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Palaeoanthropology is the scientific study of hominid fossils and their cultural material and origins.Sterkfontein is home to one of the world’s longest running palaeontological excavations.These scientists have used several methods to excavate fossils from the Sterkfontein caves and other sites in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.Fossils are carefully uncovered from the surrounding breccia with delicate airscribes.Researchers use a number of techniques to date the cave deposits.Palaeomagnetism is a method used to date deposits at Sterkfontein and other Cradle of Humankind sites.
The sediments are sieved, and any bones and artefacts recovered go to a laboratory for analysis.
Blocks of breccia can be removed for preparation in a laboratory.
Prior to removal, the position of each block of breccia is recorded in three dimensions, relative to a grid.
“Little Foot” has been excavated using airscribes, which operate using compressed air.
To remove overlying layers and expose cave breccia, jackhammers and crowbars can be used in situations where solid breccia has first to be broken open to expose fossils.