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The Cradle of Humankind
15 September 2015

Traveling a few million years back in time is made possible through 3D technology. Used on several levels, 3D software gives researchers working in the Cradle of Humankind an understanding into the evolution of the landscape and insight into why the area is so enriched with archaeological and paleontological sites.

As part of the AESOP Workshop, attendees will be able to visit the Sterkfontein Caves to see how archaeologists are using 3D technology to find answers that have, for so long, been deeply buried.  Attendees will visit world famous sites, such as where South Africa’s most famous hominid fossil, Little Foot, was found. Attendees will also be able to see how 3D software determines these skeletal remains of Little Foot, the small ape-like creature that is said to be around 3.67 million years old. From this software, accurate suggestions have deduced that human origin was in southern Africa. 

Researchers working at the Cradle of Humankind, such as France’s National Institute for Archaeological Research (INRAP) archaeologist, Laurent Bruxelles, note the importance of understanding the actual cave structure that such fossils are found in. Using drones that provide high resolution pictures, for example, enables researchers to better understand the evolutionary changes of this UNESCO heritage site. Getting to places that would otherwise not be possible, drones enable researchers to understand how different caves trap fossils. 

3D software makes it possible to understand the relative position of fossils and the geometry of the deposits found in these caves. The ages of these fossils and deposits can then be linked to a detailed morphology of the area. Thanks to this software, Bruxelles and his team can utilize a new framework of the geological evolution of the area, not only giving insight into the past, but also providing a more focused long term scenario.

During excavation of the likes of Little Foot, Bruxelles explains the importance of understanding the sediments bones are found in. Using innovative technology, researchers are able to build 3D models which make it possible to understand the rock layers, the geometry of the deposits and the position of bones found inside the sediments. These technologies make is much easier to determine the age of the fossil finds.

To be part of this exciting excursion, register at: at www.up.ac.za/3-dimensions

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Last edited by Christelle BronkhorstEdit