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Paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw to speak at Cornell on March 25

Sileshi Semaw, a renowned paleoanthropologist whose research team has unearthed some of the oldest known stone tools, will discuss his work in a public lecture at Cornell University on Tuesday, March 25, at 3 p.m. in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium of Goldwin Smith Hall.

Semaw is the lead author of a study published earlier this year in the British scientific journal Nature (Jan. 23, 1997) that describes his discoveries, with collaborators from Rutgers University, of nearly 3,000 stone tools in Gona, Ethiopia, between 1992 and 1994. These remarkably sophisticated tools have been dated at 2.5 million years old, making them the oldest known human artifacts. Similar tools found in other parts of Ethiopia previously were thought to be 1.8 million years old.

Semaw was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he earned his bachelor's degree in history in 1982. He received his master's degree in 1989 and recently successfully completed his doctoral thesis, both in the anthropology department at Rutgers.

Semaw worked in Ethiopia as a historian and laboratory technician from 1982 to 1986 in the National Museum of Addis Ababa. He also worked as a research assistant in the Human Origins Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He has taught at Rutgers for the past two summers. His grants and fellowships have included the Gordon Getty Esq. Grant for Ph.D. Dissertation, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation Grant and a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant.

"At the moment, there appears to be a fierce debate between the proponents of 'Out of Africa' and those who believe humans originated from many regions," said Ayele Bekerie, a visiting assistant professor of Africana studies at Cornell. "The latter proponents are challenging the widely acknowledged notion that modern human species moved out of Africa to all corners of the world. It is clear the debate will not find resolutions soon. However, we all may agree on one fact regarding the numerous fossils, tools and related findings in Africa: they are contributing in a significant way to our knowledge and understanding of our very beginnings.

"The Gona finds by Mr. Semaw and his team, then, constitute a chapter in the history of early human ancestors," Bekerie added. "The Cornell community is indeed fortunate to host such an important figure."

Semaw's lecture is sponsored by the Africana Studies and Research Center, Ethiopian Students Association, Department of Geological Sciences and Rose Goldsen Fund.

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