south africa
may 3-13, 2015
archaeological pre-trip, april 30-May 2, 2015

may 3

ARRIVALS INto cape town


For those who wish to spend extra days in Cape Town or elsewhere in South Africa prior to the trip, 

  • Hotel rooms can be reserved. 
  • Restaurant suggestions can be provided. 
  • Ideas for visits that will not be part of the program can be supplied. 
  • Independent guides can be organized. 

Arrivals on flights into Cape Town.

If your flight arrives early in the morning, you may wish to book your room for the night before. Rooms cannot be guaranteed before check-in time at 3:00 pm.

Private transfers to our hotel, The Victoria & Alfred Hotel located on The Waterfront Pier. 

Time to check-in, unpack, relax after the long flight. 

4:00 pm Late afternoon orientation tour of Cape Town.

A historical, cultural and social orientation tour of Cape Town, including Table Mountain, Bo Kaap - the Cape Malay Quarter and the Castle of Good Hope.

Cape Town

The second most populous city in the country of South Africa and considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city is a rare cultural mix, resulting from the amalgamation of Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers, the local Bushman and Hottentot tribes and the Bantu tribes from the north.

Bo Kaap-Cape Malay

The Cape Malay community is an ethnic group that derives its name from the present-day Western Cape of South Africa. The community's earliest members were enslaved Javanese transported by the Dutch East India Company. They were followed by slaves from various other Southeast Asian regions, and political dissidents and Muslim religious leaders who opposed the Dutch presence in what is now Indonesia and were sent into exile. Malays also have significant South Asian (Indian) slave ancestry. Starting in 1654, these resistors were imprisoned or exiled in South Africa by the Dutch East India Company, which founded and used what is now Cape Town as a resupply station for ships traveling between Europe and Asia. They were the group that first introduced Islam to South Africa.

Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope is a star fort built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a maritime replenishment station, and is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa.

From 1678 it was the center of civilian, administrative and military life at the Cape, until the settlement grew and some functions and activities moved away from the Castle. Today the Castle is the seat of the military in the Cape, and houses the Castle Military Museum and Iziko Museums of Cape Town (William Fehr Collection).

In 1936 the Castle was declared a national monument and following restorations in the 1980s it is considered the best preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort.

Table Moutain

One of Africa's most famous landmarks, the sandstone mountain is some two miles wide and 3,500 feet high, offering magnificent views of Table Bay, Robben Island, and the Cape Town city, which completely encircles it.

The phenomena of clouds pouring over the top of Table Mountain, is what gives the mountain its name.

Note. Due to the unpredictable nature of Cape Town weather, a visit to the top of Table Mountain is dependent on weather conditions.

Evening at leisure.

Overnight: The Victoria & Alfred Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa.

Built in 1904 as the North Quay Warehouse and converted to a luxury hotel in 1990, it is named in honor of The Queen of England and her son, Prince Alfred. It was the Waterfront's first hotel and it remains the best located with gorgeous harborside views. It was recently renovated and all the bedrooms are spacious and elegant with large bathrooms.

may 4

cape town


Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Full morning dedicated to the visit of the Iziko South African Museum.

The South African Museum houses more than one and a half million specimens of scientific importance. The collections range from fossils almost 700-million years old to insects and fish caught last week. There are also stone tools made by people 120,000 years ago.

The visit will focus on human evolution in ecological contexts.

Lunch at Oasis Bistro of the Mount Nelson Hotel.  

After lunch, continue to the Southern Suburbs for an in-depth visit of The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, one of the great botanic gardens of the world. 

There are few sites on earth to match the sheer grandeur of this setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.  Kirstenbosch was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the first botanic garden in the world to be so named. 

Following our visit, we continue to Chapman’s Peak where we focus on the geology of this site declared Natural World Heritage by UNESCO.

Carved out of the face of the mountain between 1915 and 1922, the road was at the time regarded as a major feat of engineering and is touted as one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.  With sheer drops to the sea below and towering mountains rising above you the twists and 114 curves in the road seem endless. 

On the route we will see fascinating geological formations and the Sea Point Contact Zone where we will learn about Darwin’s sociological observations.

Return to our hotel.

Dinner this evening at Harbour House restaurant at The Waterfront, just a couple minutes’ walk from our hotel. 

Overnight: The Victoria & Alfred Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa.

may 5

cape town and stellenbosch

Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Depart this morning for a full day in Stellenbosch.

