Photograph by Kenneth Garrett
For several months each year, paleontologist Zeresenay "Zeray" Alemseged patiently and methodically sifts through soils—and time—under the relentless sun in the remote reaches of Ethiopia's Afar region. There he leads exploration of the Busidima-Dikika paleoanthropological site, which is yielding important clues about the four-million-year history of human evolution.
Native to Ethiopia, Alemseged was born in 1969. Eager to understand why his country yields so many pieces to the puzzle of human evolution, he earned an undergraduate degree in geology from Addis Ababa University in 1990 and went to work for the National Museum of Ethiopia.
After two years, Alemseged left for France. There he received a master's in paleontology at the University of Montpellier and University of Paris in 1994 and a doctorate from the University of Paris and the French National Museum of Natural History in 1998.
Alemseged is currently a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. As leader of the Busidima-Dikika paleoanthropological project, he returns to his native Ethiopia each year, helping to build a bridge between the international scientific community that has dominated the human-origins scene and a new generation of African scientists who may represent the future of African paleoanthropology.
The Busidima-Dikika project began in 1999 with support from the Institute of Human Origins, the Leakey Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.
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In Their Words
It's in Africa that you find the earliest evidence for human ancestors, upright-walking traces, even the first technologies in form of stone tools. So we all are Africans, and welcome home.
Ethiopian scientist Zeresenay Alemseged explains where the Dikika baby fits into our human story and what we can learn.
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