04.07.2019 Successful renewal of our project: Phase 2 for the Mountain Exile Hypothesis

Photo: FOR 2358

Searching for the worlds earliest human settlement in the Ethiopian highlands

The German Research Association (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG) extends the work of the research unit 2358 „Mountain Exile Hypothesis“ led by researchers from Philipps-University Marburg. The research group investigates since when humans settled in highlands and shaped the landscape there. The study area is located in today’s Ethiopia, where the researches presume the world’s earliest human settlements at the highlands because of its spatial proximity to the beginnings of human life. The research unit is funded with 3 Million Euro for the next three years.

The “Bale Mountains” are a mountain plateau in eastern Africa, which peak reaches 4.300 m. On the whole continent there is no larger, enclosed alpine landscape. “The mountains are because of its seclusion especially rich in endemic species, as well as in flora as in fauna, which worldwide only exist in that place.” , explains the Marburg Ecologist Dr. Lars Opgenoorth. Together with Prof. Dr. Georg Miehe and Prof. Dr. Thomas Nauss, he is one of the three speakers of the research group. This great diversity is also a reason, why the Bale Mountains like many highlands worldwide, are said to be still natural and undisturbed by human influence. “With our research we want to investigate, if the perception of an undisturbed nature environment is true. Or if instead it has been a man-made environment since several thousand years.” , says the Marburger Biologist. “Within our work in Phase 1 it became clear, that the humans in fact have settled very early in the highlands. Because of that, in Phase 2 the main focus will be on what made the human settle there and to which extent the early hunter and gathers formed the landscape by fire.”

Research Units funded by the DFG allow researchers to dedicate themselves to recent and urging questions in their specific fields and establish innovative working directions. The intent with the title: „The Mountain Exile Hypothesis: How Humans Benefited from and Re-shaped African High Altitude Ecosystems During Quaternary Climate Changes” brings togethers the researches from the departments of Biology and Geography of the Philipps-University and working groups from Cologne, Bayreuth, Halle, Dresden, Bern, Aberystwyth, Paris und Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As well as the three speakers, Prof. Dr. Georg Miehe (Biogeography), vice president Prof. Dr. Thomas Nauss (Environmental Informatics) und Dr. Lars Opgenoorth (Ecology),Prof. Dr. Nina Farwig und Dr. Dana Schabo (both in Nature Conservation) are part in the research unit from Philipps-University.

Press release from Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft


Dr. Lars Opgenoorth
Fachgebiet Ökologie
Tel.: 06421 28-22080

Professor Dr. Thomas Nauss
Fachgebiet Umweltinformatik
Tel.: 06421 28-25980

Professor Dr. Georg Miehe
Fachgebiet Biogeographie
Tel.: 06421 28-24263

Katinka Thielsen
Coordinator of the RU 2358
Tel.: 06421 28-24222

Cooperation Partners