Marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa protests, Ethiopian government kills


This video says about itself:

Rio 2016: SHOCKING! Feyisa Lilesa can be jailed or evenkilled when returning to his country

22 August 2016

FEARLESS: RIO OLYMPICS 2016: ETHIOPIAN RUNNER FEYISA LILESA COULD BE KILLED WHEN HE RETURNS HOME AFTER STAGING DARING PROTEST AGAINST COUNTRY’S GOVERNMENT

ETHIOPIAN marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa could be killed when he returns home after staging a daring protest against his country’s government at the Rio Olympics.

Lilesa, who took silver in the gruelling run, crossed his arms above his head to unite with the 35 million Oromo people as they are locked in a brutal battle with the Ethiopian government.

Ethiopian security forces are needlessly slaughtering hundreds of people as they crack down on anti-government protests and are reallocating the farmland of Oromo people.

The crossed arms above the head is a gesture made by the Oromo people as a sign of solidarity.

Lilesa, who then protested again when receiving his medal, admits he could be killed if he returns home.

He said: “If not kill me, they will put me in prison.

“I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country.

“I have relatives in prison back home.

“If you talk about democracy they kill you. It is very dangerous in my country.

“Oromo is my tribe, Oromo people now protest what is right, for peace, for a place.

“I was protesting for people everywhere who have no freedom.”

The government have plans to build property on the farmland surrounding the country’s capital leading to huge demonstrations.

It is believed that over 400 people have been murdered in recent weeks for protesting.

Lilesa could be stripped of his medal as Olympic rules claim that an athlete is not allowed to use the Games as a political display or protest.

By Joe Williams:

Ethiopian government kills 100 civilians as protests sweep country

26 August 2016

International attention was focused on repression of the Oromo people in Ethiopia by the US-backed government in Addis Ababa, after Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finish line August 21 with his arms crossed above his head, a gesture to condemn the government’s violent attacks on protesters in the Oromia region, where he was born.

Lilesa repeated the action during the award ceremony following the race, where he received the silver medal for finishing second. The 26-year-old refused to board the plane bearing Ethiopian athletes back to their home country from Rio de Janeiro, and indicated he might seek political asylum in the United States. He has a wife and children in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian officials refused to discuss his status or his medal-winning performance.

Earlier this month, Ethiopian security forces killed 100 people while putting down protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. Deadly clashes took place in 10 Oromo towns, including Ambo, Dembi Dolo and Nekempt, while the violence in Amhara was focused on the city of Bahir Dar. Residents believe about 60 people were killed there.

The Oromia protests have been ongoing since November 2015, when the government resumed efforts to implement the Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan. Popularly known simply as “the Master Plan,” it involves seizing land from its Oromo owners for little or no compensation so that it can be sold to international developers. Amnesty International estimates that 400 Oromo have been killed in the nine months since protests began, with tens of thousands more detained, and likely tortured.

The fact that the protests have spread to the Amhara region is a significant development that doubtlessly alarmed the government, and may have contributed to its decision to dramatically escalate the violence of its response. The Amhara and Oromo are historical enemies, and the government has exploited their enmity to keep the two influential ethnic groups fighting each other.

The government overplayed its hand, however, by attempting to arrest activists in the Amharic city of Gondar in July. They were opposing land grabs in the Wolkayt district similar to the ones being imposed on the Oromo, and the attempt at arresting them provoked two days of deadly clashes between civilians and security forces, and triggered mass consciousness of the fact that both ethnic groups are being manipulated against each other for the interests of the government. Two weeks later, tens of thousands of Amhara protesters took to the streets to declare solidarity with the Oromo.

Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, compared the protests to the most intense uprisings of the Palestinians against Zionist occupying forces, saying, “These protests are at the level of an intifada—people in their own ways are resisting the government pressure and demanding their rights. … I don’t think it’s going to die down.”

The protests come several weeks after the government shut down social media web sites for three days, possibly as a test run in anticipation of the uprising. The government’s claim that it did so to prevent students from being distracted during exams has now been exposed as a lie, as it took the exact same measures in response to the protests now sweeping the country. The botched arrest of activists that triggered the protests in Amhara took place during the supposedly exam-related Internet shutdown.

The government has been trying to control the flow of information since last year, when the country suffered a drought that has cut economic growth in half. The worst drought in over a decade, it caused a social and political crisis. The number of people receiving emergency food assistance more than doubled to 10.2 million, schools and hospitals have been shut down, and hundreds of thousands of children are experiencing malnutrition. A similar drought in 2011 killed 200,000 people in neighboring Somalia.

