Early humans in Africa

Bernhard Zipfel, Evolutionary Studies Institute, Wits University, South Africa

Becoming human – fossil hominins from Southern Africa

Bernhard Zipfel is a palaeoanthroplogist with a special interest in the biomechanics and evolution of the human foot, the origins of hominin bipedalism, palaeopathology and the preservation of natural history collections. He became the University Curator of Fossil and Rock Collections at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007 and was formerly the Head of the Department of Podiatry at the University of Johannesburg (1990-2006). He curates all fossil and rock collections housed at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand. He holds qualifications in Podiatric Medicine and Post-School Education from the University of Johannesburg (South Africa), a B.Sc. (Honours) from the University of Brighton (UK) and a Ph.D. from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). He is the past President of the Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa (2012 to 2014) and recently became a Fellow of the South African Podiatry Association. He has published numerous papers in high impact journals, including the hominin discoveries at Malapa and Dinaledi, and a series of papers on human foot evolution. Website.

Fidelis Masao, Professor, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Early modern human fossils from Eastern Africa– recent investigation on the archaeology of the Ngaloba beds, Laetoli northern Tanzania.

Dr. Fidelis Taliwawa Masao was graduated in BA Hons from the University of Nairobi (Kenya), in 1969. Dr. Masao was after awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship which enabled him to pursue MA studies at the University of Colorado Boulder (US). Subsequent to his MA studies, Dr. Masao was again awarded a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) scholarship that funded his PhD studies at Simon Fraser University at Burnaby (Canada), from 1973 to 1977. Following his completion of the undergraduate studies at the University of Nairobi, Dr. Masao was employed by the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam as the Museum’ Schools’ Liason officer, a position that was very short lived on account of having to leave for his MA studies in the US. Upon completion of the MA studies in 1971, Dr. Masao returned home and was appointed Asst. Curator of the National Museum of Tanzania, a position he retained, though in absentia on study leave until 1977. In 1978, he was appointed the first national Director of the National Museums of Tanzania, a presidential appointment, until 1991 when he resigned to join the University of Dar es Salaam as Senior Lecturer until 1995. Between 1998 and 2002, Dr. Masao was employed by the Open University of Tanzania as a Professor of Geography and History, subsequent to returning to the University of Dar es Salaam from 2003 to 2015. Short tints appointments include that of a Visiting Professor at Hanyang University (South Korea) in 1995-1996, and Rutgers University (US) in 2003.

His research interests are in Palaeoanthropology especially with regards to the ecological base of Hominid Evolution, Middle Stone Age, and Rock Art. Funded Projects: i) Investigation of the ecological base during lowermost Bed II and Upper Bed I at Olduvai; ii) A landscape approach, with R. J. Blumenschine, from 1989 to 2010 and funded by LSB Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society and the Wenner Gren Foundation; iii) Chronostratigraphic contextualization of the Acheulean/MSA in the Mbulu Plateau, funded by PAST; iv) The Archaeology of the Ngaloba Beds in the greater Laetoli area, funded by PAST. International Collaborations: i) Worked with IHO at Olduvai 1n 1986-87 and in the process discovers OH 62; ii) Working with the Olduvai Landscape Palaeoanthropology Project OLAPP, a multidisciplinary and multinational project since 1989; iii) Working with Tanzania Human Origins (THOR), a project bringing together Italian and Tanzanian scientists since 2012. Editor of the Kumbuka Newsletter, which has ceased to exist since 1990. Website.

Mark Thomas, Professor, University College London, UK

African Structure: Moving Beyond Multiregional and Simple Out of Africa Models of Human Evolution

Mark Thomas is Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at University College London and works mainly on biological and cultural aspects of human evolution. He uses computer simulation and statistical modelling to make inferences from genetic data – including ancient DNA – and archaeological information, on processes such as past migrations and dispersals, natural selection – particularly in response to changes in diet and infectious disease loads – and how demography shapes cultural evolution. Website.