Expert site

The French Archaeological Mission

Realising that what Dekker had discovered was exceptional and new, Gérard Bailloud, specialist in the French and European Neolithic, dedicated himself to the first survey (1964) of this site and collected several thousands of pieces from the surface. Apart from Kella, he discovered the Gombore Acheulean site (now Gombore II, locality 1) on the right bank, and the Upper Acheulean site at Godeti (now Garba I). He classified the lithic assemblages using the Stone Age terms Stillbay and Magosian for the more recent periods, although this terminology is no longer in use in Ethiopia today, and published the first results in a small book edited in Addis Ababa.
One year later, Jean Chavaillon was officially charged to conduct researches and excavations at the site.

Team of 1976
The team of Melka Kunture on 1976

History of Chavaillon’s activities at Melka Kunture

Other Middle-Upper Acheulean sites were discovered at Ouaraba, Gombore, Garba, Tuka, Tcharri-Aroussi, Gotu and, later, at Wofi and Simbiro. In the same year he discovered also, at the Gombore I locality, an Oldowan level similar to those excavated by Louis and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge. Melka Kunture thus showed an exceptional succession of archaeological levels with living floors that revealed characteristics similar to those of the Tanzanian site.
The more recent periods of the Prehistory at Melka Kunture are documented at Kella I, where a level contains in situ material of the Late Stone Age.
During 1965 and 1982 several excavations were carried out in the following sites:
Oldowan: Karre I, Gombore I, Gombore Iγ, Garba IV; Oldowan/Lower Acheulean: Garba XII; Lower Acheulean: Simbiro III; Middle Acheulean: Gombore II, Gombore II - Butchering site; Upper Acheulean: Garba I; Final Acheulean/Middle Stone Age: Garba III; Late Stone Age: Wofi, Kella, Late Stone Age and modern times: Balchit.

During 1985 and 1992, a large part of the Melka Kunture collection stored in the laboratory of Melka Kunture and in the Museum of Addis Ababa were catalogued and studied.

Location of Melka Kunture in a 1992 Ethiopian map

Excavations were resumed in 1993. This third stage was restricted to the study of Gombore II (the main site and the more recent hippopotamus “Butchering site”) and to the partial restoration of the archaeological camp.

Researchers, students and technicians

Many researchers, students and technicians participated to the French Mission in different years and for different periods:
Archaeology: Bernard Aubineau, Arlette Berthelet, Jean-Luc Boisaubert, Claude Brahimi, Grazia Maria Bulgarelli-Piperno, Christian Chauveau, Nicole Chavaillon, Lionel Colbert, Marie-Dominique Fallet, Eric Godet, Françoise Hivernel, Francis Hours, Sami Karkabi, Michel Locko, Pierre Marchal, Ouardia Oussedick, Marcello Piperno, Joëlle Soulier, Philippe Soulier
Paleomagnetism: Philippe Cressier
Geology: Maurice Taieb
Palaeoanthropology: Yves Coppens, Brigitte Senut
Paleontology: Denis Geraads, Jean-Jacques Jaëger, François Poplin, Robert Sabatier
Palinology: Raymonde Bonnefille
Carthography: Yves Egels
Illustrators: Caroline Chavaillon, Catherine Chavaillon, Jean Gire, Gianpietro Marchesi