Langebaanweg 2010: 15-17 November

Changing Landscapes and Biotas of the Cape West Coast:
Mio-Pliocene to Recent.

Dear Colleagues

Building on the success of the Langebaanweg 2006 mini-symposium and workshop, a second meeting, which will take the form of a conference, is planned in the second half of November 2010. This conference forms part of the African Origins Platform/West Coast Fossil Park project. Several researchers and postgraduate students have been working on the geology, floras and faunas of Langebaanweg since 2006, and this meeting will provide a forum for them to present and compare results. The focus of the Langebaanweg 2010 conference will be extended to embrace other west coast fossil sites as an increasing amount of work has been done in the past 5 years on fossil sites which are geographically, if not temporally, close to Langebaanweg. These include new excavations and/or research at well known sites such as Elandsfontein, Duinefontein and Hoedjiespunt 1, as well as several new sites which are currently being analysed or excavated. We will also include a session that looks at comparisons between the west coast fossil taxa and those of eastern South Africa and East Africa.

Among the above-mentioned sites, Elandsfontein is closest in age to Langebaanweg, and accordingly exhibits archaic groups such as sivatheres and sabre-toothed cats, indicating the persistence of certain taxa from the Mio-Pliocene until the time of accumulation of the Elandsfontein fossils which is thought to be fall between 1,000 000 and 600 000 years (Klein et al. 2007). Elandsfontein is thus vital for understanding both the origins and migration of modern southern African taxa, and the profound environmental upheavals that led to the extinction of many taxa found at Langebaanweg. The temporal chasm between Langebaanweg and Elandsfontein is currently being bridged by on-going research on the later Pliocene marine terraces of the west coast. Late Middle Pleistocene and Late Pleistocene sites such as Duinefontein, Sea Harvest and Hoedjiespunt 1, Swartklip and Yzerfontein provide information on evolving west coast landscapes and biota. A component on modern west coast ecosystems will be included in the conference.

The conference aims to bring about the sharing of research and information on Late Cenozoic biotas and landscapes in the west coast region, and to provide a synthesis of knowledge from many different areas of research. This linking together of information along a continuum of climatic and environmental change should lead to a much better understanding of the evolution and transformation of west coast ecosystems and the climatic/oceanographic changes which molded them. A special volume will be published of the proceedings of the conference.

Some of the proposed topics/issues the conference will address are as follows:
  • West Coast palaeoenvironments: The faunal evidence (Early Pliocene to Pleistocene)
  • West Coast palaeoenvironments: Evidence from pollen and phytoliths
  • Mio-Pliocene sites linking East and South Africa (Fauna and flora)
  • Sea Temperature and climate change on the West Coast in the Late Cenozoic
  • The Geology of the West Coast
  • Dating of the West Coast Fossil sites
  • Taphonomy and site formation
  • Genetic data on plant and animal evolution in the Fynbos Biome
  • West coast flora and fauna (Modern)
  • Historical occurrence/contemporary introduction of large mammals in the West Coast region

The three-day conference would take place from 15-17 November 2010 and will be held at a Cape Town venue still to be decided. The conference will start promptly on Monday 15th November, so we suggest you aim to arrive the previous day (Sunday, 14 November 2010). If you know someone whom you think would be interested in the workshop, please forward this email to them.

Field trip:

We will have a post-conference field trip which will encompass visits to several interesting west coast palaeontological, geological and archaeological sites, the itinerary is still to be finalized.
In order to be added to the conference email distribution list please contact Thalassa Matthews at

We look forward to seeing you in November 2010.

With best wishes,
The Langebaanweg 2010 Organizing Committee


References: Klein, R.G., Avery, G., Cruz-Uribe, K. and Steele, T. 2007. The mammalian fauna associated with an archaic hominin skullcap and later Acheulean artifacts at Elandsfontein. Journal of Human Evolution. 52:164-186