SAASTA website

African Origins focuses on South Africa's remarkable palaeontological and archaeological heritage.

Stories dating back millions of years are preserved in stones and bones across our country. Some of these have already been discovered and unraveled by our famous fossil hunters such as Raymond Dart, Robert Broom, Ron Clarke, James Kitching, Phillip Tobias, Bruce Rubidge, Francis Thackeray and many others. However, there are many more fossils waiting to be discovered in our riverbeds and caves. Because of the great antiquity of the South African rock record, South Africa is blessed with a rich fossil heritage which contains a variety of fossils from all different geological ages, starting with the oldest evidence of life known. South Africa has one of the richest fossil records in the world and also includes dinosaurs, mammal-like reptiles and even humans. Indeed the fossil evidence shows that our species originated in Africa and then populated the world from here.

Palaeontology is the study of all fossils, and palaeoanthropology is a subsection of palaeontology. Palaeo-anthropologists try to piece together how humans evolved from our ancient ancestors. They devote themselves to the painstaking task of looking for their rare treasures, probing ever deeper into the past. From the fossils that they excavate from rocks and cave sites, they try to build the puzzle of our African Origins piece by piece. Sometimes they find only fragments of bone or pieces of stone tools. Now and then a remarkable discovery of a near-complete, beautifully preserved skull or skeleton makes the world sit up and take notice. From the shape and size of these bones and teeth scientists are able to glean information about the daily lives of yesterday's people.





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Berger Lee
Berger Lee (close-up)
Bone tools
Dinosaur tracks, Eastern Cape, Billy de Klerk
Francis Thackeray and Mrs Ples
Heterodontos Aurus
Job Kibii, Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand
Little foot unveiling
Rose Pervec, Geology Department, Rhodes University
Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan of the University of Cape Town
Roger Smith, Curator of Karoo Palaeontology, Iziko South African Museum
The cranium of the juvenile skeleton of Au Sediba. Photo by Brett Eloff courtesy of Wits University