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Struik Travel & Heritage

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Podcast: Lee Berger Introduces the Team and Project Which Would Later “Find” Homo Naledi

Field Guide to the Cradle of Human KindThe discovery of a new species of human relative, named Homo naledi, which made headlines around the world was the result of a two-year expedition led by Lee Berger, research professor in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University.

The archaeological mission, to explore the Rising Star caves of the Cradle of Human Kind World Heritage Site, was launched in November 2013 and named “The Rising Star Expedition”. The name that would later be given to their find paid tribute to the place where it was discovered as naledi means “star” in Sesotho.

At the expedition launch, Berger explained the importance of the project, how they assembled the team that would be exploring the caves and voiced his excitement at embarking on a mission that could change the way we think about the human species.

“It is fair to say that no discovery has ever been made like this in southern African context, and perhaps in the continent of Africa and almost anywhere in the world in this sort of context,” Berger said back then, not wanting to reveal too much at the early stages of their discovery. He also explained that the expedition would be dangerous, and that “nothing like this has ever been attempted”.

Listen to the podcast for a taste of the first stages of this historic discovery:

Read the accompanying press release, sent out on 6 November 2013, for photos of the team before they started the Rising Star Expedition:

Rising Star Expedition launched

6 November 2013

Professor Lee Berger with members of the Rising Star Expedition.An international team of researchers will in the next few days begin excavations on a new site that may contain evidence of early human fossil remains in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COHWHS), some 40km north of Johannesburg.

Professor Lee Berger, a Research Professor in Human Evolution from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, will direct the expedition at Rising Star Cave. Berger is best known for the discovery of Australopithecus sediba at the Malapa site in the COHWHS — one of the most significant palaeoanthropological discoveries in recent times.

Berger is the author of Field Guide to the Cradle of Human Kind, a book about the very place where the fossils were found.
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