The Great Rift Valley System

One of Africa’s most striking geographical features of Africa is a giant tear across the earth’s surface visible even from space: the Great Rift Valley. Extending from the Middle East to Mozambique, the Rift Valley passes in a north-easterly to south-westerly direction right through Ethiopia, endowing the country with some spectacular sights that range from hot, dry, and barren places to a string of beautiful lakes. This tremendous collapse of the earth’s surface occurred at the same time that the Arabia Peninsula, geologically a part of Africa, was sundered from the rest of the continent. Volcanic activity, which greatly contributed to the formation of the Rift valley, continues up to present times, In Ethiopia, it finds expression in the presence of hot springs in many parts of the country, as well as volcanic cones in the Danakil Depression in the north- ast. More than three million years ago, one of our first ancestors walked that portion of the earth that is now Ethiopia: namely, Lucy (Dinkenesh to Ethiopian), meaning ‘you are Wonderful’ the remains of this ‘ first human’ – an almost complete hominid skeleton—were discovered in 1974 at Hadar on the lower Awash River in Ethiopia’s barren and forbid ding Dankil region. It is widely thought that Dinkenesh’s homeland—Ethiopia –holds the key to a myriad of other questions that have puzzled paleoanthropologist about our past. To this end, paleoanthropological and archaeological work continues at Hadar and at a number of other sites along the Ethiopia section of the Great Rift Valley and in the Omo Valley.