When Keneiloe Molopyane was seven years old, she saw comic book character Tintin’s adventures around the world and knew that she wanted to be an explorer.
Flash forward a couple of decades, and Molopyane’s studies in biological anthropology have opened up unimaginable opportunities to investigate South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind, one of the world’s most important fossil sites.
You’re a fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for the Exploration of the Deep Human Journey. This is a fascinating title. What is the deep human journey? And what are you exploring?
I started excavating my first year of university. This was in 2005. And that is an excavation that I will probably never forget, because that reaffirmed my passion for the subject field. I’ve been underwater diving, that was a great project — the African Slave Wrecks Project, working with the Smithsonian institute and George Washington University, as well as Iziko Museums of South Africa. [We were] looking for a particular shipwreck, telling the story of the slaves that died when the ship crashed.
The latest adventure was being part of the Rising Star team at the Cradle of Humankind. I joined in 2018 as a junior underground astronaut, so crawling around in caves, tight spaces, getting stuck, in the dark. That was super fun — it scares a lot of people, but I found it to be quite incredible. So, 2022 is probably going to be very busy, opening up maybe two additional sites and really getting down to exploring and excavating.
How can this new understanding about the past be used to make life better in the present and in the future?
我们都从错误中学习，对吗？这是研究历史，考古学和古人类学的一件好事之一，您将拼图拼凑在一起。然后，您倾向于在我们如何处理环境，使用环境以及如何进行科学方面看到一些发生的错误。beplay足球体育的微博在历史记录中，我们可以从中学到一些教训，这将使科学更好。And that’s what we’re working towards.
I knew about SuperScientists for a couple of months before I was approached by [the project founder] Justin Yarrow. I was just captivated by the artwork and the idea that a scientist could be a superhero. I came up with Bones. She looks very much like me, she has signature red hair, which I wear as well — that is homage to our underwater adventures, you know, the Little Mermaid, Ariel, with the red hair. And Bones also has a trowel on her chest. And even the suit that she wears… that is a similar suit to what I wear when I’m working underground. And I’m holding a skull ofHomo naledi…因为这就是我进入古人类学的方式。
Did you have a science superhero growing up?
I didn’t have any science role models growing up, mostly because I didn’t want to be a scientist. I thought scientists were very boring. And they were often white males as well. It’s very interesting that I became a scientist because still to this day, I don’t really see myself as a scientist. That’s why SuperScientists works — we’re changing the face of what a scientist looks like. My family has been quite supportive. They went on this journey with me, so they’re kind of like my role models as well, because they learned the science with me at the same time, and kept me going.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.