The Dikika Infant: Australopithecus Afarensis in Ethiopia

Australopithecus Afarensis in Ethiopia

Dikika Infant - Australopithecus Child
Dikika Infant - Australopithecus Child. Zeresenay Alemseged (c) 2006

Dikika is the name of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis found in Ethiopia's Afar triangle. The first reports were in Nature on September 21, 2006 by a team led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. The first and best known A. afarensis discovered in the world was the fossil known as Lucy, found in the Hadar Valley and described by Donald Johansen, Tim White and Yves Coppens.

Fragments of 13 hominins were discovered at Hadar including children, and these and subsequent fossils lead researchers to believe A. afarensis lived between 3.0 and 3.7 million years ago.

Dikika, known in Ethiopia as Selam, is the most complete fossil of a juvenile Australopithecus found to date. The find included most of the skull, both shoulders, part of the vertebral column, parts of both knees and legs, parts of the right arm, and several ribs.

Selam is a girl estimated at about 3 years old based on comparisons with modern chimpanzee growth rates. She was found in 2001 in the Rift Valley south of the Awash river, and recovered from the bed of an ancient shallow, slow moving channel that filled about 3.4 million years ago. Researchers believe the Dikika Infant was likely accidentally buried in the channel as an intact corpse. One additional adult A. afarensis is represented at Dikika by a lower jaw and teeth; and a range of different animals, such as extinct forms of elephant, otter, hippo and theropithicus were also found in the channel deposits.

  • In 2010, researches identified early evidence of butchery at this site. See the photo essay Evidence for Stone Tool Butchery in the Pliocene for further information. 


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