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Walking with Wolves: humans may have roamed Afroalpine mountains for at least 40k years

3rd June 2020
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An exciting discovery was recently made in the Bale Mountains, home to the largest Ethiopian wolf population.

An international team of researchers, supported by EWCP, visited the Fincha Habera rock shelter at the edge of the Web Valley, where their excavations revealed evidence of human occupation dating as far back as 47,000 years ago! This makes their finding the world’s oldest occupation of a residential site at high elevation, in this case an astonishing 3,469m above sea level.


Life in this extreme environment is tough – low oxygen and variable temperatures are just some of the stressors that limit human activity. These early humans managed to thrive in Afroalpine meadows and moorlands, however, and the key may have been the same as it is for wolves: rodents.


The archaeological evidence suggests that endemic giant molerats (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus) were a crucial food source, providing nourishment throughout the year, though unlike the wolves these people appear to have eaten their rats roasted! As well as roasting rodents on their fires, Bale’s early occupants crafted obsidian tools and shared the area with hyaenas - a truly amazing discovery and a fascinating glimpse into the past.



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