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Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE)

Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE)

Homo sapiens was anatomically modern by 200 ka (thousand years ago) in Africa, but there is no evidence indicating that behaviour was modern at the time. Current archaeological evidence, although limited, highlights 100-50 ka as being a watershed for human cognitive, technological and social development in Africa. Significantly more research is needed to understand where, when and why early humans started to think and behave like we do today.

South Africa, in particular the southern Cape, is exceptionally well placed for answering these big-picture questions because the archaeological record of this region preserves the pathway to the early behavioural origins of H. sapiens. Revolutionary discoveries currently being made here are forcing a reappraisal of the process that has led to our modern human condition but first we must critically assess the criteria to identify modern behaviour, and find a means to recognize such behaviour in the archaeological record. This seemingly simple research statement involves complex exploration by a team of specialists.

Foremost, we will focus on excavating well preserved archaeological sites in the southern Cape, occupied in the critical 100-50 ka period. SapienCE has exclusive access to these sites that contain the keys for unlocking the past. In tandem we will introduce ground-breaking and innovative interdisciplinary approaches to extracting, analysing and understanding the processes that shaped the behaviour and cognition of early H. sapiens. In this highly competitive research field our team will combine the skills of cutting-edge scientists at UiB in archaeology, chronology, micromorphology, climate reconstruction and modelling, and the cognitive and social sciences that will contribute to an unprecedented understanding of early human behaviour.

Over the next decade SapienCE will consolidate UiB and Norway's position as a world leader in early human origins research.

Project facts


Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE)




01.10.17 - 30.09.27

Total budget

241.000.000 NOK

Research group


Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Project members

Christopher Stuart Henshilwood
Zarko Tankosic
Heidi Øhrn
Zahra Haghighi
Elizabeth Catherine Velliky
Magnus Mathisen Haaland
Jovana Milic
Silje Evjenth Bentsen
Eystein Jansen
Karen Loise van Niekerk
Francesco d'Errico
Jenny Maccali
Evi Linda Naudts
Ole Fredrik Unhammer
Turid Hillestad Nel
Petro Keene
Sarah Jacoba Deborah Wurz
Christopher Miller
Zhongshi Zhang
Anna Nele Meckler
Stein Erik Lauritzen
Torill Christine Lindstrøm
Sieghard Gunter Beller
Simon James Armitage
Kenneth Jan Hugdahl
Andrea Bender