Researchers and students from NMMU’s new Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience (CCP) attended and presented at the 39th annual Fynbos Forum, held in Port Elizabeth from 25-28 July.

The CCP talks covered an entire “Palaeoscapes” session, which kicked off the conference with a bang by taking delegates back in time to the Cape south coast as far back as 200 thousand years ago. First to speak was Professor Richard Cowling (NMMU), who gave a keynote address concerning the environmental conditions associated with the emergence of behaviourally modern humans along the Cape south coast. By consolidating the exciting findings from recent archaeological digs, as well as those from palaeo–climate and –vegetation studies, Cowling set the scene for the story of our ancient forebears.

Next to speak was Professor Karen Esler (Stellenbosch University), who outlined the CCP’s new–generation, integrative, inter–disciplinary approach to understanding human–environment dynamics during this critical stage in human evolution. She was followed by Dr Alastair Potts (NMMU), who delved into the many–layered process of palaeo–vegetation modelling, and its capacity to contextualise the rich archaeological record from the Cape.

PhD students Elzanne Singels (SU) and Susan Botha (NMMU) elaborated on the incredible diversity of edible plant foods in the vegetation types of the Cape, and how early hunter–gatherers collected and processed these resources. Delegates were able to sample some delicious bulbs and corms, which were prepared by Elzanne herself. MSc student Zintle Faltein (Rhodes University) discussed how different atmospheric CO2 levels may have affected the growth and reliability of these edible plant resources. We then moved from terrestrial to marine foraging with PhD student Jan de Vynck, whose talk on the bountiful intertidal resources available to human foragers in the Cape won the prize for “best talk”.  Leesha Richardson (UNISA) wrapped up a successful session by discussing the findings of her Honours project, which explored the archaeological evidence for the utilisation of marine birds as a resource by late Stone Age coastal hunter-gatherers.