As the government came under fire domestically and internationally for its failure to respond to the crisis, it tried to intimidate journalists from covering it. According to Allafrica.com, “NGOs are being warned not to use the words ‘famine, starvation or death’ in their food appeals. Neither are they to say that ‘children are dying on a daily basis,’ or refer to ‘widespread famine’ or say that ‘the policies of the government in Ethiopia are partially to blame.’ Neither are they allowed to ‘compare the current crisis to the famine of the eighties.’ Instead, the latest drought in Ethiopia is to be described as ‘food insecurity caused by a drought related to El Nino.’” The last two Ethiopian regimes were overthrown during droughts that devastated the economy and caused food shortages.

The US embassy in Addis Ababa released a statement that tacitly supported the government’s actions. While claiming to be “deeply concerned” and expressing “deep condolences” to the dead and injured, the statement seeks to place the blame on the victims, noting that “the demonstrations took place without authorization,” along with the standard implorations to “all parties” to remain peaceful.

In 2015, [United States] Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman described Ethiopia as “a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible, open and inclusive. … Every time there is an election, it gets better and better.” In fact, that election proved to be a farce. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) received 100 percent of the vote, and the mass incarceration of political activists, including most of the leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress, followed shortly thereafter.

The EPRDF government has provided basing for US drone operations and is propping up the US-backed regime in Somalia. Addis Ababa is currently hosting an emergency meeting of US allies in eastern Africa to form a Force Intervention Brigade to stabilize South Sudan. Unlike the UN peacekeeping mission currently deployed there, the Force Intervention Brigade will be authorized to carry out offensive missions.

Ethiopia, Olympics medalist Lilesa and oppression


This 21 August 2016 video is called Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa’s Protest at Rio 2016.

By Chauncey K Robinson:

Medallist highlights plight of his people

Thursday 25th August 2016

Marathon silver medal winner Feyisa Lilesa gestured his protest at Ethiopia’s government treatment of the Oromo.

The Olympic Games of 2016 held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil may have come to a close as of August 21, but many of the triumphs and controversies will continue to be talked about long after the closing ceremony. One such incident was that of Olympic marathon runner and silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa’s protest on Sunday against the government of his country of Ethiopia.

Lilesa defied the Olympics’ prohibition on political statements to shine a light for the world on what is happening in his home country. In doing so he may have also risked his life.

As he crossed the finish line of the marathon last Sunday, he raised his arms and crossed them above his head in an X — a gesture of protest against his country’s government. He did so again at the awards ceremony after accepting his silver medal.

In a press conference held after the ceremony, Lilesa explained that his protest came from his sense of duty to his family and to his people.

The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting, and I support the protest as I am Oromo,” he explained.

“I was protesting for my people,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported him saying. “It was for all my relatives in prison. I am worried to ask my relatives to talk in prison — if you talk you get killed.”

Lilesa’s bold statement comes in the midst of the growing political unrest in Ethiopia, a nation once regarded as Africa’s most stable nation of the last decade.

Although the country has seen an economic boom in the last 10 years, in recent months anti-government protests have filled the streets. These demonstrations have been met with state violence — video clips have been shared around the world of police officers beating unarmed demonstrators. They show security officers whipping protesters with sticks as they are forced to perform handstands against a wall. The UN is now calling for a thorough investigation of these incidents.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch the government of Ethiopia has used “excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protests” in Oromia, the country’s largest region, since November 2015. According to HRW “over 400 people are estimated to have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested and hundreds, likely more, have been victims of enforced disappearances.”

“The Ethiopian government is killing my people, so I stand with all protests anywhere, as Oromo is my tribe,” Lilesa was quoted in The Washington Post.

The Oromo people — Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group — have a history of speaking out against their marginalisation by the government. They, along with the Amhara people, feel Ethiopia is unfairly dominated by members of the Tigrayan ethnic group, which makes up only 6 per cent of the population yet dominate the military, the intelligence services, commerce and politics.

In what was considered a controversial national election the governing party — Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front — won all 547 parliamentary seats last May thus taking full control of parliament.

The Oromo people have also been fighting against an urban plan — referred to as the master plan — that would link infrastructure development in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with that of surrounding towns in Oromia, including Burayu. Activists say the plan threatens the sovereignty of Oromo communities.

