07 Sep 2023
Roger Smith
07 Sep 2023


Dates:     Monday 30 October to Friday 3 November
Fee:     R5 600
Booking is through Webtickets
Capacity:     Places are limited to 30 participants.



The Centre for Extra-Mural Studies has organised a unique five day fossil hunting excursion with Professsor Roger Smith to the Beaufort West area. Participants will have an immersive experience in which they will be in the field looking for fossils each day, and have the chance of finding and holding a 255 million year old mammal-like reptile fossil in their hands.

The Karoo rock outcrops have long been regarded as the largest and richest collecting grounds for fossils of a long extinct group of vertebrates known as therapsids or 'mammal-like reptiles'. As the name suggests, members of the therapsid group show the step-by-step evolutionary transition from reptiles into mammals. The layer upon layer of sedimentary rocks that make up the Karoo Supergroup are an almost continuous 120-million-year-long record of climate change in western Gondwana from 300 to 180 million years ago. The rocks and fossils exposed in and around the Karoo National Park range in age from mid to late Permian period so that participants will get the opportunity to witness 10 million years of evolution in action.  We will be finding the bones of therapsids, parareptiles, possibly amphibians along with trace fossils such as coprolites and burrows.

Join us on this excursion in the stillness of the Karoo where these animals once lived and roamed which will include not only the experience of being out in the field each day at different locations, but also lectures in the evenings related to Karoo palaeontology.

We will meet at the Karoo National Park at 15:00 on Monday 30 October, after which participants can look at the exhibits in the park. There will be an early evening lecture that will orientate participants to what they will experience, what to look out for in the field and what they are likely to find. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday participants will go out to different locations in the vicinity of the Karoo National Park to look for fossils. Teas and lunches will be served in the field. Lectures will be held in the early evenings before dinner, which everyone will have in the dining room. This will give participants the opportunity to interact with Professor Smith over a shared meal. Participants depart after breakfast on Friday 3 November.

The fee includes bed and breakfast, staying in chalets in the Karoo National Park, and all teas and lunches in the field. It excludes the entrance fee to the park, dinner, and drinks in the evenings.

Bio: Roger Smith is Distinguished Professor at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand and Emeritus Research Associate at the Iziko South African Museum. Born in England, he emigrated to South Africa in 1976 after graduating in geology and zoology from Manchester University.He did his masters degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and his doctorate at the University of Cape Town.

He has an A1-rating from the National Research Foundation and is currently working on several projects under the general title of 'Palaeoecology of Gondwana'. Roger's research is field based, integrating palaeontological and sedimentological data into palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of ancient landscapes, especially the dramatic changes that took place in the Karoo Basin during the End-Permian mass extinction event.


For further information, please email, or phone 021 650 2634 (office).