View of Addis Ababa from Emperor Menelik II’s palace overlooking the city
Ethiopia is truly the cradle of humanity. The oldest fossil remains of our species, Homo sapiens, were found right here, as were the oldest undisputed stem-group human fossils, those of a tree-dwelling hominid called Ardipithecus kadabba.
Ethiopia is the most genetically diverse nation on the planet, as a short walk down any crowded street in Addis Ababa will attest. Genetic diversity declines in every direction radiating outward from Addis, supporting the view that this is where our species began before spreading out all over the planet.
The National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis presents a continuous parade of our ancestors, from Ardipithecus all the way to early Homo sapiens.
Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Ardipithecus kadabba, dated 5.6 mya. The name is derived from the Afar words Ardi = “ground” and kadabba = “big father,” so the name means, roughly, “Granddaddy of the ground apes.”
Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Ardipithecus ramidus, dated 4.8 mya
Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Australopithecus anamensis, dated 4.2 mya
Australopithecus afarensis skull, dated 3.6 mya
Skeleton of an A. afarensis female, dubbed “Lucy” by her discoverers
Artist’s conception of how a three-year-old specimen of A. afarensis may have appeared in life
Australopithecus garhi skull, dated 2.5 mya
Homo habilis skull, dated 1.4 mya
Homo erectus skull, dated 1.0 mya
Homo erectus hand axes, dated 1.0 mya
Homo rhodesiensis skull, dated 600,000 years ago
Homo sapiens Idaltu skull dated 160,000 years ago
Artist’s conception of how Homo sapiens Idaltu may have appeared in life
Street scene in Addis Ababa
All photos by author