Short biographical notes

Early humans in Africa

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

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


Cultural transitions in Stone Age and Iron Age in Africa

Lawrence Barham, Professor, University of Liverpool, UK

Larry Barham (PhD 1989, University of Pennsylvania, USA) has been working in Zambia since 1993 and more recently in Ghana. He is based at the University of Liverpool, UK. His current research focus is the behavioural transition from the Early to Middle Stone Age in Africa. The transition encompasses the shift from large hand-held tools to hafted technologies. Hafting marks a new conceptualisation of technology as a process that integrates multiple parts and expertise. This invention emerged from an Acheulean background of working organic materials, making fire and producing complex stone tools. The combinatorial principle of hafting remains with us in the form of modern manufacturing processes. Professor Barham leads the ‘Deep Roots Project’ in Zambia, investigating the archaeological record of the Early to Middle Stone Age transition.

Plan Shenjere-Nyabezi, Senior Lecturer, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Plan Shenjere-Nyabezi holds a BA Honours degree in Archaeology at University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe), a MA in Archaeology, and a PhD in Archaeology at University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Heritage Management at the University of Zimbabwe. Her areas of interest include Archaeozoology, the Zimbabwe Culture, Pastoralism, Ethnoarchaeology and Archaeological Heritage Management. She has published research papers in several international journals and edited monographs. She is currently a Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow on the Volkswagen Foundation Knowledge for Tomorrow Program and a Research Associate with the University of Pretoria Archaeology and Anthropology Department.

Gilbert Collin Pwiti, Professor, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Gilbert Pwiti holds a BA Honours degree in African Language and History (University of Zimbabwe), a MPhil in Archaeology (University of Cambridge), and a PhD in Archaeology (University of Uppsala). He is currently Professor of Archaeology and Heritage Management at the University of Zimbabwe. He has published widely on research in spatial archaeology, early and later farming communities of southern Africa as well as on various aspects of Cultural Heritage Management. Over the years, he has coordinated a number of regional archaeological research projects, including the Sida/SAREC funded regional archaeological research projects on the development of urbanism in eastern and southern Africa and the NUFU funded archaeological research projects in Eastern Zimbabwe and Central Mozambique. Between 1996 and 2001 he served as the Executive Secretary of the Pan African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies.

Gavin Whitelaw, KwaZulu-Natal Museum, South Africa

Gavin Whitelaw is an archaeologist at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Museum in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He did his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. His interests cover the Iron Age of southern Africa. His research is anthropological in character and he favours interpretations that integrate economy with cosmology. For many years he has been either editor or on the editorial committee of the KZN Museum journal, Southern African Humanities, an annually produced volume that covers archaeological, anthropological, historical and material-cultural research. Through the museum and the South African Archaeological Society, he is involved in the public dissemination of archaeological knowledge. He is currently president of the SA Archaeological Society (till 30 June 2020).


The first human divergences: Khoe-khoe and San

Brigitte Pakendorf, DR1, DDL, CNRS & Université Lyon 2, Lyon, France

Brigitte Pakendorf obtained a PhD degree in Molecular Anthropology at the University of Hamburg, Germany, in 2001 and a PhD degree in Linguistics at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, in 2007. After leading the interdisciplinary Max Planck Research Group on Comparative Population Linguistics at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, from 2007 through 2011, she has been a senior scientist at the CNRS research unit “Dynamique du Langage” in Lyon, France, since 2012. Her research focuses on the interdisciplinary study of population history, especially in Siberia and southern Africa, the investigation of language contact in Siberia (in particular involving the Turkic language Sakha (Yakut) and the Tungusic language Even), as well as on the documentation and description of Even and its moribund sister, Negidal. She has conducted numerous field trips to collect genetic samples in the Solomon Islands, Siberia, and southern Africa, as well as extensive linguistic fieldwork in various locations of Yakutia, in central Kamchatka, and on the Lower Amur river of the Russian Far East.

Michael de Jongh, Professor, University of South Africa, South Africa

Michael de Jongh is Professor Emeritus and Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of South Africa, has published widely, and presented scientific papers nationally and internationally in the fields of ethnicity, urbanisation, traditional leadership, land rights, minorities and human mobility. The National Research Foundation listed him as a rated researcher. More recently he has researched extensively the ”forgotten” first people of South Africa. His book ”Roots and Routes–the Karretjie People of the Great Karoo” was listed for the Alan Paton Prize for non-fiction and was awarded the Hiddingh-Curry Literary Award for academic excellence and service to society. His more recent books are ”A Forgotten First People–the Southern Cape Hessequa” (2016) and ‘‘The Forgotten front–untold stories of the Anglo-Boer War” (2018)–which chronicles the previously disregarded role of ‘other’ South African people and communities in the war. Michael currently functions from Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape and values living at the coast.

Mattias Jakobsson, Professor, Human Evolution, Uppsala University, Sweden

Professor Mattias Jakobsson has a broad interest in population genetics and human evolution. His lab uses computational approaches for deciphering complex patterns of large-scale human genomic variation from both modern-day and ancient humans in order to understand human evolutionary history. The lab focus on interrogating long-standing questions in human evolution, including the colonization and migration in Stone Age Eurasia and the population history of sub-Saharan Africans.


