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   Mochena Borago is a large rockshelter situated 2214 m above sea level on the western flanks of Mt. Damota, a dormant trachytic volcano about 300 km S of Addis Ababa in SW Ethiopia. Mochena Borago was first tested in 1996 and further excavated in 1998 and 2000-2001 by French-directed research teams seeking evidence for the origins and development of food production in the Horn of Africa. From 2006-2008 the University of Florida’s Southwest Ethiopia Archaeological Project (SWEAP) concentrated upon excavating the shelter’s late Pleistocene deposits. From 2010 through the 2014 field seasons SWEAP was joined by researchers from the University of Cologne’s CRC-806 “Our Way to Europe” project.

   Excavations at the rockshelter have yielded the first securely dated archaeological sequence for later periods of the dispersal. Three major lithostratigraphic groups incorporating occupational episodes have yielded charcoal radiocarbon ages ∼53–38 ka calBP. Deeper deposits have been tested but pass the threshold for radiocarbon. 

   One of the long-term goals of the Southwest Ethiopia Archaeological Project (SWEAP) and Mochena Borago Field Program is to test the hypothesis that the SW Ethiopian highlands were a major refugium for plants, animals, and hunter-gatherer groups during the very arid periods of MIS 4 (~72-59 ka) and MIS 2 (~27-12 ka). Excavations since 2015 have focused on the central area, revealing deposits that clearly date to >50 ka, and probably much earlier.

The story behind Mochena Borago 


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Prior Student Ayelen Garcia-Rudnik winner of cover art contest with photo from Mochena Borago


Framed by current knowledge of early Late Pleistocene paleoenvironments in the Horn of Africa, recent research at MB includes

1) Problems and prospects of chronometrically dating >50ka deposits by obsidian hydration, argon/argon and tephrochronology

2) Analysis of lithic (chipped stone) assemblages 

from these deposits

3) Higher frequencies of ground stone artifacts, many of which are stained with ochre 

4) Archaeobotanical research 


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Early MIS 3 occupation of Mochena Borago Rockshelter, Southwest Ethiopian Highlands: Implications for Late Pleistocene archaeology, paleoenvironments and modern human dispersals

Steven A. Brandt, Erich C. Fisher, Elisabeth A. Hildebrand, Ralf Vogelsang, Stanley H. Ambrose, Joséphine Lesur, Hong Wang


Quaternary International

30 March 2012

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