Homo naledi

The discovery of a new species of human relative was announced today (Sept. 10) by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University), the National Geographic Society and the South African Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation (DST/NRF). Besides shedding light on the origins and diversity of our genus, the new species, Homo naledi, appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its...

After three weeks of deep-cave hominid fossil recovery, the Rising Star Expedition has wrapped on its final day of excavations. The caver/scientists known as “underground astronauts” will return Wednesday to complete the 3D scans of the entire fossil chamber, walls and all. They will be aided by the caving support team as they remove the...

A member of Lee Berger’s exploration team who first located the hominid fossils in the Rising Star cave system and who now serves as indispensable guide and support for the scientists, Rick Hunter offers his reflections on standing sentry in the caverns, and on the long journey from daylight into the caves, through winding passages, a belly-crawl...

Paleoanthropologist and science blogger John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the experts on site at the Rising Star Expedition, analyzing fossils, monitoring activity from the Command Center, and helping tell the story from the senior scientists’ perspective. For real-time updates follow him on Twitter @JohnHawks. By John Hawks Saturday we went over...

By Elen Feuerriegel 20th November 2013 The day starts (officially) at 6am. I’m up a little earlier this morning. Crawl out of my sleeping bag and tent to the sight of Lee Berger bounding around. Lee is a Morning Person. Marina has been up since the predawn. Typically, she is the one who organises and...

After the field trip the day before, the excavation team was eager to get back into the cave. The early hominids seemed just as eager to get out. The first goal of the day was to finish excavating the recently revealed mandible. For twenty minutes, the top-side folks were gathered around the monitors watching as...

By John Hawks Monday, Nov. 18 — It’s a rare quiet morning here at Rising Star as we give the underground team the morning to tour Sterkfontein Caves, just a kilometer away (read about their day off). You might think that going into another cave wouldn’t be a break, but you get into Sterkfontein by...

The Rising Star Cave system is a series of cracks, chambers, and tunnels through a hill of dolomitic limestone, just like all the other hills in the area. Walk to the top of the hill and within your field of vision are the entrances to hundreds of known caves. This is not the only one...

After a day off for a field trip to other Cradle of Humankind sites yesterday, this morning, the expedition is back on in full swing. “Batten hatches,” was the last item on the whiteboard at this morning’s briefing. Most days by 6:30am the sun is baking us already, but today by 5:30 clouds had rolled...

Your browser does not support iframes. “About half way through it became pretty clear that we weren’t going to leave until it was out. There was no way we were stopping.” Becca Peixotto was not messing around today. The original plan for the Rising Star Expedition involved removing exposed bones on Sunday, and beginning to...

“I just want to say, ‘Oh my goodness.’” Lee Berger wrapped up an impromptu meeting tonight with an almost giddy attitude. A moment earlier he had been all business, asking the caver/scientists for their thoughts on how best to tackle their latest obstacles, which are considerable: there are too many bones; they need to adjust...

On the first day in the fossil chamber at the Rising Star Expedition outside of Johannesburg, Lee Berger’s team recovered a hominid mandible. Seeing other bones lying about, they went to bed (or sleeping bag, rather) with the thrill of knowing they were working on one of paleoanthropology’s most treasured finds: a partial hominid skeleton....

“We have a mandible. We’ve seen the skull. And there are more bones. Lots of them.” With his team of “underground astronauts” safely ascending out of a deep and narrow cave with hominid fossil in hand, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger is ecstatic. The sun is setting and streaking the South African sky with layers...

By 6:00am, the sun is shining, everyone in camp is up and getting breakfast and gathering for the morning briefing from expedition leader Lee Berger. Today’s assignments were clear: set up more shower tents, get the gear ready, and finish installing the lights. The lights are going into the cave. Deep in the cave are...

Rising Star Expedition: November 7, 2013 The tents are up. The generators are purring. The clothes have dried from the adventure of a gear rescue during a quick but powerful South African thunderstorm. We’re sitting quietly at last, in collapsible chairs, and suddenly Elen Feuerriegel’s Australian accent excitedly breaks the silence. “Under the ground here...