The Centre is focussed on reconstructing the palaeo-landscape over the Cape south coast during the Quaternary climate oscilations. To this end, there are a number of projects involving climate and vegetation reconstruction, as well as reconstructing the past 'resource-landscape' (i.e. what resources were available to early humans). 

A major thrust is the reconstruction of past climate. The Centre has developed collaborations with the CSIR in order to perform high-resolution regional climate downscaling for southern Africa for the Last Glacial Maximum (~21 ka). This collaboration is through an NRF African Origins Platform grant awarded to Prof. Richard Cowling. This climate downscaling project has already capitalised on the international SACP4 project and these computer intensive simulations are running on the American National Science Foundation XSEDE super-computer facility ( A fine-scale model of Pleistocene climate change will be of huger benefit to the research programme of the proposed Research Chair.

Other current research being conducted at Nelson Mandela University is the anthropological work conducted on shellfish and terrestrial plant return rates. This research involves Nelson Mandela University PhD students (Jan de Vynck and Susan Botha). Shellfish and plants ("fish and chips") are considered critical cogs for understanding the resource landscape for early humans.

Other relevant research and collaborations include:

  • Return and depletion rates of belowground carbohydrate resources for MSA foragers led by Prof John Parkington (University of Cape Town), Prof Karen Esler (Stellenbosch University), Prof Richard Cowling (Nelson Mandela University) and Dr Alastair Potts (Nelson Mandela University).
  • The effects of lowered atmospheric CO2 levels on edible bulbs (Rhodes MSc student: Zintle Faltein) led by Prof. Brad Ripley (Rhodes University), Prof. Karen Esler (Stellenbosch University) and Prof. Guy Midgley (Stellenbosch University)