This is an international project on the behavioral variability of Homo erectus which is being undertaken in the archaeological department of Melka Kunture and Balchit (MKB), located in the western area of the Great Rift Valley
50 km south of the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Abeba, at a height of over 2,000 m, is the archaeological area of Melka Kunture and Balchit (MKB), one of the greatest concentrations of Pleistocene deposits in all of Africa, where the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) is co-directing an international project called “Behavioral variability of the Homo erectus during the Early Pleistocene in the Ethiopian Plateau at Melka Kunture” which is funded by the Fundación PALARQ.
Over more than 50 years at MKB, 70 archaeological sites have been identified, dating between 1.8 million and 10,000 years. All of the Pleistocene periods of the African archaeological record are represented: Oldowan from 1.8 million years, early Acheulean from 1.6 million years, Middle Stone Age from approximately 200,000 years, and Late Stone Age.
For the first time in Ethiopia, traces of animals and hominins from over 850,000 years ago have been found
From the paleoanthropological perspective, the remains of a child’s hemimandibular bone and a fragment of humerus from Homo erectus, two fragments of skull from Homo Heidelbergensis and cranial remains from archaic Homo sapiens. Also, for the first time in Ethiopia, traces of animals and hominins from over 850,000 years ago have been found.
Long research trajectory
MKB, located in the western area of the Great Rift Valley, at the top of the Awash river valley, holds a long research trajectory. The French Mission directed by Jean Chavaillon (CNRS) was the longest in duration (1965-1982 and 1993-1995). Between 1999 and 2010 Marcello Piperno (Sapienza-Università di Roma, Italy) led an Italian Mission, which has been directed by Margherita Mussi since 2010 (Sapienza-Università di Roma).
In 2017, Joaquín Panera (CENIEH) and Eduardo Méndez-Quintas (Universidad de Vigo) joined the research team directed by Margherita Mussi, and started to co-direct in 2019 a new phase at MKB, called “Italo-Spanish Archaeological Mission”, which included participation by the researchers Susana Rubio-Jara (CENIEH) and Andrea Serodio-Domínguez (Data Gestión Cultural S.L.).