Palaoeanthropologist Lee Berger, describer of Australopithecus sediba and professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, can be heard here describing the recent Rising Star Expedition and the projects rescue of hominin bones from deep inside a cave in South Africa after a chance discovery by some cavers.
The project, with support from the National Geographic and the Speleological Exploration Club of South Africa, have recently recovered around 1200 individual fossil hominin elements during a three week recovery dig at the site. As Berger discusses in the phenomenally exciting radio interview with National Geographic it his belief that there are articulated hominin remains yet to be uncovered and rescued from the cave site. It truly promises to be an amazing site due to the massive haul of fossil material found within a concentration no bigger then many dining room tables. Once the fossils have been analysed scientifically further information will be released, although the project is fairly unique in the fact that it is running as an open science project. The National Geographic (and others including John Hawks and Lee Berger) has so far done an excellent job in documenting the project (see here).
In perhaps one of the most interesting periods ever for palaeoanthropological news the interview competes with the recent investigation of the five Homo erectus individuals at the Dmanisi site in Georgia and last week’s announcement of the sequencing of mtDNA from a 300,000 year old hominin from the Sima de los Huesos site in Spain (Meyer et al. 2013). I hope to further explore the 300,000 year old mtDNA article in detail in an upcoming entry.
As ever, I heavily recommend heading over to John Hawks weblog as his posts on the Rising Star Expedition and human evolution continue to enthrall and shed light on the fossils and genetic investigations that he is so often a part of. We are living in some truly fascinating times where we are really starting to learn about human evolution through the glorious combination of genetic analysis and the smart approaches to extracting ancient DNA, combined with the truly amazing fossil finds of the past decade and a bit.
Meyer, M., Fu, Q, Aximu-Petri, A., Glocke, I., Nickel, B., Arsuaga, J-L., Martínez, I., Gracia, A., Bermúdez de Castro, J .M., Carbonell, E & Pääbo, S. 2013. A Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of a Hominin from Sima de los Huesos. Nature. 505: 403-406.