Abebe Taffere will see his family in Ethiopia this February.

The UF anthropology graduate student, who is originally from Ethiopia, is joining nine other UF students on a study-abroad program Feb. 3. They will excavate volcanic rocks in a cave in southwest Ethiopia for six weeks. The trip costs $5,176.

“I’m very, very excited,” the 35-year-old said.

He said he’s been to southwestern Ethiopia before. This time, he’s excited to go back to study his field of work.

On Monday, students going on the trip set up in front of Pugh Hall, where Steven Brandt, a professor of anthropology, taught them to carve tools out of stone and bones.

They used elk antlers and hammerstones, a hard cobblestone, to make tools, Brandt said.

He said he’s been taking students on the trip since 2007, but this will be his 40th trip.

“Every student will say it’s changed their life for the positive,” Brandt said. 

During the trip, students will have the opportunity to earn 14 credits while doing research on Mochena Borago, a 200-foot wide cave in a tropical part of the country. The cave in the highlands is made of obsidian rocks.

The students are going to study if refugees lived there about 50,000 years ago, Brandt said.

While conducting research at the cave, Taffere said he will be about 466 miles from his hometown. 

Taffere wrote in an email that he’s interested in learning how humans created and used stone tools during the migration from Africa about 60,000 years ago.

Taffere, who started at UF last Fall, said he hopes to gather research for his dissertation.

Justin Dunnavant, 27, said he will be going on the trip for the third time.

The anthropology doctoral student said he originally went on the trip to begin studying the slave trade along Africa’s east coast.

This year, he’ll be gathering information for his dissertation on current ethnic groups. He said past trips have helped him consider the diverse communities in Ethiopia.

“It’s really eye opening,” he said.

He said he wants to test if refugees settled in the cave at one point in time.  

“The question has always been, where was everybody during this time period?” Brandt said. “If we’re successful, it’ll be one of the first times we can test this theory.”

Contact Melissa Gomez at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Melissagomez004

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