Despite reports that Lilesa’s protest was not broadcast in Ethiopia it still quickly attracted supporters on social media as Twitter users chimed in on how the political gesture brought attention to the struggle of the Oromo people. Freelance journalist Mohammed Ademo twitted, “#FeyisaLelisa’s career with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation ended tonight. But his courageous act of protest is one for the history books.”

The silver medallist also said: “It is a very bad government [Ethiopian]. Now America, England, France support this government. When they give this support it buys machine guns, then they kill the people.”

The government has played down the unrest of recent months, claiming that “the attempted demonstrations were orchestrated by foreign enemies from near and far in partnership with local forces.” Lilesa’s bold public gesture is in direct defiance of that claim as the world now has a face for the resistance in Ethiopia.

“If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country,” the Olympic runner said at a press conference.

Whatever happens, the world is now watching as Lilesa risked his life and his career for a cause that he considers much bigger than himself or an Olympic medal.

Will Ethiopian dictatorship kill silver medal athlete?


Feyisa Lilesa, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Gesture may get Ethiopian marathon runner into big trouble

21 August 2016

With his arms crossed over his head Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa arrived at the Olympics finish line. Second runner, so he won silver. But the political gesture he made could have major implications for him.

Being Oromo, 26-year-old Lilesa belongs to the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Oromo are 40 percent of the population, but feel left behind politically. That has lead to tensions in the African country.

Earlier this month possibly hundreds of people died when police ended a protest by Oromos who refused to give up farmland for the expansion of the capital Addis Ababa. In previous clashes also hundreds of people died.

Not popular

The crossed arms, with hands in fists, is the symbol of the Oromo struggle. Crossing the finish line this way, Lilesa made a strong statement, which was broadcast live on Ethiopian television. That will not have made him popular to the Ethiopian rulers.

Lilesa realized that afterwards too. To journalists he said he may be killed if he would return to his country, or may end up in jail. “Maybe I should go to another country,” he concluded. He is considering to stay in Brazil or, failing that, to go to the US.

The United States government, like the British government, considering the Ethiopian government an ally in the war in Somalia, I am not sure how welcome Lilesa would be in the USA.

However, Lilesa in Ethiopia has a wife and two children. How he sees their future was not clear in his conversation with the press. Maybe they will be arrested, he said.

Charter

His political statement can also have other consequences for Lilesa. According to the Olympic Charter expressing political messages is forbidden. But whether Lilesa can keep his silver medal will not be his main concern.

Ethiopian regime killing demonstrators again


This video says about itself:

Ethiopia: dozens of protesters killed by security forces, claims Human Rights Watch

19 December 2015

At least 75 people have been killed during weeks of protests in Ethiopia.

That’s according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which says soldiers and police have been firing on demonstrators.

From the BBC:

‘Several killed’ as Ethiopia police clash with protesters

7 August 2016

Several people are feared dead in clashes in north-western Ethiopia between police and anti-government protesters, amid a wave of unrest.

On Saturday police arrested dozens of demonstrators during massive rallies in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The government has been facing protests from the two largest ethnic communities over alleged human rights abuses and other issues.

Authorities have banned demonstrations and blocked social media.

Despite the ban, people took to the streets in several parts of the country for a third consecutive day on Sunday, Emmanuel Igunza reports from Addis Ababa.

The worst violence took place in the north-western city of Bahir Dar in the Amhara region – the homeland of the Amhara people.

Police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse thousands of people who had blocked roads and chanted anti-government slogans.

Unconfirmed reports say several people were killed. One resident told the BBC he had seen a friend being shot in the head by security forces.

Overnight protests continued in the Oromia region, which surrounds Addis Ababa, with police arresting dozens of people.

The unrest was sparked last November by a plan to expand the capital into Oromia. This led to fears farmers from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, would be displaced.

The plan was later dropped but protests continued, highlighting issues such as marginalisation and human rights.

Oromo activists say police have killed hundreds and arrested thousands of people from their community in recent months.

From the BBC today:

Funerals are taking place after a weekend of violent protests in Ethiopia’s north-western city of Bahir Dar.

The authorities there told the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza that at least seven people were killed and dozens arrested during anti-government demonstrations.

On Sunday, police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse thousands of people who had barricaded roads.

Activists say the number of those killed is much higher.

The BBC has learnt that two young men are being buried today. It is believed that they were both killed by security forces.

