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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 was anatomical and behavioral evolution across the emergence of Homo sapiens. The group worked on later Middle- and Late Pleistocene fossil hominin and archaeological remains from eastern Africa, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The Junior Research Group had two doctoral students. Abel Bosman (M.Sc., University of Leiden) studied Middle-Late Pleistocene hominin remains from several contexts in eastern Africa. Specifically, he employed advanced techniques in virtual anthropology to reconstruct and analyze these fossils. He reconstructed Pleistocene hominin crania from Kenya and Tanzania. Dr. Hila Ashkenazy (Ph.D, University of Jerusalem) examined lithic assemblages from recently excavated cave sites in southeastern Ethiopia.

In addition to doctoral dissertation projects, the Junior Research Group was 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, involved several collaborators, including the DFG Center’s co-director Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati. Explorations in parts of the region of interest yielded promising results.

As part of its aim to promote interdisciplinary dialogue, the Junior Research Group organized bi-weekly colloquia in the Center. The aim of these colloquia was 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 involved a talk by researchers based in the Center or invited guests, while published works of interest were also critically discussed.

 

Group Members

Dr. Yonatan Sahle is a broadly-trained archaeologist. His research interests revolve around understanding behavioral and ecological contexts across the origin of our species; prehistoric hunting technologies; hominin foraging adaptation (esp. carnivory); and ethnographic stone tool use.

Dr. Sahle leads a field project in the Lower Awash Basin (Afar Rift, Ethiopia), where he collaboratively investigates the evolution of hominin paleobiology and adaptive behavior across the later Middle Pleistocene. He has discovered hominids as well as faunal and archaeological assemblages that promise unique insights into the evolutionary contexts of the period. Dr. Sahle is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Human Evolution and was a Research Group Leader at the center.

Abel Bosman trained as an osteoarcheologist at the University of Leiden, Netherlands and is currently a doctoral candidate at the DFG Center. His research interests focus on the application of virtual anthropology in the study of human evolution. As part of this master’s degree, he used geometric morphometrics to analyze differences in mandible form between human populations from Medieval and post-Medieval Netherlands. For his doctoral dissertation, he is reconstructing and analyzing Middle-Late Pleistocene hominin crania. His research interests are in hominin variation, the effect of masticatory stress on the cranium, and the possible influence of language on the anatomical variation of the vocal tract system.

Hila Ashkenazy is an archaeologist with specialization in lithic analysis. Her research interests include the later prehistory of the Levant and northeastern Africa. Dr. Ashkenazy examines cultural change using the chaîne opératoire approach, in addition to basic techno-typological attribute analyses. She is interested in understanding how technological and other adaptive patterns coevolve with changing environmental and demographic patterns. During her stay at the Center, Dr. Ashkenazy examined lithic assemblages from recently excavated cave sites in southeastern Ethiopia.
 
 
 

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