Dr Dominic Stratford’s job is to put the fossils back. He has to place them exactly where they lay before the lime miners and the academics lifted them from the Sterkfontein caves during a century of excavation. There are thousands and thousands of fossils. Some of them belong to our ancestors, while others are the bones of animals that once lived in this area and died out millions of years ago. Stratford, who is the research co-ordinator at the Sterkfontein Caves, doesn’t really have to put those fossils back but what he does have to do is place them where they were originally found, on a 3D digitalised map of the cave. It is a hard job because large parts of the cave that once held some of those fossils are long gone, dynamited away by limestone miners. So it is a job that requires detective work, of poring over excavation diaries and digging into the historical archive left by three generations of academia who worked the caves. Much of this work is done in what is known as the to...

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