There have also been protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia region with local media reporting that dozens of people were shot dead in towns across the region, though the exact number is yet to be confirmed.

Hundreds of protesters in various towns and cities – including the capital, Addis Ababa – have been arrested for taking part in the demonstrations that have been banned by the government.

Briton in Ethiopian torture prison, British government fails


This video says about itself:

Atrocious Torture and Inhuman Treatment in Ethiopia…part 1

30 June 2013

It is a personal testimony of a person who was detained and tortured by the tyrannical regime in Ethiopia.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Foreign Office ‘fails to help Londoner jailed in Ethiopia

Thursday 23rd June 2016

ETHIOPIAN authorities have fooled Britain’s Foreign Office again and again in the case of opposition leader Andy Tsege, human rights charity Reprieve warned yesterday.

Newly released documents show that Ethiopian officials have done everything possible to frustrate attempts by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to rescue Londoner Andargachew “Andy” Tsege.

The father of three was taken forcibly to Ethiopia in the summer of 2014 and has been held on death row ever since.

Foreign Office documents from 2015 show Mr Hammond complaining about Ethiopia’s “repeated failure to deliver on our basic requests,” adding: “People were asking why we had a substantial bilateral relationship but were not able to resolve this.”

Other files show how the Ethiopian authorities refused to say where Mr Tsege was locked up, cancelled planned consular visits and ignored simple questions on the legal basis for his detention.

Reprieve, which has been campaigning for Mr Tsege’s release, said it feared for his mental and physical well-being as torture of political prisoners is not uncommon in Ethiopia.

The group’s death penalty team director Maya Foa said: “Throughout Andy’s two-year ordeal, Ethiopian officials have repeatedly run rings around the Foreign Office — making and breaking the most basic of assurances, and insisting, again and again, that Andy has no legal rights in Ethiopia.

“By relying on the latest empty promise of ‘legal access,’ Philip Hammond is only compounding the abuses Andy has suffered in illegal Ethiopian detention.

“Enough is enough — the Foreign Secretary must call for Andy’s release, so he can return to his family in the UK.”

Riches for Ethiopian dictatorship, jails and hunger for people


This video from the USA says about itself:

Activists call on US to stop aiding dictatorship in Ethiopia

WASHINGTON, DC (May 7 2014) – Ethiopian Americans urged the US government to stop financing the tyrannical regime in Addis Ababa.

The rally was held in front of the State Department.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

“In parts of Ethiopia in a few months’ time there will not be any food if the international community will not help quickly”, says [Dutch Minister of Foreign Aid] Ploumen.

… Currently, 18 million Ethiopians depend on food aid, especially in the east and south of the country.

From the Catholic News Service, 13 May 2016:

Watching hungry schoolchildren in Ethiopia carefully put away one of the two biscuits they received at a food program, Msgr. John Kozar, president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, found the act touching.

He realized they were taking the second biscuit home to share with younger siblings or their mothers.

Meanwhile, the dictatorial government in Ethiopia has plenty of money for torture jails, for waging war in Somalia as Pentagon allies, for war against the people in Ogaden province, for warmongering against Eritrea, for violence against people demonstrating against ISIS, and for the lives of luxury of themselves and their cronies.

Lion discovery in Ethiopia


This 2012 video is called Ethiopia´s unique lions.

From New Scientist:

1 February 2016

Hidden population of up to 200 lions found in remote Ethiopia

In the savannah of Alatash National Park, the lion sleeps tonight.

This remote part of north-west Ethiopia was considered a possible habitat for lions, but it is seldom visited by people.

Now an expedition by the University of Oxford’s Conservation Research Unit has discovered that lions are indeed alive and well in the park – a rare extension of their known range.

“During my professional career I have had to revise the lion distribution map many times,” says Hans Bauer, who led the expedition. “I have deleted one population after the other. This is the first and probably the last time that I’m putting a new one up there.”

To spot the lions, Bauer and his team set up camera traps on a dry river bed.

“While I was walking to find some trees to put the camera on, I already saw some footprints,” says Bauer. “That was the eureka moment when I was sure that there really are lions.”

Caught on camera

Then it was a case of catching them on film, and on the second night, the lions obliged.

Alatash is adjacent to a much larger national park in Sudan, Dinder National Park. Bauer believes it’s likely there are lions there as well, with perhaps 100 to 200 individuals in the two parks combined.

About 20,000 lions are left in the wild across Africa. Lion populations in west and central Africa are declining, and may halve in 20 years.

