Swartkrans Field School 2018University of Wisconsin Study Abroad
Experience Paleoanthropology in South Africa
Swarkrans Cave site has provided the:
- Largest sample (> 126 individuals) of Paranthropus robustus in the world
- First evidence for the co-existence of two different hominid lineages (Homo erectus and Paranthropus robustus)
- First and earliest evidence for controlled use of fire found anywhere c. 1 million years ago
- First and earliest evidence of tool use with non-stone material (i.e. bone tools) c. 1.7 million years ago
This four-week program offers you the opportunity to participate in a paleoanthropology fieldschool at the famous fossil human locality of Swartkrans, South Africa. Swartkrans, a cave site approximately twenty miles from Johannesburg, is recognized as one of the world's most important archaeological and fossil localities for the study of human evolution. The site's geological deposits span millions of years and sample several important events in human evolution.
The oldest finds at the site date between 2.0 and 1.0 million years old—a time period during which our immediate ancestor, Homo erectus, shared the landscape with the extinct ape-man species Paranthropus robustus. In addition to fossils of these species, Swartkrans also preserves an abundant archaeological record of their behavior in the form of stone and bone tools, as well as butchered animal bones. Most spectacularly, the site contains evidence of the earliest known use of fire by human ancestors, dated to about 1.0 million years old.
You will learn about these fascinating ancestors through a hands-on course that includes instruction in archaeological survey, site mapping, excavation, recording, artifact and fossil analysis (human and animal), and laboratory techniques. Fieldwork will be supplemented with occasional lectures, workshops and fossil locality tours with internationally recognized paleoanthropologists working at nearby sites.
The program is directed by Dr. Travis Pickering, Professor of Anthropology at UW-Madison. Over his 20 years of working in South Africa, Professor Pickering has cultivated strong relationships with researchers in the area ensuring that students on this program will see original fossils and artifacts and receive site tours from the primary researchers in the field. The program is very comprehensive and expands beyond the bounds of simply excavating for four weeks at one site.