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The first South African fossil hunters

When: Tuesday, 25 September 2018 - Tuesday, 25 September 2018
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
nate Room, 2nd Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House
Start time:8:30

Cost: Free

The Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits with partners will host a lecture series in celebration of Heritage Day, commemorated on 24 September.

The scientific relevance of the wealth of fossils from South Africa is internationally acknowledged. When thinking about the history of palaeosciences in South Africa, the names of famous scientists such as Robert Broom and Raymond Dart are often cited. However, little is known about the fossil discoveries that took place before the scientific era, particularly in pre-colonial times early European settlers as well as indigenous people were finding fossils well before science could account for the existence of the petrified remains of long gone animals and plants. They were often considered curiosities, and were included in their religious beliefs, rock arts or traditional medicine, or stories and legends (geomyths) were created to account for their existence.

This event seeks to raise awareness about the earliest fossil hunters of southern Africa among academics and students by presenting evidence of early fossil findings made by early European settlers and indigenous people. The archaeological record of fossil findings can be traced back to Early Homo sapiens in Africa (Morocco, 300 000 years ago) and early European settlers were trying to account for the existence of fossils some 200 years before Darwin published his theory of the Evolution of species. These lectures will also put the emphasis on the international relevance of South African palaeontological research. In this respect, three students will be presenting their current research projects and how their work is going to affect the future of South African palaeosciences. The lectures will summarise the past, present and future challenges of palaeosciences in South Africa.


08:30 - 09:00: Meeting time, coffee

09:00 - 09:30: Welcome: Dr. Julien Benoit/ CoE in Palaeosciences / PAST

09:30 - 10:00: The relevance of the South African fossil record: where do we stand?

                       Professor Anusya Chinsamy-Turan (University of Cape Town)

10:00 - 10:30:  First fossils discovered in South Africa between 1652-1850

                       Dr. Sharad Master (Wits University, Geosciences)

10:30 - 11:00: Tea break

11:00 - 11:30:  Pre and early colonial fossil discoveries in the Cape Supergroup of South Africa

                        Dr Cameron Penn-Clarke (Iziko Museum, Cape Town – Wits, Evolutionary Studies Institute)  

11:30 - 12:00: Interest in Geological and Palaeontological curiosities by non-western societies of Southern Africa

                       Dr. Charles Helm (African Center For Coastal Palaeoscience) 

12:00 - 12:30: The future of Palaeosciences in South Africa 

                        Aviwe Matiwane (PhD student, Rhodes University), Kimberleigh Tommy (Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences), and 

                        Cebisa Mdekazi (Masters student, Evolutionary Studies Institute) 

12:30 - 13:30: Lunch break

13:30 - 14.30: Question and Answer session (open entrance). Ask your question on Facebook and Twitter using the #AfricaPal


Entry is free. Coffee, tea and lunch will be provided. A book sale will be available at the entrance.

This event is sponsored by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeoscience and the Palaeontological Scientific Trust

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