The home of mankind:

human evolution in Ethiopia 

It is appropriate to start with the fossil evidence as Ethiopia has remains that cover much of human evolution ranging from Chororapithecus Abyssinicus, (12 to 7 million years ago), a possible ape relative of humanity, to Homo Sapiens Idaltu (‘Elder') the earliest modern human fossil at 160,000 year old found in the Afar Regional State at Horto. Recent discoveries include the 4.4 million year old Ardipithecus Kadaba and Selam, an almost complete skeleton of a three year old female child dating to 3.3 million years ago.  The most famous of the discoveries in the Afar region, of course, is that of Lucy (‘Dinkenesh' – ‘wonderful'), the most complete skeleton of an early hominid yet found and dating back some 3.2 million years. A replica of her skeleton is on display in the National Museum of Ethiopia. Lucy (Australopithecus Afarensis) walked on two legs and stood about 3.5 feet tall. Australopithecus subsequently evolved towards the genus Homo, with the appearance of Homo Habilis (2.4 - 1.8 million years) and Homo Erectus (1.4 – 1 million years), and then Homo Sapiens, probably about 200,000 years ago. There are several notable fossil sites in Ethiopia including the lower Omo Valley and the Awash Valley, both registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the latter including the Hadar area, Aramis and Melko Kunture, the scenes of numerous  paleontological discoveries.

History 1000 BCE – 1991 CE

Ethiopia's history as an organized and independent polity dates back to the first millennium BCE. Earlier, Egyptian pharaohs traded with the Land of Punt, probably somewhere along what is now the coast of Eritrea or possibly Somaliland. Around the 8th century BCE a kingdom known as Da*ma*t probably had its capital at Yeha, but the first state about which there is much real information is the kingdom at Axum in the northern Regional State (Killil) of Tigray. Axum emerged at the beginning of the Christian Era and flourished until around 800CE, before suffering prolonged decline over the next few centuries. Axum's period of greatest power lasted from the 4th through the 6th centuries CE. Its core area lay in the highlands of what's today southern Eritrea, in Tigray and in Lasta and Angot, now part of the Amhara Regional State; its major centers were at Axum and the port of Adulis. Earlier centers, such as Yeha, also contributed to its growth. At the kingdom's height, its rulers controlled the Red Sea coast from Sawak in present day Sudan in the North to Berbera in the present-day Somaliland to the south. They were also active as far as the Nile valley in modern Sudan, attacking and destroying the kingdom of Meroe in the 4th century CE. On the Arabian side of the Red sea, Axumite rulers also controlled much of the coast and extensive areas of modern Yemen. The rulers of Axum were converted to Christianity in the mid 4th century CE.                                                        

The rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula had a significant impact on Axum kingdom during the seventh and eighth centuries. By the time of the Prophet Mohammed's death (A.D.632), the Arabian Peninsula, and the entire opposite shore of the Red sea, had come under the influence of the new religion. The steady advance of Islam over the next century resulted in Islamic conquest of all of the former Sassanian empire and much of the Byzantine empire. Relations with Axum were not hostile at first. According to Islamic tradition, members of the Prophet's family and some of his early converts had taken refuge in Axum during the troubled years preceding the Prophet's rise to power, and Axum was declared exempt from the Jihad, or Holy war.  The Arabs also considered the Axumite state to be one of the great powers of the time alongside the Islamic State, the Byzantine and Sassanian empires and China. Commerce between Axum and at least some ports on the Red sea continued, albeit on an increasingly reduced scale.

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Related Ethiopian Profile Related Ethiopian Profile

Location and Boundaries

Location and Boundaries

Ethiopia is located in the centre of the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with the Sudan and South Sudan to the west; Eritrea to the north and north-east; Djibouti and Somaliland to the east; Somalia and Kenya to the south.

It covers an area of 1.14 million square Kilometers (944,000 square miles)

The population according to the 2007 Census was 73,918,505. The growth rate is estimated at 3.2% and the current population estimate is now 86 million, of which 46% fall within the 1-14 age range; 51% between 15 and 64; and 3% are over 65. Approximately 17% of the population is estimated to live in urban areas.

Nation and Nationalities

Ethiopia is home to over 80 different peoples and nationalities. According to the 2007 census the larger ones are: Oromo 25.5 million (35%); Amhara 20 million (27%); Somali 4.6 million 6.2%); Tigrean 4.5 million (6.1%) Sidama 3 million (4%); Gurage 1.9 million (2.5%); Welayta 1.7 million (2.3%); Hadiya 1.3 million (1.7%); Afar 1.3 million (1.7%); Gamo 1.1 million (1.5%).

Religion

Christians make up 62.8% of the population (43.5% follow the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and 19.3 other denominations); Muslims 33.9%; traditional faiths 2.6%; and others 0.6%.

Climate

Although Ethiopia lies within 15 degrees North of the Equator, overall the country enjoys moderate temperatures and a pleasant climate, with average temperature rarely exceeding 200C (680F), owing to the moderating influence of high altitude. The more sparsely populated lowlands tend to have sub–tropical and tropical climates; and parts of the Afar regional State in the east of the country which lie below sea level are considered to be the hottest place on earth with temperatures regularly reaching 500C (1200F) or more. 

At approximately 850mm (34inches), the average annual rainfall for the whole country is considered to be moderate by global standards. In most of the highland areas, rainfall occurs in two distinct seasons: the "small rains" (belg) during February and March and the "big rains" (kremt) from June to September. In the south east lowlands the rainy seasons are from March to May, the longer season (gu), and the short rainy season from October to December (deyr).

Communications

There are international airports at Addis Ababa (Bole International Airport), and at Dire Dawa, Bahr Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum, Arba Minch, and Mekelle. The national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has an excellent international reputation and currently flies to 81 international destinations in America, Europe, Africa and Asia as well as 18 local flight destinations. It is now taking delivery of the latest Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" aircraft for its long haul flights.

The main entry points by road are at Moyale (from Kenya), Humera and Metema (from Sudan), Dewele (from Djibouti). All have full customs and immigration checks. Until Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in 1998, Humera, Rama, Zalembessa and Bure were entry points from Eritrea; in the absence of any effort by Eritrea to normalize relations, they remain closed.

Visas

All visitors to Ethiopia, except citizens of Kenya, require a visa to enter the country. These should be obtained in advance from an Ethiopian Embassy, though single entry, one to three month, tourist visas can be obtained at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. For information about business visas or multiply entry tourist visas, contact a local Ethiopian Embassy which will provide the relevant forms. Visas issued by embassies are valid from the day of issue not from the date of arrival in Ethiopia