By: Lazarus Kgasi, Junior Curator, Palaeontology, DITSONG: National Museum of Natural History


Within each fiscal year, the Plio-Pleistocene Palaeontology Section at the DITSONG: National Museum of Natural History (DNMNH) conducts fieldwork in two seasons (April-June and October/November). The partnership between the DNMNH (Hope Research Unit (HRU)), IRL HOMEN CNRS-NRF, and Palaeo-Research Institute (UJ) includes this fieldwork. Dr Johann Schnyder, a geologist (sedimentologist) from the Institute des Sciences de la Terre de Paris (ISTEP) of Sorbonne Université in France, and Dr Dominique Gommery and Dr Frank Sénégas from the MNHN/CNRS/Sorbonne Université in Paris also arrive at the same time. Working on the sites assists in understanding cave formation and some of the species’ evolutionary processes.


The team’s focus for 2022 was mainly on Aves Cave in the Greensleeves portion and Brad Pit A, B, and C extensions in the Klinkerts portion. Fieldwork included photogrammetry and mapping. These fossil sites need to be excavated in order to learn as much as we can about the underlying geology, which includes identifying and cataloguing the stratigraphic exposures; identifying and recording the deposition. The geologists (sedimentologists) working on site, Dr Johann Schnyder and Dr Véronique Pois use this excavation technique so they could better comprehend the intricate geology related to these deposits. Breccia blocks gathered during fieldwork are labelled and taken directly to the chemical laboratory at DNMNH for processing, while fossils discovered during fieldwork are taken back to the Museum’s Palaeontology Section to be further researched.


The agreement between the three institutions also involves community engagement. As part of information dissemination, the team was fortunate to be visited by the dignitaries Professor Alain Schuhl, who is the Deputy CEO for Science, Professor Sylvie Rousset, the Director of the Scientific and Technical Information(DIST), Dr Christelle Roy, who is the European Director of Research and International Cooperation (all from the CNRS) and Dr Jean-Pascal Torréton, the Head of IRD-CNRS-CIRAD Joint Office in South Africa.


The French Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Aurélien Lechevallier also graced us with his presence at Bolt’s Farm Cave System during our fieldwork in May 2022.


Lastly, the University of Johannesburg students (Mantwa Tsotetsi, Angeline Rasetlhomi and Boitshepo Motsodisa) visited the Bolt’s Farm fossil sites, the Broom Room, chemical laboratory and Bolt’s Farm exhibition at the Museum, as part of continuous learning.


L to R: Dr N. Vilakazi, Dr V. Pois, Dr J. Schnyder and Dr D. Gommery at Aves Cave mapping, photogrammetry and studying the site.


L to R: Dr N. Vilakazi and Dr F. Sénégas sieving the sediment from Brad Pit fossil site.



L to R: Dr V. Pois, Dr F. Sénégas, Dr B. Kuhn, Dr J. Schnyder, Dr V. Vilakazi and D. Gommery discussing the geology of the site.


Dr Gommery with UJ students (Mantwa Tsotetsi and Boitshepo Motsodisa) at the fossil site of Ave Cave.


University of Johannesburg students at the chemical prep lab with DNMNH curator, Mr Kgasi. L-R: Boitshepo Motsodisa, Angeline Rasetlhomi, and Mantwa Tsotetsi.


French ambassador, his excellency Aurélien Lechevallier visited Bolt’s Farm cave system with his friend and family.


Bolt’s Farm team and CNRS dignitaries visit at DITSONG: National Museum of Natural History. Top row L-R: Prof. Sylvie Rousset (CNRS), Prof. Alain Schuhl (CNRS), Dr. Jean-Pascal Torréton (IRD-CNRS-CIRAD); Middle row L-R: Dr. Frank Sénégas (Sorbonne Université), Mr. Lazarus Kgasi (Ditsong Museum); Bottom row L-R: Dr. Johann Schnyder (ISTEP), Dr. Nonhlanhla Vilakazi (P-RI: UJ), Dr. Dominique Gommery (Sorbonne Université), and Dr. Christelle Roy (CNRS).

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