South Africa


Paranthropus robustus

The discovery of a two-million-year-old skull in South Africa is shedding important new light on microevolution in an early hominin species, as Jesse Martin and Angeline Leece reveal.

Meet the mosaic ancestors

Australopithecus sediba had a mixture of primitive and modern anatomical features, and a unique way of walking, newly published research says. The first fossilised remains of the hominid, which lived around two million years ago, were found in 2008 (CWA 41), at Malapa, 48km (30 miles) north of Johannesburg in South Africa. Now, six new […]


Hard to swallow

While most of our early ancestors preferred to eat soft foods such as grass and sedge, Australopithecus sediba enjoyed more roughage, including tree bark and papyrus in their two million-year-old diet. Rich in protein and soluble sugars, bark and papyrus are eaten by many modern primates, but previous research into 81 other hominids had not […]


South Africa: Burning evidence

Humans used fire a million years ago – more than 300,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to a team led by Michael Chazan of the University of Toronto and Liora Kolska Horwitz, Hebrew University, whose findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Excavation at Wonderwerk cave in South Africa […]

Blombos Cave: 100,000 year old paint in a shell

The discovery of two art toolkits, dating to 100,000 years ago, in a south African cave, show early humans were capable of sophisticated abstract thought and possessed a high level of technological know-how. Two abalone shells containing an ochre-rich mixture – probably used for decoration, painting, and skin protection – were found at Blombos Cave […]


Stay at home males and roaming females

The results of a major study of early hominid teeth suggest that our male ancestors tended to stick around close to where they were born but that our female forebears moved away from their birthplace to mate with males from other tribes. These findings come from looking at the isotopes in fossilised teeth, which reflect […]

Ochre production site discovered in South Africa

Among the oldest known examples of symbolic behaviour amongst humans and our close hominid relations is the use of ochre in burial rites, body ornamentation and cave art. Indeed, what is claimed to be the world’s oldest abstract art consists of a block of ochre rubbed smooth and marked with a diamond pattern, dating from […]