Bauer thinks the lions of Alatash face fewer threats than many populations.

“The situation is fairly positive,” he says. “I think the fact that the Ethiopian government recently made it a national park is a giant leap forward. Now we have to support them in improving park management, but I think they’re taking it very seriously.”

Read more: Last of the lions

Famine again in dictatorial Ethiopia


This video says about itself:

15m people in Ethiopia will need food aid by 2016 – BBC News

10 November 2015

The United Nations has warned that more than 15 million people in Ethiopia will be in need of food aid by the beginning of 2016 because of a severe drought. A lack of rain has meant that crop yields in the worst-affected areas are down by 90% this year.

The Ethiopian government has set aside nearly £130m to deal with the crisis but the UN says a further £330m is needed.

Clive Myrie reports from Kobo in northern Ethiopia.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

Ethiopia suffers from extreme drought. Aid agencies warn that there is therefore a danger of widespread famine. Ten million people have a severe shortage of food and water. …

In 1984, Ethiopia also faced a severe famine. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.

Drought, and its links to climate change, are part of this terrible problem.

Another part, not named in the NOS article, is the military dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Rather than feeding their people, the dictatorial élite feed themselves very well. ‘Long seen as synonymous with poverty and droughts, Ethiopia has … seen the largest increase in number of dollar millionaires in Africa over the past six years’: here.

They have money enough for waging bloody war in Somalia, as allies of the CIA and the Pentagon.

They have money enough for waging bloody war on Eritrea.

They have money enough for waging bloody war on their own people of their own eastern province.

They have money enough for prisons where they have political dissidents tortured.

They have money enough for police bloodily attacking anti-ISIS demonstrators.

All that money might be used for feeding the people of Ethiopia; but it isn’t.

The 10 Poorest Countries Of The World; Ethiopia 10th place: here.

A LOOK AT THE LIVES LOST TO GROWING GLOBAL FAMINE Aid workers warn that Trump’s proposed funding cuts will cost lives. And take a look at the four countries on the brink of starvation. [HuffPost]

Ethiopia-Roman empire connection archaeological discoveries


This 2014 video says about itself:

Africa’s Past: Civilization of Aksum (4th BC – 10th AD).

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Dazzling jewels from an Ethiopian grave reveal 2,000-year-old link to Rome

British archaeology team uncovers stunning Aksumite and Roman artefacts

Dalya Alberge

Sunday 7 June 2015 00.04 BST

Spectacular 2,000-year-old treasures from the Roman empire and the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled parts of north-east Africa for several centuries before 940AD, have been discovered by British archaeologists in northern Ethiopia.

Louise Schofield, a former British Museum curator, headed a major six-week excavation of the ancient city of Aksum where her team of 11 uncovered graves with “extraordinary” artefacts dating from the first and second centuries. They offer evidence that the Romans were trading there hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

Schofield told the Observer: “Every day we had shed-loads of treasure coming out of all the graves. I was blown away: I’d been confident we’d find something, but not on this scale.”

She was particularly excited about the grave of a woman she has named “Sleeping Beauty”. The way the body and its grave goods had been positioned suggest that she had been beautiful and much-loved.

Schofield said: “She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner.”

The woman was also wearing a necklace of thousands of tiny beads, and a beaded belt. The quality of the jewellery suggests that she was a person of very high status, able to command the very best luxurious goods. Other artefacts with her include Roman glass vessels – two perfectly preserved drinking beakers and a flask to catch the tears of the dead.

There was also a clay jug. Schofield hopes that its contents can be analysed. She believes it would have contained food and drink for the afterlife.

Although “Sleeping Beauty” was covered only with soil, her grave was cut into a rock overhang, which is why the finds survived intact.

The team also found buried warriors, with each skeleton wearing large iron bangles. They may have been killed in nearby battlefields.

Other finds include another female skeleton with a valuable necklace of 1,065 coloured glass beads, and, elsewhere, a striking glass perfume flask.

In 2012, the Observer reported that Schofield’s earlier excavations in the region had discovered an ancient goldmine that may solve the mystery of from where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.

Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, was a major trading power from the first to the seventh centuries, linking the Roman Empire and India. Aksumites were a literate people. Yet little is known about this so-called “lost” civilisation.

“Ethiopia is a mysterious place steeped in legend, but nobody knows very much about it,” said Schofield. “We know from the later Aksumite period – the fourth and fifth centuries, when they adopted Christianity – that they were trading very intensely with Rome. But our finds are from much earlier. So it shows that extraordinarily precious things were travelling from the Roman Empire through this region centuries before.”

