Helina Woldekiros' work focuses on human adaptations in the Horn of Africa during the beginnings of food production, agricultural diets, pastoralism, and mobile responses to climatic change in extreme ecological/environmental settings.
As an Aksumite scholar and faunal expert my research focuses on distinctive political, economic and agricultural systems that developed in the Horn of Africa over the last 3000 years. Recent research examines links between Africa and Asia through Arabia, and ancient Aksumite trade routes. My studies of ancient chickens, cattle and other farm animals contextualize livestock biodiversity in ancient and modern agricultural systems through a better understanding of cycles of introduction and local care and animal breeding in the Horn of Africa. These themes bear on contemporary agricultural practice and resilience.
I also have a particular interest in the role of local and regional trade in subsistence commodities such as salt in the economic organization of early states in the northern Horn of Africa from the pre-Aksumite (>800 BCE–CE 900) period to modern times. I am working to reconceptualize the roles of the state and of independent local actors in the socioeconomic and political organization of complex societies through research on the organization of the modern and Aksumite Salt Route from the Ethiopian highlands to the Danakil Depression. I focus on the role of caravans and ways that multiple economic strategies and a salt-oriented niche economy has been used to secure a stable livelihood in the Horn of Africa through changing natural and sociopolitical environments over the last 5000 years.
I have a broad interest in human animal relations globally and have analyzed faunal material from the Sudan, Turkmenistan and St. Augustine, Florida. With experience in human osteology and human evolutionary questions, I have also worked on grief and mourning in contemporary Ethiopian societies.