By Amy Ellis Nutt,
/ NOVA/National Geographic
Video shows female scientists and experienced cavers recovering fossil remnants of new species of human relative in November 2013 at the Cradle of Humankind Heritage Site in South Africa. The women were chosen via social media because they were slender enough to move through the cave’s narrow passageways to get to the fossil chamber, 100 yards from the cave entrance.
The two amateur cavers had to feel their way along the cave’s winding passages, crawl on their stomachs through an opening less than 10 inches high, ascend a jagged wall, cross a narrow ledge dubbed the “Dragon’s Back,” and make a 400-foot descent, sideways, through a vertical crack before finally arriving at the prize: a 30-foot-long chamber probably between 2 million and 3 million years old.
American paleoanthropologist Lee Berger had asked the men to keep their eyes open for fossils, though the well-explored cave at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa had given up most of its treasures decades ago.
[Stones and bones in the Cradle of Humankind give up their secrets]
What they found in September 2013 nearly took their breath away: fossil fragments of a relative of the human species, and a cache of bones and teeth buried in ancient clay that would eventually number more than 1,500 — the largest hominin fossil discovery of its kind in Africa.
A composite skeleton of H. naledi is surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements recovered from the cave.
After a month of excavation under some of the most difficult and dangerous of conditions, then two years of analysis by more than 50 international experts, Berger and the leaders of the expedition announced Thursday that those fossil fragments do indeed belong to a new species of human relative they are calling Homo naledi.
“It was soon apparent that what I thought was an individual skeleton was dozens of individuals,” Berger, a researcher in human evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said during a Wednesday teleconference for the media hosted by the National Geographic Society, which helped support the expedition. “With every bone in the body represented multiple times, it is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage.”
The announcement by the university, National Geographic and the South African Department of …Read More
Fossils found in African cave are new species of human kin, say scientists – Washington Post
By Amy Ellis Nutt,