Biomedical research in Africa

Collen Masimirembwa, CSO, African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology, Zimbabwe

Collen Masimirembwa did his DPhil in Biochemistry at the University of Zimbabwe and a PhD in Medical Biochemistry & Biophysics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. After a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship at Uppsala University working on molecular aspect of malaria drug resistance, he joined AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company in Sweden. He worked there for 10 years as a Principal Scientist in drug discovery drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. With a strong desire to build research capacity for drug discovery and development in Africa, he founded the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST), whose vision is to provide life transforming healthcare solutions for Africa. With advanced and integrated genomic, bioanalytical, bioinformatics platforms and a phase I clinical trial unit, AiBST is now one of the most outstanding hubs for biomedical research and applications in Africa. AiBST is also supporting the training of students at Masters’ and Doctoral levels, thus contributing to skilled manpower development for the continent. Collen Masimirembwa’s research is focused on in the application of pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics in the discovery, development and rational use of medicines. He have published over 90 original papers in peer reviewed journals, 5 book chapters and co-edited a book on Drug Discovery in Africa. This work has resulted in the discovery of genetic variants unique to African populations that have implication in the safe and efficacious use of some medicines. His latest innovation, GenoPharmR, is a pharmacogenetics and pharmacokinetics-based prediction tool for enhanced treatment outcomes with respect to drug safety and efficacy.

Michele Ramsay, Director, NHL, Wits University, South Africa

Michele Ramsay (PhD) is the director of the Sydney Benner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg), professor in human genetics and South African Research Chair holder in Genomics and Bioinformatics of African Populations. As a member of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium (H3Africa), she leads the AWI-Gen study on the genetic and environmental contributions to obesity and cardiometabolic disease risk in six study sites across four African countries. Her research aims to shed light on the role of African population genomic variation in susceptibility to diseases, given the ethnolinguistic and environmental diversity across the continent.

Ananyo Choudhury, Senior Researcher, NHL, Wits University, South Africa

Ananyo Choudhury obtained his Masters in Zoology from the University of Kalyani, India and a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the University of Calcutta, India. He moved to South Africa in 2010 to join the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) at University of the Witwatersrand as a Postdoctoral Fellow. He is presently employed at SBIMB as a Senior Scientist and co-leading the AWI-Gen genome-wide association study (GWAS) as well AWI-Gen population structure study analyst teams. He has contributed to many of the major genomic studies conducted in Africa, including the African Genome Variation Project (AGVP), the H3Africa genotyping array design, the H3Africa Whole Genome Study and the Southern African Human Genome Program (SAHGP). His key interests are population genomics, genomics of complex traits and developing computational resources for genomic analysis.


Western and West-Central African DIVERSITY

Bernard Clist, Researcher, Ghent University, BantUGent, Belgium

Bernard Clist is associated since 2012 to the UGent Centre for Bantu studies of Gent University’s Department of Languages and Cultures, and more recently to the Institut des Mondes Africains in France. He has been conducting archaeological research in and on Central Africa since 1980, and has carried out research projects in Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Madagascar, and Zambia. He was in residence in Gabon between 1985 and 1996 when he was Head of the International Centre for Bantu Civilisations Archaeology Department (CICIBA). He did his PhD (2005) on the Neolithic to Iron Age periods of north-west Gabon, about the earliest villagers and their interaction with their environment. Between 2012 and 2018, he coordinated and conducted archaeological research on the Kongo kingdom with fieldwork in the DRC (2012-2015), and lab work in Angola, Belgium and Portugal, and editing the final project report published in 2018 at Archaeopress, Oxford. This led to furthering an interest into social processes leading through the Iron Age, to the complex societies of the region.

Koen Bostoen, Professor, Ghent University, BantUGent, Belgium

Dr. Koen Bostoen is Professor of African Linguistics and Swahili at Ghent University and member of the UGent Centre for Bantu Studies. His research focuses on Bantu languages and interdisciplinary approaches to the African past. He obtained an ERC Starting Grant for the KongoKing project (2012–2016) and an ERC Consolidator’s Grant for the BantuFirst project (2018–2022). Apart from several research articles, he is the author of “Des mots et des pots en bantou: une approche linguistique de l’histoire de la céramique en Afrique” (2005, Peter Lang) and co-editor of “Studies in African Comparative Linguistics, with Special Focus on Bantu and Mande” (2005, RMCA), “The Kongo Kingdom: The Origins, Dynamics and Cosmopolitan Culture of an African Polity” (2018, Cambridge University Press), “Une archéologie des provinces septentrionales du royaume Kongo” (2018, Archaeopress) and “The Bantu Languages”, Second Edition (2019, Routledge).

Hiba Babiker, Researcher, Max Planck Institute, Germany

Hiba Babiker is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Germany). She obtained her master’s degree from Uppsala University (Sweden), and later she was awarded the International Max-Planck research school fellowship for her PhD studies. She is interested in human genetic diversity and patterns of migration inside Africa. Her research couples fieldwork with the collection of genealogical data and biological samples. Her research is currently dedicated to revealing the genetic structure and history of populations across the Bandiagara Escarpment in Central Eastern Mali and populations across South-West Burkina Faso using genome-wide SNP data and uniparental markers. She is also interested in using recent advancement in ancient DNA technology to explore past populations’ settlements in the region before the Dogon expansion. She is working closely with linguists to generate paired linguistic-genetic data to understand modern-day linguistic and genetic diversity shaped by the demographic histories of the populations.


Eastern African diversity