The Department of Archaeology investigates how people and environments have changed through time to gain insight into why we are the way we are today.
We study the fossil, cultural, and biological records of the past and present to do this. South Africa is home to a rich and unique archaeological, fossil, and ethnographic record which gives us considerable advantage in our research.
Our researchers are especially interested in the dynamics of human change over the Quaternary Period, beginning 2.6 million years ago and extending into the present. This period is notable for a dramatically changing climate. It is also when most of the modern flora and fauna, including our own species, Homo sapiens, evolved.
Indeed, this time period spans a large part of our evolutionary history and incorporates the record of early ape-like hominins, the first members of our genus Homo, modern human origins, hunter-gatherer societies, farming communities, and colonists.
Change, process, innovation, complexity, and adaptation are core ideas that thread through all of the work done at the Department of Archaeology. Some of our specific research areas include: technological change and innovation, the study of past diets and environments, understanding and reconstructing palaeoecology and the dynamics of complex social landscapes, and evolutionary process and the shaping of diversity.
Being based in South Africa, we have unrivaled opportunities to study the most meaningful records of human evolution. With that, we can contribute to a global understanding of our shared origins.
Associate Professor Deano Stynder, Head of the Department of Archaeology