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Staff Profile

Professor Francis Thackeray

QualificationsBScHons, MPhil, MSc, PhD
Phone 0117176659
Organisational Unit School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies

Phillip Tobias Chair in Palaeoanthropology

Research interests

Hominid evolution, morphometrics, taxonomy, chronology, palaeoclimates, palaeo-ecology

Professor Francis Thackeray is a South African who obtained his PhD in anthropology through Yale University (1984), analysing faunal remains from Late Quaternary assemblages at Wonderwerk Cave south of Taung, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Prior to that he studied at the University of Cape Town where he obtained a BSc, majoring in zoology (1974); BSc (Hons) in archaeology (1975); and MSc in environmental studies (1977).

He has been particularly interested in developing a statistical definition of a species, and in assessing probabilities of conspecificity in the context of hominid fossils from Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdr i and other sites, based on exploratory morphometric techniques. He has directed excavations at Kromdr i, Plovers Lake and Bolt?s Farm in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. In collaboration with French colleagues, he is the Director of the Human Origins and Past Environments (HOPE) programme. Since 1990 he served as Head of the Department of Palaeontology and Palaeoenvironmental Studies at the Transv l Museum before being appointed as Director of the museum, a position which he held until January 2009.


Order of Merit (Chevalier), Republic of France, 1998.
Fitzsimons Award, South African Museums Association, 2000.


Selected publications

Thackeray, J.F. 2014.  Palaeoanthropology: probabilities of conspecificity.  PalNews, Biannual Newsletter of the Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa.  19, 4: 35-37. 19_4 August 2014.pdf

Thackeray, F.  2014.  Ancestors in the context of human evolution and African origins.  In Freedom Park:  A place of emancipation and meaning.  Freedom Park Publishers, Pretoria.  pp 180-184.

Boeyens, J.C.A. & Thackeray, J.F.  2014.  Number theory and unity in science.  South African Journal of Science 110 (11/12), 1-2.
Thackeray, J.F.  In press.  Analysis of faunal remains from Holocene deposits, Excavation 1, Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. African Archaeological Review.

Braga, J., Thackeray, J.F., Dumoncel, J., Descouens, D., Bruxelles, L., Loubes, J-M., Kahn, J-L., Stampanoni, M., Bam, L., Hoffman, J., de Beer, F., & Spoor. F. 2013.  A new partial temporal bone of a juvenile hominin from the site of Kromdraai B (South Africa).  Journal of Human Evolution 65, 447-456.

Thackeray, J.F. and Odes, E. 2013.  Morphometric analysis of early Pleistocene African hominin crania in the context of a statistical (probabilistic) definition of a species.  Antiquity, 87.

Thackeray, J.F. 2013.  Human evolution from an African perspective, with reference to Charles Darwin, palaeoclimate and the problem of defining a species.  Amsterdam Archeologisch Centrum van de Universiteit van Amsterdam.  J. Enschede, Amsterdam. 

Morse, S.A., Bennett, M.R., Liutkus, C., Thackeray, J.F., McClymont, J., Savage. R., Crompton. R.H. 2013.  Holocene Footprints in Namibia: the influence of substrate on footprint variance.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 151 (2) :265-79.

Thackeray, J.F. 2012.  Deceiver, joker or innocent? Teilhard de Chardin and Piltdown Man.  Antiquity 86, 228-234.

Thackeray, J.F.  2011.  On Piltdown: the possible roles of Teilhard de Chardin, Martin Hinton and Charles Dawson.  Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 66(1):9-13.

Badenhorst, S., Sénégas, F., Gommery, D., Potze, S., Kgasi, L. & Thackeray, J.F. 2011.  Pleistocene faunal remains from Garage Ravine Cave on Bolt’s Farm in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.  Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History 1:33-40.

Houghton, K. & Thackeray, J.F.  2011.  Morphometric comparisons between crania of late Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Border Cave (BC 1), Tuinplaas (TP 1) and modern southern African populations.  Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 66:159-162.

Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  Ancient DNA from fossil equids: a milestone in palaeogenetics.  South African Journal of Science 2010;106(1/2).

Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  Comparisons between Australopithecus sediba (MH1) and other hominin taxa, in the context of probabilities of conspecificity.  South African Journal of Science 2010;106(7/8), Art.#348, 2 pages.  DOI: 10.4102/sajs.v106i7/8.348.

Thackeray, J.F. 2010.  Into the light.  An attempt to illuminate aspects of southern African and western European prehistoric art.  The Digging Stick 27(3):5-7.

Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  Homo sapiens helmei from Florisbad, South Africa.  The Digging Stick 27(3):13-14.

Adams, J.W., Herries, A.I.R., Hemingway, J., Kegley, A.D.T., Kgasi, L., Hopley, P., Reade, H., Potze, S. & Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  Initial fossil discoveries from Hoogland, a new Pliocene primate-bearing karstic system in Gauteng Province, South Africa.  Journal of Human Evolution (2010), doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.07.021.

Bennett, M.R., Liutkus, C.M., Thackeray, F., Morse, S.A., McClymont, J. & Stratford, D. 2010.  Footprints of the Kuiseb Delta, Namibia.  The Digging Stick 27(3):1-4.

Braga, J., Thackeray, J.F., Subsol, G., Kahn, J.L., Maret, D., Treil, J. & Beck, A.  2010.  The enamel-dentine junction in the postcanine dentition of Australopithecus africanus: intra-individual metameric and antimeric variation.  Journal of Anatomy 216:62-79. 

Cofran, Z. & Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  One or two species?  A morphometric comparison between robust australopithecines from Kromdraai and Swartkrans.  South African Journal of Science 2010;106(1/2), Art.#15, 4 pages.  DOI: 10.4102/sajs.v106i1/2.15.

Gommery, D., Sénégas, F., Prat, S., Potze, S., Kgasi, L., Badenhorst, S., & Thackeray, F. 2010.  Bolt’s Farm. Dans le berceau de l’humanité sud-africain.  Archéologia 482(6):52-62.

Potze, S. & Thackeray, J.F.  2010.  Temporal lines and open sutures revealed on cranial bone adhering to matrix associated with Sts 5 (“Mrs Ples”), Sterkfontein, South Africa.  Journal of Human Evolution 58:533-535.

Skinner, M.M., Evans, A., Smith, T., Jernvall, J., Tafforeau, P., Kupcik, K., Olejniczak., A.J., Rosas, A., Radovčić, J., Thackeray, J.F., Toussaint, M. & Hublin, J.-J.  2010.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 142:157-163,, DOI 10.1002/ajpa.21248.

Thackeray, J.F. 2009. Chronology, climate and technological innovation associated with the Howieson's Poort and Still Bay industries in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 105.

Thackeray, J.F. 2008. A statistical definition of a species in palaeontological contexts, based on morphometric analyses. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 63, 104.

Thackeray, J.F. 2008. Morphometric comparisons between the type specimen of Homo floresiensis (LB1) and other hominids. Annals of the Transv l Museum. 45, 135-137.

Thackeray, J.F., Gommery, D., Sénégas, Potze, S., Kgasi, L., McCrae, C., and Prat, S. 2008. A survey of past and present work on Plio-Pleistocene deposits from Bolt's Farm, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.Annals of the Transv l Museum 45, 83-89.

Balter, V., Telouk, P., Reynard, B., Braga, J., Thackeray, J.F., Albarede. 2008. Analysis of coupled Sr/Ca and 87Sr/86Sr variations in enamel using laser-ablation tandem quadrupole-multicollector ICPMS. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72, 3980-3990.

Sénégas, F. and Thackeray, J.F. 2008. Temperature indices based on relative abundances of rodent taxa represented in South African Plio-Pleistocene assemblages. Annals of the Transv l Museum 45, 143-144.

Gommery, D., Thackeray, J.F., Sénégas, F. Potze, S. and Kgasi, L. 2008. The earliest primate (Parapapio sp.) in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (Waypoint 160, Bolt's Farm area, South Africa). South African Journal of Science.

Olejniczak AJ, Smith TM, Skinner MM, Grine FE, Feeney RNM, Thackeray JF, Hublin J-J. 2008. Three-dimensional molar enamel distribution and thickness in Australopithecus and Paranthropus. Biology Letters, Royal Society, (doi:10.1098/doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0223).

Balter B., Blichert-Toft J., Braga J., Telouk P., Francis Thackeray F. and Albarede, F. 2007. U-Pb dating of fossil enamel from the Swartkrans Pleistocene hominid site, South Africa. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 267, 236-246.

Thackeray, J.F. 2007. Approximation of a biological species constant ? South African Journal of Science 103.

Thackeray, J.F. 2007. Sexual dimorphism in early Homo. South African Journal of Science. 103, 273.

