'LITTLE FOOT' AND LAETO
One of the greatest discover ies which has coincided with our Jubilee year was that by Or Ron Clarke, of the Univer sity of the Witwatersrand, of the set of four articulating foot bones of a hominid from Sterkfontein, dubbed 'Little Foot'.
'The 3,5 million year old fos sils are the oldest signs of an cient human ancestors yet found in South Africa,' said Professor Phillip Tobias when he announced the find in late July. 'Exactly 70 years after Raymond Dart revealed to the world the first African missing link, the Taung child - found not far from Kimberley - the latest find is the first major dis covery to be presented by the New South Africa'. Tobias added, 'it shows us that there are still immense prospects for new and very ancient finds to be made in the southern African subcontinent'.
'Little Foot's' highly mobile big toe, set at a wide angle to the
other toes, matches almost exactly the diverging toe im prints In the famous 3,5 million year old fossilised footprint trails uncovered by Mary Leakey and her team at Lae toli, Tanzania, in 1976-9.
The Laetoli site - which in cludes two 27 m parallel trails of hominid footprints pre served in volcanic ash, critical evidence at the time of our ancestors' bipedalism three and a half million years ago - has also been in the news - and with another South Afri can connection. The track was reburied with great care as a protective measure at the end of the 1979 field season, but the threats of vegetation growth and erosion have ne cessitated a conservation programme which began in August this year.
Involving re-excavation, the programme is to include high precision survey to produce digital elevation and vIsualisa tion models of each imprint.
Commissioned to undertake this survey is Professor Heinz RGther of the University of Cape Town's Survey Depart ment, who has a long-stand ing interest in archaeology and archaeological survey work. 'I am very excited that such a major project has been awarded to us in the face of stiff international competition,' Professor RGther told VeT News (October 1995). He is to work on the site over a two year period with PhD student Julian Smit.
The original documentation of the footprint trail included casts using latex and silicon rubber. Fibre-glass casts made of the entire trail were then available for anyone wishing to study the footprints. But this time around, a range of state-of-the-art surveying and photogrammetric tech niques will be used, including digital photogrammetry, auto mated mapping and Geo graphical Information System (GIS).
SARARA - the Southern African Rock Art Research Association - is to host an international rock art conference in Swakopmund, Namibia, in August 1996. Pre- and post-conference excursions are planned to include visits to the major Namibian rock art sites in the Erongo Mountains, the Brandberg and at Twyfelfontein. A post-conference field trip to Tanzania is also on the cards, to include rock art at Kondoa, Kolo and Thawi, with visits to Oldovai Gorge and the Ngorongoro Crater.
Enquiries: SARARA, P.O. Box 81292, Parkhurst 2120; Fax 27-11- 3397967; or e-mail shann @aurum.chem.wits.ac.za
Publications available from the South African Archaeological Society include: back numbers of the South African Archaeological Bulletin*, the Goodwin Series*, the Monograph Series*, the Newsletter (1978-1983), and The Digging Stick. (* some out of print).
Searching for the past: the methods and techniques ofarchaeology by A.lB. Humphreys (David PhIlip, 1986), and the Society's Wall Chart and Handbook, The early history of Southern Africa to AD 1500, are available at R18,OO and R21,OO respectively - with a one third discount to members. Our Jubilee Poster costs R10,OO. Please write to the Secretary for details and prices.
The Digging Stick
Vol12 (3) Nov 1995