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Experience Paleoanthropology in South Africa
The 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 hominin lineages
o Homo erectus (direct ancestor of modern humans)
o Paranthropus robustus (extinct “cousin” of the genus Homo)
• First and earliest evidence for controlled use of fire found anywhere c. 1.0 million years ago
• First and earliest evidence of tool use with non-stone material (i.e. bone tools) c. 2.0 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, and is part of the “Cradle of Humankind” World Heritage Site. 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 Australopithecus 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. Younger deposits at the site sample the Middle Stone Age archaeological traces of early Homo sapiens.
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 seventeen 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, including: visits to other nearby early hominin sites, such as Sterkfontein, Kromdraai, Drimolen and Malapa; visits to view important original fossils at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, in Pretoria, and on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg; a three-day ecology (lots of elephants and giraffes!) and Iron Age archaeology tour of Mapungubwe National Park; guest lectures by leading figures in African paleoanthropology, such as Professors Ron Clarke (discoverer of the famous “Little Foot” skeleton) and Francis Thackeray (director of the Institute for Human Evolution); and shopping days at the African Craft Market in Johannesburg.
Swartkrans, a cave site approximately 20 miles from Johannesburg, the largest and most populous city in South Africa, is recognized as one of the world's most important archaeological and fossil localities for the study of human evolution. Swartkrans is an Early Pleistocene hominid site that has yielded abundant fossils of Australopithecus robustus and Homo erectus, Early Stone Age lithic and bone artifacts and burned bones that may be the earliest traces of humanly controlled fire. The current research at the site is focused on understanding the role of hominids in the complex ecology of Swartkrans c . 1.8 million years ago.
Getting to Your Program
You will arrange their own transportation to South Africa, but are given guidelines for arrival dates and times. The Resident Director will pick students up at the airport upon arrival.
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for this program. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program.
IAP expects you to be an active participant in preparing yourself for your study abroad experience. As a participant on an IAP program, you will receive a pre-departure orientation, either in-person or online.
The type and format of this orientation will vary by program and will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.
For the duration of the fieldschool, you will live in a field camp on a nature reserve (with a variety of cool animals, like rhinos, hippos, warthogs and antelopes!) near Swartkrans, a 1.8 million year old early hominin site, which has yielded the abundant fossils of the species Homo erectus
and Paranthropus robustus
, as well as thousands of stone tools and the fossils of other animals.
The fieldschool is privileged to stay at the n’Gomo Safari Lodge
, where you will live in permanent tents with flush toilets and hot showers. Meals will be provided by a caterer on-site, you will pack your own lunches daily. The camp contains a central lodge for lectures and communal meals. There is a pay phone at the camp, and the Resident Director will have a telephone for emergency purposes at all times. Krugersdorp, a town about five miles from the camp, has stores for groceries, personal items, and a clinic.
The lodge is at the back of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve
, where you will see rhinos, zebra, and many other African animals everyday on the way to Swartkrans. You will also have the opportunity to ride through the reserve on horseback and to interact with baby lions and other big cats.
Excursions and Activities
As the program is very comprehensive and expands beyond the bounds of simply excavating for four weeks at one site, you will visit other nearby early hominin sites, such as Sterkfontein, Kromdraai, Drimolen and Malapa; visits to view important original fossils at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
, in Pretoria, and on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand
, in Johannesburg; a three-day ecology (lots of elephants and giraffes!) and Iron Age archaeology tour of Mapungubwe National Park
; guest lectures by leading figures in African paleoanthropology, such as Professors Ron Clarke (discoverer of the famous “Little Foot” skeleton) and Francis Thackeray (director of the Institute for Human Evolution); and shopping days at the African Craft Market
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
The program is directed by Dr. Travis Pickering, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UW-Madison. Prof Pickering is the Director of the Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project (South Africa).
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.Swartkrans Handbook 2013
(Summer - 2012-13)
Returned Student Network
to contact a returned student.
How to Apply
First complete the IAP Online Application. The following supplemental application materials will become available to you through the application portal:
Summer Program Forms
Swartkrans Fieldschool Reference Form
Unofficial Transcript (Student Record)
Unofficial Transcript - OPTIONAL - Additional File
Forms are subject to change. Complete the forms according to the checklist provided to you in the online application portal.
After the Deadline
IAP will review your application and make the final admissions decision. You will be notified of the admissions decision via email.
|Summer - 2013-2014