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Name: Dr Bongekile Zwane
Location: House 10, Humanities Research Village Bunting Road Campus
Palaeo-Research Staff & Members  Staff Members

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Tel: 011 559 1744


About Dr Bongekile Zwane

I am an archaeobotanist who studies botanical remains from archaeological sites. My research contributes to the understanding of how human ancestors developed, and is focused on the whole archaeological past. The archaeological record is crucial to understand the evolutionary success of humans (Homo sapiens). From the Pleistocene to the Holocene, the timing of many evolutionary milestones of Homo sapiens can be related to favourable climatic conditions that allowed the selection of biological and behavioural traits that define humanity in the Anthropocene. As an archaeobotanist, I investigate the role of plants (as climate proxies and material culture) in accelerating many biological and behavioural changes that occurred in human history. I view plants as separate entities with which we share a physical space and, as such, can influence our environment and our evolutionary trajectory. I also focus on the history of plant use, with reference to plants as primary sources of nutrition, medicine, energy and construction material for humans. I extrapolate evidence of plant use from residues of plant remains, alongside other material culture and use it to understand our dependency on them today. I specialise in analysing wood charcoal from archaeological sites.  I do this to uncover how plants can inform about many aspects of the past, especially palaeoenvironments.

I am currently conducting research on wood charcoal from many archaeological sites including Knysna Eastern Heads cave 1, Boomplaas cave, Strathalan cave with the goal of reconstructing past environments/ landscapes in southern Africa that are dated to the Last Glacial Maximum. During this period of human history, our ancestors innovated a new lithic  technology in southern Africa, formally replacing the Middle Stone Age with the Later Stone Age. It is suspected that the climate influenced this change and my research will shed light into the life of some of these pre-historic communities who ushered in a new era. In my new role at the Palaeo-Research Institute, I teach third years (undergraduate) students the theory and methods of archaeology.

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