Our Research Team 

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Dr. Steven Brandt

Primary Investigator and Program Director 

Dr. Steven Brandt received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley where he had the privilege of working and learning from J. D. Clark, Glynn Isaac, and F.C. Howell. After teaching at the University of Georgia, Dr. Brandt moved to the University of Florida where he is an Associate Professor of Anthropology. His main interests lie in the Late Quaternary Archaeology of the Horn of Africa, Lithic Technology and Human Behavior, and Ethnoarchaeology. 

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Dr. Elisabeth Hildebrand

Core Researcher, Assistant Professor for Field Program

Elisabeth Hildebrand is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University. She studies the archaeology of hunter-gatherers, early farming, and early pastoralism in northeastern Africa, in locations such as the highlands of southwest Ethiopia, Sai Island on the northern Sudanese Nile, and the Turkana Basin in northwest Kenya. She has done ethnobotanical, ethnoarchaeological and archaeological fieldwork in Ethiopia since 1998. Projects have included long-term ethnoarchaeological residence among Sheko farmers, survey and excavation of rockshelters in Kafa, and excavations here at Mochena Borago in Wolaita. 

Abebe Taffere

TA, Research Mentor, Researcher, MA, PhD student

Abebe Taffere was born in Gojjam, Northwestern Part of Ethiopia. Abebe is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. He earned his B.A. and first M.A. degree from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. His second M.A. was through the Erasmus Program of the European Union from the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal and the University of Ferrara, Italy. Currently, Abebe developing his PhD research to study the lithics (flaked stone artifacts) from Mochena Borago Rockshelter to help test the hypothesis that the southwest Ethiopian highlands served as an environmental and cultural refugium where regional hunter-gatherer groups escaping the very arid and cold climates of ~ 70– 60,000 BP developed the technological/social capabilities necessary for this successful dispersal once the climate dramatically improved after 60,000 years ago.


Benjamin Smith

Reseaercher, MA, PhD student 

Benjamin is currently working on his PhD in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. Prior to working in Ethiopia, Benjamin conducted ethnoarchaeological research in NW Kenya examining the covariation of fishing technologies, activities and environments. His current research looks at hunter-gatherer technological variation and change in the context of shifting natural and social landscapes in southwest Ethiopia. Benjamin is currently investigating lithic technological variation and raw material availability at Mochena Borago and in surrounding regions.”


Brady Kelsey

TA; Research Mentor, Researcher, PhD Student

Brady Kelsey has been involved in eastern African archaeology in both Ethiopia and Kenya for the past two years. She received her bachelor's degree with honors in anthropology from the University of Florida. Her research interests involve understanding the use(s) of ochre, or pigmented mineral rock primarily during the Middle Stone Age and transitional periods (ESA-MSA/MSA-LSA). She employs a variety of methods in her research derived from fields including geology, geo-chemistry, experimental archaeology, cognitive science, and ethnoarchaeology. 

Michaela Tizazu

TA; Researcher; Research Mentor; PhD Student

Michaela Zewdu Tizazu is from Ethiopia and a PhD student at the University of Florida. She received her master’s degree at Addis Ababa University. She approaches archeological research not only as a profession but as a creative outlet to understanding past human behaviors in terms of tool making and interaction with environments, to name some. Her research interests center around investigating Late Pleistocene lithic assemblages in eastern Africa particularly in Ethiopia. She aims to further investigate this time period in her career going forward and promote female driven scientific research in her home country of Ethiopia. 

Olivia Kracht

Student Researcher; Total Station Operator

Olivia Kracht is an undergraduate researcher and total station operator for the program majoring in anthropology and geology at the University of Florida. She has been a part of the field program since the 2019 field season.  Her research interests lie in paleoanthropology and archaeology in eastern Africa with a particular focus on remote sensing and geoarchaeology to recreate past environments. She was awarded research funding and will continue her research with SWEAP throughout 2020.


Evan Wilson

Researcher, PhD Student

Evan Wilson was a TA, total station operator, and research mentor for the Mochena Borago Research Program between 2017-2019. He remains involved in active research with SWEAP. He received his bachelor's degree in anthropology from Stony Brook University and now attends CUNY pursuing his PhD. His interests are lithic technology, particularly the Early Stone Age, as well as the development and evolution of hominin behavior and cognition.

the 2020 Field season students


Kevin beguiristain

"Jib. WOOOP!"

Kevin is a third year pre-med anthropology student minoring in African Studies at the University of Florida. His research interests are human evolution, early hominins, lithic technology, ancient DNA, and Levantine archaeology.


Hailey birken

"Don't pet the dogs, Hailey. I'm Serious"

 *Hailey pets all dog*

Hailey is a third-year anthropology major at the University of Florida.  She came to Ethiopia to decide if archaeology was something she wanted to pursue. She now immensely enjoys using rock hammers and smashing rocks. 


Eliot Chaflin - smith


Eliot is a rising senior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine studying Anthropology and History with a focus in Archaeology. His interest lies in bridging the gap between the findings of the archaeological record and the living knowledge of contemporary people. In addition to Mochena Borago, Eliot has conducted Archaeological research in Togiak, SW Alaska with indigenous communities.


Casie fort

"Queen Kolo"

Casie is a second year anthropology student at the University of Florida. She is interested in African studies and Latin American studies. She wants to focus on Latin American archaeology and ceramics as she furthers her career in archaeology.  


dylan smith

"Excuse me, I broke this"

Dylan is a 4th year anthropology and english major at the University of Florida. He is interested in archaeology and forensic anthropology and wants to write using his experiences.

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Katja Ziemer

"Shooting...Got it"

Katja is a freshman (in-coming sophomore) at the University of Florida majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Russian. She wants to explore forensic archaeology and archaeobotany as she progresses in her studies.  She quickly learned and acted as Total Station Operator for the duration of the 2020 season. 


David Ruiz - Menjivar


David is a third- year student at the University of Florida majoring in history and anthropology with a minor in African studies. His research interests include ethnoarchaeology through lithics and botanical remains. 


Sam bishop

Student 2020

Sam is a 3rd year student at UF majoring in anthropology and biology. She is interested in researching bio anthropology and the conditions that led to the evolution and survival of modern humans.


Jose Edouard

Student 2020

Jose is a fourth-year Family Youth and Community Science major at the University of Florida. She decided to study abroad in Ethiopia because she loves learning about different cultures and heritages. She hopes to further her education in International Education Development and work in the education systems of developing countries.