Berhane Asfew

Berhane Asfaw, PhD


Rift Valley Research ServicesPO Box 5717Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fields of Research: Evolution, Paleoanthropology
Email: ramideth[at]

"Human evolution: A view from the Afar of Ethiopia"

30th July 16:40-17:00 (Open to all)

Venue: The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

(Drammensveien 78, Oslo)

Paleoanthropological field research in the Afar depression of Ethiopia has produced a tremendous amount of data with which to elucidate our understanding of human evolution. The Afar depression of Ethiopia, particularly the Middle Awash study area, has more than a kilometer thickness of accumulated sediments. These sediments have entombed different genera and species of hominids whose fossils are sampled across the last six million years. The region has yielded at least nine different early hominid species, belonging to three genera (Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and Homo). The morphological changes that are revealed by this succession of hominids are key parts of our evolution.

The records show that the hominids expanded both their niches and geographic ranges through time. Understanding this change in ecological and behavioral terms is facilitated by the rich associated vertebrate, invertebrate, and sedimentological records. Uniquely comprehensive calibration of this unique set of antiquity resources is accomplished by geophysical and geochemical methods applied to interbedded volcanic horizons, whose abundance is owed to the intense tectonic activity in this part of Africa. This plenary talk will cover the history of the research in the Afar area, the progress made in human evolutionary research in the region, and the major questions currently being investigated by ongoing research.

Berhane Asfaw is a Paleoanthropologist and is Managing Director of the Rift Valley Research Services. He obtained his B.Sc in Geology from Addis Ababa University (1980); MA in Anthropology (1983) and Ph.D in Anthropology (1988), both from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr Asfaw initiated and directed the innovative national Paleoanthropological Inventory of Ethiopia, inspiring the first generation of indigenous scholars and discovering dozens of world-class archaeological and paleontological sites. Since 1990, he has focused his work within the Afar Depression, co-directing the international, multidisciplinary Middle Awash Research Project.

Dr Asfaw’s contributions are based on discovery and analysis of evidence spanning the last nine million years of hominid evolution. He has been involved in the discovery, recovery, analysis, description, and dating and naming of Chororapithecus, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus garhi, and Homo sapiens idaltu.

Dr Berhane Asfaw is Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of Ethiopia (2010, Permanent Member of the Ethiopian Academy of Languages and Culture (2010), Associate Member of the National Academy of Science U.S.A. (2008); Research Associate, Physical Anthropology, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, (1994-present); Member of the Board of Trustees of Paleoanthropological Scientific Trust (PAST), South Africa (2006-present); Visiting Professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey (1994-1995); Director of the National Museum of Ethiopia (1988-1992); Paleoanthropology Coordinator: Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture, Ethiopia, (1978-1980).