The Herald (South Africa)
NMMU to get new palaeoscience centre
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”.