Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience

Background

Given the unique geographical position of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) – situated at the possible ground-zero of human cognitive origins as well as a locus for a diverse range of biotic radiations – the university is ideally situated to engage in national and international collaboration to investigate fundamental evolutionary questions.

A major aim of the CCP will be to formalise and strengthen the existing collaborations between NMMU and the other institutions, both nationally and internationally, that have cognate research interests. The initial focus will be on reconstructing the Quaternary palaeo-landscape and seascape (“palaeoscape”) of the south and southeast coasts. This reconstruction will enable the development of testable hypotheses on the selective regimes that shaped the region’s biota, including modern humans. No region anywhere else in the world offers such an opportunity.

The geographical domain of the CCP incorporates the seascapes and landscapes of South Africa’s south and southeast coasts. This region encompasses much of the Greater Cape Floristic Region and Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspots, and supports an extraordinarily rich array of Middle and Later Stone Age archaeological sites.

Vision

By 2021, the CCP will be internationally recognized as a leading institution for conducting research on the Quaternary evolution of the biota (including early humans) of the species-rich south and southeast coast of South Africa.

Mission

The Mission of CCP is to conduct and coordinate Quaternary palaeoscientific research in an interdisciplinary context on the south and southeast coast of South Africa. The Centre also aims to build human capacity through postgraduate training.

Strategic objectives

The proposed Centre will:

  • conduct and stimulate research across all fields of palaeoscience that provide context for understanding the evolution of biota, with a focus on the human lineage;
  • promote and facilitate inter-disciplinary, intra-institutional and inter-institutional palaeoscience research; and
  • provide tuition in palaeosciences at undergraduate (by exposing students to the palaeosciences within existing modules) and postgraduate levels, and foster co-supervision of postgraduate students by international leaders in different fields.