TUKUL 4: Melka Kunture Archaeology

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Gombore II


The site of Gombore II extends over more than 1000 m². This is a living floor on a pebble shore where Acheulean hominids camped seasonally. Five sectors have been excavated and four of them are more or less contemporaneous. Two remains of a human skull were found in sector 1. Sector 2 is a slightly more recent butchering site.

Stratigraphy and chronology


The main excavation was carried out at locality 1; this is a beach of consolidated cobbles above tuffaceous clay (Tuff B), occupied by a Middle Acheulean camp site. It is sometimes possible to observe two subsequent occupations, separated by a sterile layer of tuffaceous sand. The cobbles are covered by the Tuff C complex, which is then covered by clayey and sandy deposits. At their top a hippopotamus butchering site has been excavated. Tuff B, which represents the base of the Acheulean level, has a Paleomagnetic date to 840,000 years.


A diversified fauna was recovered at this site, where several bone remains of Bovids, giraffes, hippopotami, Suids and Equids, including Stylohipparion, were present.

Bovid long bone


Lithic industry

The lithic tool kit was obtained on basalt and obsidian. Handaxes, mainly of obsidian, are of careful manufacture. Their main characteristic, apart from their size, is that they often present edges with an S profile (twist). The cleavers on trachybasalt are rare. Flaking products are frequent and indicate a high degree of technological skill; there are a few tools on flake (side-scrapers, end-scrapers, borers). 



Obsidian twist handaxe


In the upper level of floor B (gravel) an important fragment of left parietal of Homo erectus was discovered in 1973; the specimen is associated with obsidian industry  (handaxes, flakes and tools on flake). In 1975, also a scale of the frontal has been recovered. These two cranial remains could belong to the same individual.

Homo erectus parietal bone

Homo erectus frontal bone


The Open Air Museum

Part of the area of Gombore II have been transformed into a natural-archaeological Park where both the archaeological and environmental features of the site can be visited. Apart from the great archaeological and paleontological interest of Gombore II, the enclosed area within the Open Air Museum was selected on the basis of several considerations, among which is its proximity to the camp of Melka Kunture that facilitates surveillance by the guards; the proximity of this area to the Awash River that represents, within the project for the Park, an important natural attraction; and, finally, the presence in the same area of several other sites excavated by the French mission (Gombore I, Gombore Iγ and Gombore II) where a large part of the sequence of Melka Kunture is documented and will be illustrated by appropriate didactic panels. The Open Air Museum consists in two areas.

  1. A Middle Acheulean site (Gombore II OAM) was excavated and preserved in situ for an extension of more than 40 m2.This paleosurface is extremely rich both on faunal remains and on lithic artefacts (8,000 remains). The site is preserved by a wooden construction of a large roof built in local style.
  2. The second area prepared for visitors is the so called Gombore II Butchering Site (see Panel 41). More than 250 casts of paleontological and lithic remains found during previous excavations have been positioned on the paleosurface.
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