Stepping down as Deputy Director - staying on as sage advisor

Eystein Jansen has played a vital role in the Centre since its foundation. Jansen's work has focused on exploring the ways that climate reconstruction can benefit archaeology to increase our understanding of how and when Homo sapiens evolved into who we are today.

Eystein Jansen professor
KEY ROLE: Eystein Jansen, who just turned 70, is stepping down from his role as Deputy Director of SapienCE. He has played a key role for the Centre.
Nils Olav Sæverås

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“One of my biggest highlights being part of the SapienCE team, was the visit to the excavations at  Blombos Cave. It is only when you see the detailed layers that reflect human presence over thousands of years that you understand the significance of the findings that have been discovered there,” Eystein Jansen says.

Extensive contributor to SapienCE

Jansen, who just turned 70, has been Deputy Director of SapienCE since the opening in 2017. He also played a key role in the work leading up to the establishment of the Centre of Excellence.  Christopher Henshilwood, Director of SapienCE says it has been a great privilege working with Eystein and knowing that he and the Centre can count on his sage advice.

“Eystein played a vital role in advising and applying his vast experience, from 2015, to assist us in getting our COE in 2017. He will be stepping down in his role as Deputy Director of SapienCE and we thank him for his extensive contributions to our project and for being a good friend. He will not be lost to us, fortunately, and will stay on to act in an advisory role into the future”, says Henshilwood.  

Highly rewarding to be part of the team

Eystein Jansen tells us he was quite surprised when Christopher Henshilwood first contacted him about the project.

“At that time, I had no knowledge about the fascinating archaeological studies in which he and his archaeological team were involved.  However, I was intrigued by the scientific questions we could answer by joining forces in a CoE, so I joined the proposal writing team and coordinated a group of paleoclimate scientists from the Bjerknes Centre to be a part of it.”

Jansen became fascinated by the important questions that relate to us as humans and how we have come to inhabit and dominate the planet.

 “It was, and still is, highly rewarding to be part of the efforts to tackle the questions of our origins as a species which, due to our immense capabilities, could innovate and develop sophisticated stone tools, cultural innovations and make us into who we are today. I understood that by joining the SapienCE team I could be part of an impressive group of researchers, learn a lot and expand my knowledge into new areas of research”.

Growing impacts and significant breakthroughs

Six years later, the SapienCE team has made discoveries that have forever changed our understanding of how and when Homo sapiens became who we are today.

“It has taken some time for the climate part to start producing results, which is natural since we started our work almost from scratch. I am very happy that we now put out important papers and that we collaborate across the fields within the Centre”.

Jansen thinks that the impact from the Centre will be even more significant in its second phase.

 “I think we have laid a fantastic foundation for new breakthroughs through our interdisciplinarity. Now we can tap into these foundations in the second half of our CoE. I think an even stronger impact will follow, although we already have significant presence and visibility in the field of Middle Stone Age research”.  

Driven by curiosity and interdisciplinary teamwork

Eystein Jansen has had an outstanding career – both as a researcher and in various administrative roles at the University of Bergen. As a crowning achievement, in January 2023 Eystein Jansen was elected Vice President of the European Research Council (ERC). Jansen is the first Norwegian researcher to hold this highly prestigious and impactful position.

You have had an outstanding career both as scientist and as administrator. What is your driving force

“It is primarily curiosity and an understanding that you need to work with people who have skills other than your own in order to succeed. I have always had broad interests, so it has beena bonus to get to know and use knowledge from a wide range of sources. I do hope to continue to be a part of the SapienCE family and contribute as best as I can in the coming years”.