Human evolution research in South Africa: the role of HERI in shaking up our family tree

Global Pasts lecture
Prof Rebecca Ackermann and Dr Robyn Pickering (University of Cape Town)
South Africa team in front of rock oputcrop


Africa holds a rich record of human evolution, but investigating that record has historically left out many of our voices. At the Human Evolution Research Institute (HERI) we aim to change this, and to drive exceptional palaeoscience with diverse teams to uncover the story of how and why we became human. At the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, HERI drives African-led research on human evolution across the continent. We believe that with diverse teams, we can ask deeper questions and get better answers to our origin story. The result can lead to a better understanding of our past and a greater appreciation of human diversity. Our research focuses on questions of human biological and cultural evolution on many levels and across a wide time period. Our multidisciplinary teams investigate fossil records, the role of hybridisation in evolution, the rapidly developing field of palaeoproteomics, understanding the origins of modern human behaviour and dating Africa’s fossil and archaeological sites, as well as understanding how changing climates and environments shaped us. In this talk, we will discuss the various local and continental capacity building schemes HERI is leading to change the who of human evolution.