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The Palaeo Research Institute (P-RI) is the hub for Palaeo-Sciences Research and training at the University of Johannesburg. Our research staff and associates conduct and disseminate high-quality research focused on the following research themes:

  • The physiological evolution of hominins and other animals who shared their landscape (fossil research);
  • The genetic evolution of Homo sapiens and the reconstruction of the African population history (ancient and living DNA research);
  • The cognitive evolution of hominins since our split from non-human primates (neuro-archaeology, palaeo-neurology, cognitive archaeology);
  • The evolution of indigenous knowledge systems (techno-behavioural studies associated with hominins and early humans);
  • The development of novel, state-of-the-art approaches to the dating of fossils in Africa.


The P-RI maintains a large collaborative, inter-disciplinary network that stimulates creative research approaches and expose post-graduate students to an international, multi-disciplinary research environment. The Research Institute boasts a dedicated microscopy unit that specialises in training post-graduate students in use-trace analyses and taphonomic identifications.


The main projects currently hosted at the P-RI include:

  • Palaeo-TrACKS (Tracing Ancient Cognition and Knowledge Systems), managed by Professor Marlize Lombard who holds a Research Chair in the Palaeo-Institute

  • Reconstructing the transition from Australopithecus to Homo in South Africa. This is a project managed by Professor Andy Herries who is based at Latrobe University, Australia. It is funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant.
  • Biochemical characterisation of poison residues on Stone Age hunting kits,  managed by Dr Justin Bradfield. The aim of this project is to explore the antiquity and variability of indigenous knowledge systems by looking at the plant ingredients used to poison weapons.

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