to escape seasonal flooding in lower areas. “He’s been living there like three months with his goats, and he saw the fossil when he was digging a hole for his newborn goats to make a protection for them from jackals and hyenas,” Haile-Selassie says.

Yohannes Haile-Selassiewith “MRD” cranium.

On site, the shepherd showed him where the tooth had been lying, and Haile-Selassie surveyed the surroundings looking for other fragments.

“Three meters from where I was standing there was this round thing, just like a rock, and I said oh my goodness,” Haile-Selassie’s recalls. His reaction, literally jumping up and down with excitement, made the shepherd remark that the doctor had gone crazy. “I speak their language, and I said no the doctor is not going crazy. He’s just excited,” Haile-Selassie laughs.

With the rare fossil’s formal unveiling today, the excitement of the initial find three years ago has spread throughout the community of scientists looking to put a human, or hominin, face on our distant ancestors.