The CENIEH in Ethiopia with the Gona Palaeoanthropological Research Project
The annual field investigations by the Gona Project, directed by Dr. Sileshi Semaw, senior research scientist at CENIEH, have continued this year in the region of Afar, Ethiopia, involving archaeological survey of the deposits estimated between 2.2-1.5 million years ago (Ma); paleontological survey of the Early Pliocene deposits in the Gona Western Margin, and geological studies and sampling for resolving the age of important archaeological and hominid sites.
The archaeology team led by Dr. Michael Rogers, from Southern Connecticut University, has documented numerous archaeological sites (estimated between 2.0-1.6 Ma) in the Ounda Gona North (OGN), Ounda Gona South (OGS), and Busidima North (BSN) areas. Survey of the sites yielded Oldowan and Early Acheulian stone artifacts, most associated with well-preserved and identifiable fauna. The team also has collected freshly eroded surface artifacts from previously excavated 2.6-2.0 Ma sites at East Gona (EG), Dana Aoule North (DAN-1 and DAN-2) and BSN areas. In addition, a Middle Stone Age site previously discovered at Yaa’lu South (YAS-1) has been excavated yielding several stone artifacts including blades, projectile points and débitage.
The geology team, led by Naomi Levin, Gona Project geologist, from the Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Daniel Pepe, a specialist on paleomagnetism from the Baylor University, has conducted surveys at all of the archaeological sites documented this year, and in the Gona Western Margin, where numerous hominids assigned to Ardipithecus ramidus and dated to 4.5 Ma were discovered. The geology team has collected paleomagnetic and volcanic ashes for dating the sites, and soils for sedimentary analyses as well as for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. The samples have been exported to the United States for further laboratory analyses.
Dr. Scott Simpson, Gona Project paleontologist, from Case Western University, has undertook focused survey and excavations in the Pliocene deposits. The team has discovered a beautifully preserved hominid mandible and numerous hominid teeth from a number of new and previously known sites. In addition, hundreds of well-preserved and identifiable fossil faunas have been collected.
The archaeological and paleontological materials and the hominids discovered this year have been catalogued, labeled, properly curated, and transferred to the appropriate official of the National Museum of Ethiopia. During the coming summer, members of the Gona research team will travel to the National Museum of Ethiopia to study the materials.
The 2012 Gona field research has been funded by the Leakey Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Dr. Semaw has already secured funding from the EU Marie Curie Grant for the coming several field seasons, and Dr. Mathieu Duval, from CENIEH will be travelling to Ethiopia in 2013 to apply new dating techniques for determining the age of the archaeological sites discovered during this and previous field seasons.
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