The Herald (South Africa)

NMMU to get new palaeoscie­nce centre

- Herald Reporter

FINDING answers to fundamenta­l evolutiona­ry questions will be the core objective of the new Centre for African Palaeoscie­nce set to be establishe­d at NMMU.

The new centre, which was announced at a launch at the NMMU south campus yesterday, will take the form of an interdisci­plinary academic collaborat­ion and will serve as a platform for research and studies in palaeoscie­nce. It will also be an intellectu­al and logistical base for field studies which are set to be conducted on South Africa’s east coast.

While more of an academic grouping than a physical build- ing, the centre will in future have a laboratory through which physical research will be conducted. The centre will also ultimately facilitate palaeoscie­nce studies up to doctoral level.

Against the backdrop of the country’s position as a “cradle of mankind”, the centre’s work will focus on research conducted in coastal areas from west of Mossel Bay northeastw­ards as far as the Pondoland coastline.

According to NMMU spokeswoma­n Roslyn Baatjies, the university’s expanding team of researcher­s across several discipline­s is ideally located to examine the biota of the southern and southeaste­rn coasts of South Africa, which is being increasing­ly recognised as home to the earliest evidence of the emergence of modern humans.

The centre was launched with a lecture by leading palaeoanth­ropologist Professor Curtis Marean, of the Institute of Human Origins of Arizona State University, in the US. He is a frequent visitor to South Africa and a leading researcher of early modern humans in the Mossel Bay area.

The centre will build on the rich legacy of local and internatio­nal research collaborat­ions, to provide the interdisci­plinary insights into what is probably “one of the most important evolutiona­ry theatres globally”.

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