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The Lower Awash Valley paleo-anthropological site is located 300 km northeast of Addis Ababa, in the west of the Afar Depression. It covers an area of around 150 km2.

The Awash Valley contains one of the most important groupings of paleontological sites on the African continent. The remains found at the property, the oldest of which date back over 4 million years, provide evidence of human evolution, which has modified our conception of the history of humankind. The most spectacular discovery came in 1974, when 52 fragments of a skeleton enabled the famous Lucy to be reconstructed.

Excavations by an international team of palaeontologists and pre-historians began in 1973, and continued annually until 1976, and ended in 1980. In that time, they found a large quantity of fossilised hominid and animal bones in a remarkable state of preservation, the most ancient of which were at least four million years old. In 1974, the valley produced the most complete set of remains of a hominid skeleton, Australopithecus afarensis, nicknamed ‘Lucy’, dating back 3.2 million years. Afarensis has since been proved to be the ancestral origin for both the Genus Australopithecus and Homo-sapiens.

A recovered female skeleton nicknamed ‘Ardi’ is 4.4 million years old, some 1.2 million years older than the skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis ‘Lucy’.

There is a wealth of paleo-anthropological and pre-historic tools still awaiting discovery and scientific study and these are seen as constituting an exceptionally important cultural heritage resource.

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