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Texas State excavation breaks ground in South Africa

Date of Release: 10/03/2006

SAN MARCOS —Texas State University-San Marcos professor C. Britt Bousman and two graduate students conducted an excavation in South Africa that may help explain the migration of the early modern human species from Africa to Europe and Asia.

The excavation took place in three sites in South Africa, including a Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age site in which the researchers found fossils of extinct animals and artifacts. The site had several layers of gravel encompassing a time period of 50,000 years. Among the prized findings of this site is the lower leg bone of an extinct buffalo dating back 165,000 years. The group also found old artifacts presumably made by Homo erectus. These fossils and artifacts approximate the same time period during which the last of two migrations occurred and they indicate that these sites have enough material to proceed with a more extensive study.

The Texas State group also excavated an antelope kill site dating back 500 years, the only one of this type discovered in the area. Another invaluable excavation took place at an Early Stone Age site that dates back 1 million years ago.

Bousman worked with James Brink, a paleontologist/archeologist from the Natural Museum in South Africa, and with a crew of archeologists who have 25 years of experience in the field.

“I’ve been associated with that museum since 1979, so we know them well. This project is sort of blossomed in the last few years. We complement each other’s abilities, talents, and skills,” Bousman said.

Genetic and fossil evidence tell us that the human species evolved in Africa and migrated out, replacing all other hominids in Europe and Asia. One of the most important research goals is to identify the exact period in Africa when modern humans were evolving and modifying their behavior, and to locate sites that date to this time. Bousman is currently preparing a proposal to return to South Africa and perform a detailed excavation to further the study.

For more information, contact C. Britt Bousman, Department of Anthropology Director, Center for Archeological Studies at (512) 245-2724.