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Assefa, Zelalem

Currently, Zelalem Assefa is a Research Associate in the Human Origins and Archaeobiology Programs at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). His primary research contributions have been in the field of zooarchaeology, specifically in attempting to detect cultural variability in the use of faunal resources through time and across variable ecological conditions. At the Smithsonian Institution, Zelalem have been in positions of Post-doctoral fellow, Contractor, and Research Collaborator since 2004. During his post-doctoral tenure at the Smithsonian, he developed a digital reference archive of the dentitions of East African mammals (, which involved rigorous data collection and processing as well as professional handling of vertebrate collections. Zelalem have had extensive experience participating and directing various field projects in Ethiopia, including co-directing the Omo-Kibish field project in southwestern Ethiopia. Since 2007, Zelalem has been directing a multi-disciplinary project with a focus on identifying cave sites with evidence of Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) occupations within the extensive limestone deposits in southeastern Ethiopia. This project has resulted in discovering important sites in the region, such as the MSA/LSA site Goda-Buticha. Zelalem’s research contributions also include the use of the techniques of geospatial information science in the analysis and documentation of archaeological sites and findings.


Geographic Focus

Background And Education

Education And Training

Professional Biography


    Academic Fieldwork                                                                                                                   

    • 2011: Project Director. Leading an international team of researchers carried an excavation at the prehistoric cave site called Goda-Buticha.
    • 2007/2008: Project Director. Conducted exploration of cave deposits in southeastern Ethiopia.
    • 1998-2001: Kibish paleoanthropological project (Co-director).  Surveyed and studied vertebrate faunal deposits at the site of the earliest known fossils of anatomically modern humans.
    • 1999: Hadar project. Excavated Locality 666, which yielded the earliest association of faunal, archaeological, and hominin remains.
    • 1998: Porc-Epic project, southeastern Ethiopia (Co-director).
    • 1992-1993: Hadar project. Representative of the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture.
    • 1991-1992: Middle Awash project. Representative of the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture.
    • 1992: Koobi Fora, Kenya. Field school training.
    • 1991: Fejij project. Representative of the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture.
    • 1990: Ethnographic research in southern Ethiopia (Gemo-Gofa, Sidamo).
    • 1987-1989: Exploration of proto-historical sites in northern Ethiopia (Shewa).


Selected Publications