South Africa's wine industry goes back to the first European settlement, at Cape Town, more than 350 years ago. Dutch traders established an outpost to supply ships with fresh food and water. Cape Town was roughly halfway between the Netherlands and Dutch trading outposts in Asia.

When the French Huguenots settled at the Cape in 1680s they brought with them the skills and knowledge to truly get viticulture off the ground. The Cape has a mild Mediterranean climate (with winter rainfall) and other conditions that make it suitable for cultivating grapes.

Although most of their grape varieties were imported, South Africa's winemakers have also developed their own cultivars. The most famous is "pinotage," a cross between Pinot Noir and cinsaut.

Visit to Jordan Wine Estate.

Gary and Kathy Jordan have been making world-class wines since 1993 on a farm with a history going back over 300 years. He’s a geologist, she’s an economist – together this husband and wife team is a phenomenon.

Recently the Jordan Restaurant was named as one of the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa. It also received the Decanter International Chardonnay Trophy, the second time in 3 years.

Lunch at Jordan Wine Estate.

Travel into the town of Stellenbosch for a general orientation guided walking visit. We will explore the architecture and history of the town as well as having some time to shop the crafts boutiques and specialty shops.

Return to the hotel for time to relax before our special evening.

Cocktail dinner with pre-history researchers from the University of Cape Town.

Overnight: The Victoria & Alfred Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa.

may 6

cape town to drakensberg


Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Some time this morning to pack and relax at the hotel before our flight.

Transfer late morning to the Cape Town aiport for a two hour flight to Durban.

Lunch en route.

Depart Cape Town at 1:30 p.m.

3:35 p.m. Arrive in Durban and transfer 3.5 hours to our lodge in the Drakensberg Mountains.

The Zulus call these peaks uKhahlamba, “barrier of spears.” The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in South Africa, crowned by the Amphitheater, a three-mile-long, up-to-3,280-foot-high wall of rock. The range forms the border between South Africa and eastern Lesotho and the uKhalhlamba/Drakensberg Park is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

At Giant’s Castle, the remarkable San left behind an artistic legacy of cave paintings that illustrates their connection with these unique mountains and makes the Drakensberg one of the most important archaeological sites on the continent.

7:30 p.m. Estimated arrival at the lodge.

Dinner on arrival at the lodge.

Overnight: Giant’s Castle, Drakensberg.

may 7

drakensberg mountains

Breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

We begin our first morning in Drakensberg Park with our guide, a specialist on South African Rock Art. We will visit secluded sites in beautiful scenery beginning with a drive (40 mins) to Kamberg to see famous Game Pass site.

Here, on the walls of a narrow sandstone shelter, are painted a great many images of eland (the largest of all antelopes). For a shelter so open to the elements, the paintings are miraculously well preserved and in some places the brush marks can still be seen. Situated among the many images of eland are smaller human figures in running postures. This site, however, is most famous for a cluster of images tucked away on one side of the shelter. It was extensive analysis of these images that first led scholars to the realization that the art was a system of metaphors closely associated with San shamanistic religion.

Picnic lunch in conjunction with the program.

Continue with cave visits.

Return to the lodge at the end of the afernoon.

Informal Q&A session with a rock art specialist before dining together at the lodge.

Overnight: Giant’s Castle, Drakensberg.  

may 8

drakensberg mountains


Breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Today we continue with visits in the Central Berg region of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which is now a World Heritage Site. 30 minute hike to visit the large sandstone caves at Giants Castle reserve beginning with the Main Caves.

In addition to an incredible anthropological history, we will learn about the natural beauty and wildlife of Drakensberg. Giants Castle contains many species of wild game, the most famous being eland, caracal, baboon and mountain reedbuck. The area is also famous for vulture sightings, the most sought after being the rare bearded vulture.

Continue to the open-air Bushman Cave Museum, in the Giant's Castle Reserve. The Museum features 500 rock paintings.

Picnic lunch in conjunction with the program.

We continue on after lunch to the Barnes Shelter for an exclusive visit with our guide.

Optional: 1 hour hike to Bamboo Hollow for an private visit of the cave.

Traditional South African Braai dinner together at the lodge.

Overnight: Giant’s Castle, Drakensberg.  

may 9

drakensburg to johannesburg


Breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Depart the lodge for the days' drive to Joannesburg.

Lunch en route.

Afternoon stop to Spion Kop to visit the famous Boer War battlefield site, where Churchill participated as a courier during the war. Here we can see the graves and trenches still standing where the British eventually were defeated.  

