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The Antiquity of Eritrea, at the Barcelona World Mobile Congress – YoMo 2018

The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), in collaboration with the Eritrean Commission of Culture and Sports, participated at the Youth Mobile Festival in Barcelona (YoMo Barcelona) on the 2nd of March at the Farga de L’Hospitalet (Barcelona).

Within the framework of Science in your World (“La Ciència del teu món”) and the initiative of the Youth Mobile Festival in Barcelona, the Eritrean Engel Ela -Ramud research project presented the discovery of the last six years of research studies from the Danakil aimed at secondary and high school students and researchers. Moreover, a didactic and practical workshop was offered on the main species of hominids.

The initiative was promoted by leading research centers and communication professionals, in collaboration with educators and technology experts. In this context, Tsegai Medin, from the Eritrean Commission of Culture and Sports and Atapuerca Foundation based at IPHES, presented the research project that this institute carries out in Eritrea and the archaeologist Lluís Batista, responsible for the area of socialization of the same research center, gave some didactic workshops on the main hominid species.

The YoMo Barcelona contest was attended by more than 15,000 students. Participants enjoyed the international science and technology counter. The research project that IPHES presented at the “Science in your World” was entitled” The Cradle of Humanity from the Eritrea-Rift Valley”. Eritrean and Spanish researchers portrayed the antiquity of Eritrea with evidences from the Engel Ela-Ramud basin that constitutes geological, paleontological and archaeological research results. The program was funded by the Palarq Foundation and managed by the Atapuerca Foundation.

The Eritrean Danakil depression, also known as Afar depression/triangle, is well known for its immense contribution in human evolution record. To date, several geological basins have been known with the potential of rich fossil evidences. One of these is the newly discovered Engel Ella-Ramud. This project is coordinated by Eritrean and Spanish teams under the auspices of the Commission of Culture and Sports. The Engel Ella-Ramud Basin is located at the northern end part of the Rift valley, south of the Buia Basin. It is a new complex of sites with a very good potential of paleontological and archaeological records. This part of the Danakil depression is one of the most arid and inhospitable regions of the world. However, the now inhospitable place was home to our ancestors several millennia ago.

The sixth excavation and prospecting campaign at the Engel Ela –Ramud Basin has recently ended. The last six years of scientific field work in this Basin aimed at conducting systematic survey and determining the importance of the geo- paleontological and archaeological records of the Basin. As a result, a rich record of faunal remains and lithic industry of different chronological scenarios were documented from a Plio-Pleistocene sedimentological record. The large vertebrate fossil record corresponds to large carnivore taxa (large cats and hyaenas), elephants, horses, giraffas, buffaloes, large antelopes, gazellas, pigs and others. The presence of high concentration of crocodiles and fish was also well noted in most of the localities.

The discovery of a mandibular specimen that corresponds to a primitive pig helps in conducting a biochronological correlation. In this balance, the Engle Ella suid falls within the Mio-Pliocene boundary that is, most probably, between 6 to 4 million years of age. This period is crucial for human evolution, as it has been already known in different east African sites.

Africa is the birthplace of human culture. The oldest man-made made stone tools that have been recorded in the world were found at East African sites. The most ancient stone tools from the Engel Ella Ramud Basin correspond to a small size quartz pieces of the Mode 1 (named Oldowan) and handaxes of the Mode 2 (named Acheulian) techno-complexes.

Taking the geological position and preliminary evidences into account, the Engel Ella – Ramud Basin provides new information on the evolution and diversity of fossil vertebrate fauna and Hominins for the last 5 million-years. This Basin is expected to contribute knowledge not yet known in science. It has a great potential to offer new evidences completing the fossil record from the well celebrated coeval East African palaeo-anthropological sites.

The dissemination of this research at the YoMo Festival in Barcelona has served to introduce the participants to the knowledge of Eritrea`s antiquity (archaeology and paleontology). Moreover, the program also helps in explaining the meaning and importance of human fossils and their interpretation in terms of their evolution and ecological scenario. Moreover, the first evidence of human presence from East Africa and their dispersals throughout the world, and how our ancestors evolved into the anatomically modern humans have been explained. The program also shows how the first stone tools were made and who the makers of these tools were. The tools, were used by our ancestors as knives to access the corpses of large animals. Thanks to this technology, our ancestors became omnivorous. They were able to consume energy boosting food, giving rise to the only surviving genus Homo, with a much larger brain and greater intelligence.

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