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The Great Rift Valley (known for discoveries of early hominids such as Lucy, whose bones reside in the Ethiopian National Museum) bisects the central plateau.The valley extends southwest through the country and includes the Danakil Depression, a desert containing the lowest dry point on the earth.The bulk of the rain in the highlands falls in the major rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, with an average of forty inches of rain during that season.
The rural highlands economy is based on agriculture and livestock raising. There are eighty-six known indigenous languages in Ethiopia: eighty-two spoken and four extinct.Unfortunately, however, the country's international standing has declined since the reign of Emperor Selassie, when it was the only African member of the League of Nations and its capital, Addis Ababa, was home to a substantial international community.War, drought, and health problems have left the nation one of the poorest African countries economically, but the people's fierce independence and historical pride account for a people rich in self-determination. Ethiopia is the tenth largest country in Africa, covering 439,580 square miles (1,138,512 square kilometers) and is the major constituent of the landmass known as the Horn of Africa.Cushitic-language speakers live in the highlands and lowlands of the south-central region as well as in the north-central area. The Nilo-Saharan super language family accounts for about 2 percent of the population, and these languages are spoken near the Sudanese border.Amharic has been the dominant and official language for the last 150 years as a result of the political power of the Amhara ethnic group.