Thackeray, J.F. 2007. Hominids and carnivores at Kromdr i and other Quaternary sites in southern Africa. In: T.R. Pickering, K. Schick and N. Toth (eds), pp 44 ? 49, Breathing Life into Fossils: Taphonomic Studies in Honor of C.K. (Bob) Brain. Bloomington (Indiana): Stone Age Institute Press.

Thackeray, J.F. 2007. Sea levels and chronology of Late Pleistocene coastal cave deposits at Klasies river in South Africa. Annals of the Transv l Museum 44, 219-220.

Thackeray, J.F. & Dupont, L.M. 2006. Last recorded occurrence of Australopithecus africanus and climatic change in southern Africa. South African Journal of Science 102, 50.

Thackeray, J.F. 2006. Darwin, South Africa and the emergence of the genus Homo. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 61, 127-130.

Thackeray, J.F. 2006. Reconceptualisation of African hominins dated between 1.5 and 2.5 mya. Annals of the Transv l Museum 43, 116-117.

Thackeray, J.F. 2005. Stable carbon isotope analyses of Parapapio tooth enamel from Sterkfontein and Swartkrans. South African Journal of Science 101, 483-484.

Sponheimer, M., Lee-Thorp, J., De Ruiter, D., Codron, D., Codron, J., Baugh, A. & Thackeray, F. 2005. Hominins, sedges, and termites: new carbon isotope data from the Sterkfontein valley and Kruger National Park. Journal of Human Evolution 48:301-312.

Thackeray, J.F., Venter, A,M, & Nothnagel, G. 2005. Bone apatite residues and early Pleistocene stone tools: associations with bone breakage. South African Journal of Science 101:17-18.

Thackeray, J.F., Maureille, B., Vandermeersch, B., Braga, J. & Chaix, R. 2005. Morphometric comparisons between Neanderthals and ?anatomically modern? Homo sapiens from Europe and the Near East. Annals of the Transv l Museum 42:47-51.

Thackeray, J.F., Braga, J., S?gas, F., Gommery, D., Potze, S. & Senut, B. 2005. Discovery of a humerus shaft from Kromdr i B: part of the skeleton of the type specimen of Paranthropus robustus Broom, 1938? Annals of the Transv l Museum 42:92-93.

Thackeray, F. & Braga, J. 2005. Early Homo, 'robust' australopithecines and stone tools at Kromdraai, South Africa. In: D'Errico, F. & Backwell, L. (eds) From tools to symbols. From early hominids to modern humans:229-235. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Thackeray, J.F. 2005. Probabilities of conspecificity: an application of a morphometric approach to extant and extinct hominoids. In: Strkalj, G., Pather, N. & Kramer, B. (eds) Voyages in science. Essays by South African anatomists in honour of Phillip V. Tobias?s 80th birthday: 85-97. Pretoria: Content Solutions.

Thackeray, J.F. & Myer, S. 2004. Parapapio broomi and Parapapio jonesi from Sterkfontein: males and females of one species? Annals of the Transvaal Museum 41:79-82.

Van der Merwe, N.J., Thackeray, J.F., Lee-Thorp, J.A. & Luyt, J. 2003. The carbon isotope ecology and diet of Australopithecus africanus at Sterkfontein, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 44:581-597.

Braga, J. & Thackeray, J.F. 2003. Early Homo at Kromdraai B: probabilistic and morphological analysis of the lower dentition. Comptes Rendus Palevol 2:269-279.

Thackeray, J.F. 2003d. Comparison of hominid fossils attributed to Australopithecus and Homo. South African Journal of Science 99:241-242.

Thackeray, J.F. 2003b. Hominid body weight, species diversity and population density. Annals of the Transv l Museum 40:145-146.

Thackeray, J.F., Young, S.M.M., Van de Venter, A., Potze, S., S?gas, F. & Aiello, L.C. 2002. Relationships between vanadium concentrations and small mammal fauna in early Pleistocene deposits from Kromdr i A, South Africa. Annals of the Transvaal Museum 39:73-75.

Thackeray, J.F., Kirschvink, J.L. & Raub, T.D. 2002. Palaeomagnetic analyses of calcified deposits from the Plio-Pleistocene hominid site of Kromdraai, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 98:537-540.

Thackeray, F., Gommery, D. & Braga, J. 2002. Australopithecine postcrania (Sts 14) from the Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa: the skeleton of 'Mrs Ples' South African Journal of Science 98:211-212.

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