Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 587–600 | Cite as

High-Altitude Rock Shelters and Settlements in an African Alpine Ecosystem: The Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

  • David Reber
  • Mekbib Fekadu
  • Florian Detsch
  • Ralf Vogelsang
  • Tamrat Bekele
  • Thomas Nauss
  • Georg MieheEmail author


This first survey of rock shelters and settlements in the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia is a baseline assessment for further research into the settlement history of Africa’s largest alpine highlands. Extensive GPS-based mapping and interviews resulted in two detailed maps, a catalogue of profiles, and complete photographic documentation. In total, 331 rock shelters (four permanently inhabited, 51 seasonally inhabited, and 276 currently uninhabited) and 870 settlements (207 permanently inhabited, 449 seasonally inhabited, 214 uninhabited) were recorded together with information about the activities and livelihoods of the inhabitants of the current settlements. This 2015 study was part of the Ethiopian-European research project “The mountain exile hypothesis – how humans benefited from and re-shaped African high-altitude ecosystems during Quaternary climate changes” (DFG FOR 2358). It was designed to support future management plans in this internationally important conservation area that has recently faced increasing land-use pressure and the threat of degradation.


High-altitude habitation Tropical mountains Pastoralism Settlement history GPS mapping Bale Mountains National Park Ethiopia 



The study was carried out in the framework of the Research Unit 2358 “The Mountain Exile Hypothesis: How humans benefited from and re-shaped African high altitude ecosystems during Quaternary climatic changes” (Marburg University, Germany; supported by the German Research Council (DFG).

Awel Kasim, Awwi Aman, Hassan Wako, and Ali Mamu assisted us during fieldwork. Special thanks to the staff of the Bale Mountains National Park, the EWCA and the Department of Plant Biology and Biodiversity Management, College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Addis Ababa University.


This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; grant number NA 783/12–1, AOBJ 628803).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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ESM 3 (PDF 22799 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Reber
    • 1
  • Mekbib Fekadu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Florian Detsch
    • 1
  • Ralf Vogelsang
    • 3
  • Tamrat Bekele
    • 2
  • Thomas Nauss
    • 1
  • Georg Miehe
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of GeographyUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Plant Biology and Biodiversity Management, College of Natural and Computational SciencesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Institute of Prehistoric ArchaeologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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