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  • Into the rift: fieldwork in the Afar basin of Ethiopia

The Junior Research Group of the DFG Center for Advanced Studies was established in 2015, with Dr. Yonatan Sahle as its leader. The broad research interest of the working group is anatomical and behavioral evolution across the emergence of Homo sapiens. The group is currently working on later Middle- and Late Pleistocene fossil hominin and archaeological remains from eastern Africa, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The Junior Research Group has two doctoral students. Abel Bosman (M.Sc., University of Leiden) studies Middle-Late Pleistocene hominin remains from several contexts in eastern Africa. Specifically, he employs advanced techniques in virtual anthropology to reconstruct and analyze these fossils. He is currently reconstructing Pleistocene hominin crania from Kenya and Tanzania. Sebastian Scheiffele (M.A., University of Tübingen) studies technological change across the Late Pleistocene of eastern Africa. His research particularly seeks to decipher the cognitive processes associated with early complex technologies, such as complementary toolsets. Currently, he is investigating lithic assemblages from the Late Pleistocene site of Porc-Epic Cave in Ethiopia’s southern Afar Rift.

In addition to current doctoral dissertation projects, the Junior Research Group is actively exploring for new Late Pleistocene paleoanthropological occurrences along the western margin of the Afar Rift, Ethiopia. These multidisciplinary explorations, led by Dr. Yonatan Sahle, involve several collaborators, including the DFG Center’s co-director Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati. Recent explorations in parts of the region of interest have already yielded promising results.

As part of its aim to promote interdisciplinary dialogue, the Junior Research Group organizes bi-weekly colloquia in the Center. The aim of these colloquia is to discuss current research in the four areas represented by the Center, thereby serving as a forum for new research ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations. A typical colloquium involves a talk by researchers based in the Center or invited guests, while published works of interest are also critically discussed.