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  • Photo: FOR 2358

DFG Research Unit 2358

Within our Research Unit - The Mountain Exile Hypothesis – we are working on a new perception of the Alpine Anthropocene. With our interdisciplinary approach for the reconstruction of Quaternary abiotic, biotic and cultural changes in the African model highland environments of southern Ethiopia we tackle three overarching questions of environmental research:

1) Since when did humans as the ‘fire species’ shape their environment?
2) Does evidence for human presence directly imply a human footprint?
3) Can ‘push or pull’ explain why early humans migrated and intruded into the detrimental conditions of high altitudes?

Why we chose the Bale Mountains and the as study area

  • It is the largest alpine ecosystem in Africa with
  • a uniquely high number of endemic animals and plants,
  • it is under nature protection due to its perception as little and lately changed by humans, and
  • it is the high-altitude ecosystem closest to the earliest records of stone tool using humans (3.3 Ma) and earliest use of fire in the landscape level (1.9 Ma).

Key result of Phase 1 and future challenges of the Research Unit 2358

  • Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) foragers intruded and occupied the Bale Mountains and thus are among the earliest records of humans using resources of an alpine and glaciated ecosystem world-wide. These results refute the common perception of a late intrusion into and weak transformation of alpine ecosystems.
  • The future challenge for Research Unit 2358 is to investigate if the afroalpine ecosystem of the Bale Mountains is a fire-managed Middle Stone Age cultural heritage or a largely natural microclimatic and edaphic pattern as result of Holocene paludification or/and desiccation?


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