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Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour

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– A proud day

UiB's new Centre of Excellence is officially open.

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Rector Dag Rune Olsen cutting the ceremonial ribbon. On his right, Professor and Centre Director Christopher Henshilwood, on his left, Professor Eystein Jansen.
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Joakim Dahl Haaland
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Christopher Henshilwood being handed the official CoE plaque by RCN Higher Executive Officer Åshild Vik.
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A large crowd and representatives of the Norwegian media had gathered to watch the opening.
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A large crowd and representatives of the Norwegian media had gathered to watch the opening.
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Joakim Dahl Haaland
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The newly renovated offices of SapienCE are located at Sydnesplassen 12/13.
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Rector Olsen trying the specially made SapienCE cake.
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Years of planning have finally been rewarded; on Monday October 30, the Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE) was declared open by University of Bergen (UiB) Rector Dag Rune Olsen

– A proud day both for the university and everyone involved, said Olsen, while cutting the ceremonial ribbon, flanked by Centre Director Christopher Henshilwood and Vice Director Eystein Jansen.

Excellent team

SapienCE is now officially a Centre of Excellence (CoE), a programme operated by the Research Council of Norway, which organizes the activities of Norway’s foremost scientific environments in centres to achieve ambitious scientific objectives through collaboration and long-term basic funding.

– The application was special because it was so innovative and the proposed director so excellent in himself, said RCN Higher Executive Officer Åshild Vik. She handed over the official CoE plaque to Professor Henshilwood at the opening, which was held in the newly renovated offices of SapienCE at the Department of History, Archaeology, Cultural and Religious studies (AHKR), which serves as the host department for the centre.

Dean of the Faculty of Humanities (the host faculty for SapienCE), Jørgen Magnus Sejersted, also spoke at the opening.

– I would like to express my personal admiration for the project, and the excellent team which Professor Henshilwood has put together.

Like a rollercoaster

Christopher Henshilwood, Professor of archaeology at UiB and now Centre Director, was introduced by Department head Jan Heiret as «the man with the ground-breaking ideas».

– I want to thank everyone who has helped us get here. On this day, I think back to 2015, when the idea of applying to become a CoE was first suggested to me by Professor Heiret. The time since has been like rollercoaster ride, an incredible journey, but we're finally here, and the work can begin, Henshilwood told the crowd, before adding:

– We've had tremendous support from everybody to get to this stage. This is a truly interdisciplinary project, and we've been able to put together a diverse and excellent group of people who are now ready to work towards this common goal. 

The aim of SapienCE is to consolidate UiB and Norway's position as a world leader in early human origins research. Collaborators include researchers from University of the WitwatersrandUni Research and Royal Holloway, who along with researchers from UiB will introduce ground-breaking and innovative interdisciplinary approaches to extracting, analyzing and understanding the processes that shaped the behaviour and cognition of early Homo sapiens.

At Monday’s opening, the seven different research questions which make up the proposed 10 year-project, were laid out by Henshilwood, Jansen, and Andrea Bender, one of six Principal investigators (PIs) in the project.

– The starting point is simple, Henwhilwood said. We all come from Africa. I'm certain that when we meet again in both 5 years, and 10, we will have a completely new understanding of early human behaviour.