Bones and Stones – the latest buzz in archaeology

Posted on August 24, 2020

Bones and Stones – the latest buzz in archaeology


When the COVID-19 lockdown began, universities across South Africa needed to find new ways to teach their students. Dr Tim Forssman, along with his two colleagues, Dr Matt Caruana and Dr Matt Lotter, rose to the challenge and started their own YouTube channel –  Bones and Stones. The programme focuses on archaeology and heritage, specifically in South Africa.


Forssman is a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pretoria and this venture is a first for him and his colleagues. The team started the show to discuss heritage and archaeology, not just for their students but a broader public who may also be interested in these topics.


Each episode is based on questions that students have submitted or work that has been published recently. The show also tackles topical issues – during the Black Lives Matters protests in the US, the show discussed slavery and its impact in South Africa. Episodes generally cover many of the theoretical topics taught to undergraduates but they do so in an unacademic manner, adding comedy and fun facts to illustrate the content. They are designed to supplement, not replace, any specific course and feature a number of guests including Gerrit Dusseldorp and Nonny Vilakazi whose knowledge and experience have put them at the top of their fields.


MA student, Inèz Faul, believes that this series makes learning more accessible to those who are interested in archaeology, even if they have not taken a course in the subject. For Forssman, the goal is to spread a deeper appreciation for South Africa’s national heritage both at home and abroad. He believes that, “South Africa has a history with so many layers to it, from indigenous communities and rock art records to deep-time sequences to different ways of recording and remembering the past, such as through oral histories, embodiment or tradition.”


The series has gathered steam over the last few months and the hosts are hoping to continue with the program until they can hand over to a new crew. After 46 episodes and with some 230 subscribers, the program has captured the attention of both students and academics – they now release two longer episodes a week to accommodate the increasing number of questions. The first episode introduces the viewer to the hosts with a short discussion about why each became interested in archaeology. Forssman, for instance, loved reading alien theory books and wanted to explore the science behind history. He turned to archaeology ultimately finishing his PhD at Oxford. His area of focus is the Later Stone Age, which developed thanks to his fascination with the variety and preservation of items such as stone tools, beads and rock art.


One of the guests to appear on the show is Decio Muianga, who has worked in the Department of Archaeology at the University Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and is also an affiliated researcher with UP’s Department of Archaeology. This particular episode focuses on archaeology in Mozambique where there are a number of sites still to excavate and study. Dr Tammy Hodgskiss, the curator of the Origins Centre, is another of the show’s guests. Hodgskiss, who studied with the three hosts, looks at the Middle Stone Age in South Africa, focusing on the cognitive abilities of the early modern human. Her work at the Origins Centre has allowed her to continue with her research and build public awareness of the field, specifically in communities that surround archaeological sites. In many cases, communities do not benefit from academic findings nor do they fully appreciate the geographical significance of where they live. This episode also discuss the role museums play in documenting South Africa’s history and in changing perceptions of the past.


Other episodes feature topics such as: Palaeobotany at Great Zimbabwe, Rock Art and Bandits, the Mapungubwe collection and Archaeology in Lesotho.


The show itself has introduced viewers to several key archaeological concepts and to the research that is happening in South Africa. It also reveals how diverse the field really is and some of the connections that one can make between archaeology and humanity.


With lockdown regulations relaxing, viewers can expect to see some site visits as well as more in-depth videos on the research that the hosts are currently exploring.


To find out more and stay abreast of the latest in South African archaeology, visit the channel by clicking here.


- Author Andrea du Toit

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences