First human illustrations


Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE) aims to increase our understanding of how and when Homo sapiens evolved into who we are today.

Group of people gathres looking like ancient people

A Call for New Perspectives on Cognitive Evolution

A recent study at SapienCE calls for a more nuanced approach to understanding the evolution of human cognition, arguing that research on the mental abilities of humans – in the present and the past – needs to incorporate cultural and cognitive diversity more explicitly.

Image from the de hoop exhibition showing insights into the lifestyles and behaviours of early humans.

We are all one

A new SapienCE exhibition has opened in South Africa. The 'Origins of Early Southern Sapiens Behaviour” showcases unique archaeological discoveries offering visitors a distinct cultural experience in the heart of the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Jenny Macalli, scientist at SapienCE Collecting data loggers inside Bloukrantz cave, February 2023

Decoding Past Climates through Dripstones

A recent study demonstrates how dripstones can be crucial for reconstructing past climates. The new approach can provide a detailed picture of the climate around early human occupations in South Africa.

Image of SapienCE researcher Karen van Nierkerk excavating in Blombos Cave

New study shows signs of early creation of modern human identities

Our early ancestors were collecting eye-catching shells that may have been used as personal ornaments 100 000 years ago. The discoveries possibly also show the creation of identity that gradually, but radically changed the way we look at ourselves and others.

Top left: location of the site; top right: view of Porc-Epic Cave (photo: A. Herrero); bottom: ochre pieces found in the archaeological layers and analysed in the study

Tracing Early Human Cultural Evolution

SapienCE’s Francesco d’Errico and his international team have published their analysis of the largest known collection of Middle Stone Age ochre, which reveals how ochre use evolved over a period of 4500 years. The new study is essential to understand how complex cultures arose and diversified in...

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SapienCE was established in 2017 by the Research Council of Norway in collaboration with the University of Bergen. The SapienCE Centre is cooperating closely with the University of the Witwatersrand, Norce, Royal Holloway University of London, Université de Bordeaux and Universität Tübingen.

SapienCE is part of the Research Council of Norway's Centres of Excellence (CoE) scheme. The scheme organizes the activities of Norway’s foremost scientific circles in centres to achieve ambitious scientific objectives through collaboration and long-term basic funding.