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Posted by on Apr 8, 2010 in Greg, South Africa | 4 comments

New Human Ancestor Discovered! Historic Sediba Fossil Unveiled at Maropeng

 Skull of Australopithecus sediba, 2-million year old fossil remains discovered in South Africa Professor Lee Berger, Professor of Anthropology at the University Witwatersrand, today unveiled what he describes as “the Rosetta Stone of paleoanthropology” – an amazingly well preserved set of fossilised remains of a 11-13 year old male hominid together with an older (25 – 30 years) female.

The remains were unveiled at a live global presentation, attended by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and a number of other dignitaries, that was streamed across the web and a live television audience.

This is the first major find of such significance that it has the members of Wits University’s Institute for Human Evolution suggesting that this find represents an entirely new species of hominid that could well be a direct ancestor of ours.

The hominid species, named Australopithecus sediba, is almost 2-million years old, and may be a transitional species between the Southern African ape-man Australopithecus africanus (like the Taung Child and Mrs. Ples) and either Homo habilis or even a direct ancestor of Homo erectus (like Turkana Boy, Java man or Peking man), according to Professor Berger, the paleoanthropologist in charge of the team.

Sixty scientists, researchers and specialists from around the world, as well as students, have worked on the fossils already for over a year and a half in secret. A paper by Berger and another by his colleague Professor Paul Dirks, both relating to the find, will be published in the journal Science on Friday, 9 April 2010.

What is most outstanding about the unveiling today was an indication of the large number of “spectacularly preserved" remains that have already been removed from the site. The researchers are yet to begin actual excavation of the site. The prognosis for further discoveries is extremely high.

What makes these skeletons unique is that they have a mix of both early and late hominid characteristics. They had long legs, a modern pelvis. Striding and running. This is different from early primates. "We have never seen this before," said Berger.

Both skeletons were found in the newly discovered Malapa cave site, just centimetres from each other. Their discovery was made by 9-year-old Matthew Berger who at the time was out hunting for fossils with his father Lee.

In another global first for South Africa, one of the fossils (the young male) will be on public display at the Maropeng Cradle of Humankind centre from April 9-18.

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4 Comments

  1. very exciting stuff in these times

  2. I think this is huge news. Positively HUGE!

    They never used the term, in fact pointedly steered clear of it, but have they discovered the elusive "missing link" between apes and man?

    The cheerful Professor kept referring to the find as a "transitional species". Is that a scientific way of say the link between ape and man?

  3. Academia and researchers are really a grumpy, bitchy bunch of girls sometimes:

    But University of New South Wales evolution specialist Darren Curnoe, who was not involved in the research, disputed claims the new fossils represented an ancestor of living humans.

    Dr Curnoe said the discovery of two partial skeletons of the fossil relatives of humans was a "rare and truly amazing thing" that added yet another branch to the evolutionary tree.

    "These remarkable facts would usually be enough to secure researchers a place in the history of science," he said in a statement.

    "Unfortunately, they seem not to have been enough in this instance, as the discovery is surrounded by hype and over-interpretation, in terms of its significance.

    "To claim that these new fossils represent an ancestor of living humans is misleading and founded in error."
    From Brisbane Times

    Sounds like a little jealousy there Aussie?

  4. I'm curious if this proves Dr James Watson's (Mr DNA Double Helix co-founder) observations of blacks in Africa as being less intelligent than their European white cousins? Over the years I have seen most all major Scientific journals and scientists depicting all these "missing link" fossils as having Negroid African features through all their art work and graphics illustrations. So is this yet another proof that blacks are living transitionals to white Europeans as the scientists would lead us to believe?

    Just curious!

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