Continue our drive to Johannesburg.

Check in to the The Michelangelo, housed in a magnificent Renaissance building in the heart of Sandton's business and leisure district.

Evening at leisure, with time to relax and enjoy a leisurely dinner with various restaurant or room service options at the hotel.

Overnight: The Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa.

may 10



Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Transfer to the township of Soweto to visit Mandela House.

Originally an acronym for "South Western Townships", Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in South Africa. Since it came into being, Soweto was at the centre of campaigns to overthrow the apartheid state and the home of several political and social luminaries, such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who once lived in the now famous Vilakazi Street.

Lunch in a traditional African restaurant in Soweto.

Continue to the Apartheid Museum for a guided tour.

The Apartheid Museum opened in 2001 and is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the rise and fall of apartheid. For anyone wanting to understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like, a visit to the Apartheid Museum is fundamental.

Dinner tonight at The Cube.

Overnight: The Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

may 11



Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Depart this morning to the University of Witwatersrand for a visit at the Evolutionary Studies Institute.

The Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) was recently established through the amalgamation of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research and the Institute for Human Evolution. The ESI is built on the foundation of more than eight decades of research by the University of the Witwatersrand on the exceptional fossil and archaeological resources available in South Africa. It is the largest palaeontological/ palaeoanthropological research entity in Africa and one of the largest of its kind in the world. 

Morning visit with Professor Lee Berger who is a paleoanthropologist and an Explorer for National Geographic. He will talk about the discovery of Australopithecus sediba and the ongoing research at Rising Star.

Senior Collections Curator Bernhard Zipfel will take our group to the "Fossil Vault" to see the original South African fossils including "Little Foot", A. Sediba, and the Taung Child.

Private lunch at The Wits Club with researchers from the University of Witwatersrand.

After lunch we visit the Origins Centre.

Opened by President Thabo Mbeki in 2006, the Origins Centre is home to a vast array of palaeoanthropological, archaeological and genetic materials charting the origins of humankind. The Centre boasts an extensive collection of rock art from the Wits Rock Art Research Institute (RARI), affording visitors the opportunity to view the earliest images made by humans, found in South Africa.

Transfer back to the hotel and time to rest before the evening.

Dinner this evening in Johannesburg.

Overnight: The Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

may 12



Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Morning at leisure today to enjoy the hotel, rest and pack for those who depart tomorrow morning.

Transfer to Witts University late this morning to visit with Kristian Carlson, Leakey Foundation Grantee and Senior Researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Institute will provide a behind the scenes visit to the state-of-the art industrial high resolution CT scanner.  

Researchers can scan fossils with maximum dimensions of 23 cm and achieve resolution approaching 5 microns.  Scientists use the facility to investigate the wealth of fossils curated in the Palaeosciences Centre, including a substantial amount of material representing human ancestors.  The Virtual Imaging in Palaeosciences laboratory, or VIP lab, is where in silico reconstruction and analysis of these precious fossils take place… allowing scientists to reconstruct fossils back to reality from virtual reality.

Lunch to follow.

Drive to Sterkfontein.

By far the richest and most famous fossil site in South Africa is the Sterkfontein Cave where the bones of 'Little Foot', 'Mrs Ples' and hundreds of others have been found. Along with the 2-million-year-old stone tools unearthed at these sites, the evidence can tell us much about the precursors of modern humans.

Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Sterkfontein, (after the site has been closed for the day to the public) with geoarchaeologist and Sterkfontein Coordinator of Research, Dr. Dominic Stratford.

Our group will be joined by paleoanthropologist Dr. Ronald Clarke to discuss his discovery, ‘Little Foot’, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton around 3-million years old. Archeologist Kathy Kuman will also show some of southern Africa’s oldest stone tool assemblages. 

Our final evening together will include a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy Sterkfontein in a truly remarkable way, “Cocktails and Tales”. After sundowners overlooking the Cradle, an intimate dinner will be hosted inside the cave*. After dinner, Dr. Clarke, who began his career as a technical assistant to Dr. Louis Leakey in Kenya, will share tales of Louis and Mary Leakey, having worked closely with both, for many years.  

*The dinner will take place inside the cave barring any issues at the time that could make the dinner unsafe or uncomfortable for guests.

Return to the hotel at the end of the evening.

Overnight: The Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

may 13



Full buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel.

Departures throughout the day.

Transfers can be organized upon request.