Human Evolution in Southern Africa

Human Evolution in southern Africa from the earliest occurrence of Homo erectus to the Acheulian to Middle Stone Age transition: insights from Drimolen Cave and Amanzi Springs (Professor Andy Herries, La Trobe University)

10:00am - 11:00am / Thursday 19th November 2020
Type: Webinar / Category: Department
  • Admission: Free. Registration is required to attend the webinar.
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The early hominin species Australopithecus appears to become extinct around 2 million years ago and is replaced by two very different genera that appear to exploit the south African landscape in very different ways, Paranthropus and Homo. This transition is documented at the cave site of Drimolen, near Johannesburg in South Africa, where LTU Archaeology runs a field school each year (June). Between 2015 and 2018 this field school discovered some of the most complete skulls of these genera ever found, including the oldest potential occurrence of Homo erectus (DNH 134) and an early part of the Paranthropus robustus lineage (DNH 7, DNH 155). Paranthropus goes extinct perhaps a million years ago, while the other goes on to produce a rich record of Acheulian stone tools (sometime after 1.8 million to perhaps 300,000 years ago). Sometime between 500 and 200, 000 years ago the Acheulian transitions to smaller stone tool technology called the Middle Stone Age that is most often associated with the beginning of modern humans. This transition is not well documented, but recent excavations by LTU Archaeology have identified and dated a high-resolution sequence through this time period at the site of Amanzi Springs, near Port Elizabeth in South Africa. Moreover, extremely rare wood has been preserved in the sequence. The various new finds from Drimolen and Amanzi will be explored in this talk and an outline of how this research is changing our understanding of human origins in southern Africa.