In return, the Romans sought ivory tusks, frankincense and metals. Schofield’s excavations also found evidence of iron working.

The finds will go to a new German-funded museum, opening in October. Schofield hopes to organise a loan to the British Museum, but first the finds must be conserved: the mirror, for example, is corroded and slightly buckled. Germany is sending nine conservators.

New ‘apeman’ species discovery in Ethiopia


This video says about itself:

New Human Ancestor Species from Ethiopia – May 2015

27 May 2015

A new relative joins “Lucy” on the human family tree. An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has discovered a 3.3 to 3.5 million-year-old new human ancestor species. Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia have been assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. This hominin lived alongside the famous “Lucy’s” species, Australopithecus afarensis. The species will be described in the May 28, 2015 issue of the international scientific journal Nature.

From the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the USA:

May 27, 2015

New human ancestor species from Ethiopia lived alongside Lucy’s species

A new relative joins “Lucy” on the human family tree. An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has discovered a 3.3 to 3.5 million-year-old new human ancestor species. Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia have been assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. This hominin lived alongside the famous “Lucy’s” species, Australopithecus afarensis. The species will be described in the May 28, 2015 issue of the international scientific journal Nature.

Lucy’s species lived from 2.9 million years ago to 3.8 million years ago, overlapping in time with the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. The new species is the most conclusive evidence for the contemporaneous presence of more than one closely related early human ancestor species prior to 3 million years ago. The species name “deyiremeda” (day-ihreme-dah) means “close relative” in the language spoken by the Afar people.

Australopithecus deyiremeda differs from Lucy’s species in terms of the shape and size of its thick-enameled teeth and the robust architecture of its lower jaws. The anterior teeth are also relatively small indicating that it probably had a different diet.

“The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar region of Ethiopia during the middle Pliocene,” said lead author and Woranso-Mille project team leader Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “Current fossil evidence from the Woranso-Mille study area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity.”

“The age of the new fossils is very well constrained by the regional geology, radiometric dating, and new paleomagnetic data,” said co-author Dr. Beverly Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. The combined evidence from radiometric, paleomagnetic, and depositional rate analyses yields estimated minimum and maximum ages of 3.3 and 3.5 million years.

“This new species from Ethiopia takes the ongoing debate on early hominin diversity to another level,” said Haile-Selassie. “Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual. However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses,” said Haile-Selassie.

Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy’s species, challenged this long-held idea. Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million-year range.

The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy’s species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association. Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple species did indeed co-exist during this time period.

This discovery has important implications for our understanding of early hominin ecology. It also raises significant questions, such as how multiple early hominins living at the same time and geographic area might have used the shared landscape and available resources.

Discovery of Australopithecus deyiremeda:

The holotype (type specimen) of Australopithecus deyiremeda is an upper jaw with teeth discovered on March 4, 2011, on top of a silty clay surface at one of the Burtele localities. The paratype lower jaws were also surface discoveries found on March 4 and 5, 2011, at the same locality as the holotype and another nearby locality called Waytaleyta. The holotype upper jaw was found in one piece (except for one of the teeth which was found nearby), whereas the mandible was recovered in two halves that were found about two meters apart from each other. The other mandible was found about 2 kilometers east of where the Burtele specimens were found.

Location of the Discovery:

The fossil specimens were found in the Woranso-Mille Paleontological Project study area located in the central Afar region of Ethiopia about 325 miles (520 kilometers) northeast of the capital Addis Ababa and 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Hadar (“Lucy’s” site). Burtele and Waytaleyta are local names for the areas where the holotype and paratypes were found and they are located in the Mille district, Zone 1 of the Afar Regional State.

The Woranso-Mille Project:

The Woranso-Mille Paleontological project conducts field and laboratory work in Ethiopia every year. This multidisciplinary project is led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Additional co-authors of this research include: Dr. Luis Gibert of University of Barcelona (Spain), Dr. Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig, Germany), Dr. Timothy M. Ryan of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Mulugeta Alene of Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Drs. Alan Deino and Gary Scott of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, Dr. Naomi E. Levin of Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Beverly Z. Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. Graduate and undergraduate students from Ethiopia and the United States of America also participated in the field and laboratory activities of the project.

Explore further: Fossil lower jaw sheds light on early Homo

More information: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature14448

Journal reference: Nature