With brio and a brown fedora that have earned comparisons with Indiana Jones, Professor Lee Berger leaps into a pit where he is hunting the remains of our ancestors who lived here 2 million years ago.
Typically such digs have taken place in remote corners of Africa, their discoveries announced in scientific journals and eventually visible to the public only inside glass cases at museums. But this week Berger announced that tourists will soon be able to watch the search for fossils that could rewrite our understanding of evolution at the Cradle of Humankind, a UN world heritage site north-west of Johannesburg, South Africa.
"It will be, to my knowledge – and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a comprehensive one – the only place in the world where you can sit and watch early hominids being excavated," the US paleoanthropologist said. Read more.
Excavations at an archaeological site at Kathu in the Northern Cape province of South Africa have produced tens of thousands of Earlier Stone Age artifacts, including hand axes and other tools. These discoveries were made by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and the University of Toronto (U of T), in collaboration with the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa.
The archaeologists’ research on the Kathu Townlands site, one of the richest early prehistoric archaeological sites in South Africa, was published in the journal, PLOS ONE, on 24 July 2014.
It is estimated that the site is between 700,000 and one million years old. Read more.
In contrast to the adage, third time lucky, a Simon Fraser University archaeology student has already been twice lucky in helping to unearth ancient hominid finds in a well-hidden South African cave.
Actually, this spring, luck had little or nothing to do with Marina Elliott’s recovery of another 320 bones in addition to the 1,200 she helped find in the same cave last fall.
"There certainly were again some very exciting fossils found in our latest caving adventure. But, unfortunately, I can’t tell you what they are yet. Stay tuned!" says Elliott. In the first trip, one of the highlights was the retrieval of a palm-sized section of skull. Read more.
PARIS — He may be called Little Foot, but for human evolution researchers he’s a big deal: His is the most complete skeleton known of an early member of the human lineage. Ever since the skeleton was discovered in a South African cave in the 1990s and named for its relatively small foot bones, researchers have been fiercely debating how old it is, with estimates ranging from about 2 million years to more than 3 million. A new geological study of the cave concludes that Little Foot is at least 3 million years old. If correct, that would mean he is old enough to be a direct ancestor of today’s humans, and could shift South Africa to the forefront of human evolution. Read more.
The “Rising Star Expedition”, known for its recent recovery of one of the largest troves of hominin (early human) fossils ever discovered in one place, is now ambitiously seeking new early-career scientists to study the more than 1,200 fossil elements retrieved from the site and now housed at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"The fossil material is an exceptional sample representing most of the parts of the skeleton, and our first task is to describe the material and place it into the context of hominin evolution," says John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a key member of the team that recovered the fossils during the Fall of 2013.* Read more.
Squeezing through a gap called the International Postbox and climbing the jagged Dragon’s Back were not in Alia Gurtov’s plans for the fall semester, but she made an exception in order to participate in a wildly successful archaeological expedition into a South African cave.
Over the last three weeks, Gurtov, a UW-Madison graduate student, and five other spelunking scientists have hauled hundreds of fossilized bones—likely the remains of several distant relatives of humans—through a rock crevice barely 18 centimeters wide.
"Every time I stop to think about what I’m involved in, I am almost overwhelmed by my incredibly great fortune," she said via email during a break. "Luckily, there are so many details to attend to in my daily life that I can maintain a reasonable level of excitement." Read more.
A harrowing expedition into the tiniest recesses of a cave system begins today in South Africa. The effort aims to recover recently discovered fossils of a yet-to-be-identified member of the human family.
Over the next several weeks, the expert team, directed by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger of South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, will delve into the Rising Star cave system outside Johannesburg to carefully retrieve the fossils.
Berger’s team made headlines in 2010 with the announcement of the discovery of two skeletons of a new, two-million-year-old hominid species the scientists named Australopithecus sediba. Those finds were made at a site called Malapa Cave, northwest of Johannesburg. Read more.
A 350-million-year-old fossilised scorpion discovered in South Africa is the oldest known land animal to have lived on Gondwana, part of Earth’s former supercontinent, a university said Monday.
The new species, named Gondwanascorpio emzantsiensis, provides tantalizing clues about the development of life before Earth’s continents broke apart to form the globe that is familiar to us today, scientists said.
It is the earliest evidence yet of terrestrial animals on Gondwana, a land mass that included present-day Africa, South America and Australia and formed the southern part of a supercontinent called Pangaea.
So far evidence of such early land life had only been found on the northern part of Pangaea —- “Laurasia,” which is today North America and Asia. Read more.