- Title: The largest public display of fossils of human relatives opens in South Africa
- Date: 25th May 2017
- Summary: KROMDRAAI, SOUTH AFRICA (MAY 25, 2017) (REUTERS) ****WARNING: CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** VARIOUS OF SCHOOLS LEARNERS ENTERING THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND BUILDING VARIOUS OF MEN AND WOMEN DOING AN AFRICAN DANCE/DRUMS AND XYLOPHONE PLAYING CRADLE OF HUMANKIND ENTRANCE/PEOPLE WALKING AROUND SIGN READING (English): "Cradle of Humankind / World Heritage Site" PROJECT LEADER, PROFESSOR LEE BERGER AND MOGALE MUNICIPALITY OFFICIALS CUTTING THE RIBBON BANNER SHOWING THE STORY OF HOMO NALEDI PROJECT LEADER, PROFESSOR LEE BERGER, TALKING TO CROWD VARIOUS OF MEDIA FILMING THE LARGEST FOSSIL DISPLAY / BERGER EXPLAINING THE FOSSILS ON DISPLAY VARIOUS OF FOSSIL BONES ON DISPLAY (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROJECT LEADER, PROFESSOR LEE BERGER, SAYING: "Well, behind me is the Homo naledi display which we've just opened today, it's the largest display of fossil, human ancestors in history. There's almost a thousand bones of Homo naledi from the 'dinaledi' chamber that was the original chamber we described in 2015. Also behind that, the 'lesedi' chamber and that chamber has 'neo' in it, one of the most complete skeletons ever discovered but also the most complete skeleton of Homo naledi." HOMO NALEDI TEETH AND BONES (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROJECT LEADER, PROFESSOR LEE BERGER, SAYING: "You shouldn't be taking single areas of anatomy, in particular even, single characters, on single areas of anatomy, of specimens like that and making such grand proclamations. It's not enough evidence. The cooperative work hasn't been done amongst apes to see if that feature is widespread or not. And secondly, discoveries like Homo naledi and these fossils behind me, have taught us that we shouldn't use single areas of anatomy. If we'd done that same type of study with Homo naledi's jaw, we'd have got it wrong - we needed the skeleton." VARIOUS OF HOMO NALEDI BONES / SKELETONS (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROJECT LEADER, PROFESSOR LEE BERGER, SAYING: "I think on Africa Day, it's still safe to say, that humanity owes its origins to this continent." MORE OF LEE BERGER TALKING TO MEDIA / MEDIA FILMING HOMO NALEDI DISPLAY
- Embargoed: 8th June 2017 15:52
- Keywords: science species fossil Homo Sapiens HOMO Naledi
- Location: KROMDRAAI, SOUTH AFRICA
- City: KROMDRAAI, SOUTH AFRICA
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Human Interest / Brights / Odd News,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0016IC8OXZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:An exhibit of the largest collection of fossils of close human relatives ever to go on public display opened on Thursday in South Africa, not far from the caves where they were unearthed.
Launched on "Africa Day" in an area named "The Cradle of Humankind", the exhibit coincides with the publication of a controversial paper which casts doubt on the view that the evolutionary lineage that led to people arose in Africa.
"Behind me is the Homo naledi display which we've just opened today, it's the largest display of fossil, human ancestors in history. There's almost a thousand bones of Homo naledi from the 'dinaledi' chamber that was the original chamber we described in 2015. Also behind that, the 'lesedi' chamber and that chamber has 'neo' in it, one of the most complete skeletons ever discovered but also the most complete skeleton of Homo naledi," Lee Berger, a professor at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand who has lead excavations of the fossils, told Reuters.
The displays contain over 1,000 original fragments of Homo naledi, named in 2015 after a rich cache of its fossils was discovered in caves near the famed Sterkfontein and Swartkrans dig sites about 40 kms. (25 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
Initially believed to be around 2.5 million years old, subsequent dating showed Homo naledi was roaming the African bush between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago, around the time that modern humans were emerging.
Called "Almost Human," the exhibit is housed in the Maropeng Centre, about 15 km. from the dig sites that yielded the fossils. Visitors will only be allowed to spend 10 minutes with the fossils, which are encased in glass.
The scientific consensus for decades has held that humanity's ape-like ancestors evolved in Africa, a view first raised by the 19th century English naturalist Charles Darwin.
That view was challenged this week with the publication of a paper detailing fossils from Greece and Bulgaria of an ape-like creature that lived 7.2 million years ago.
The authors said the creature, known as Graecopithecus freybergi and known only from a lower jawbone and an isolated tooth, may be the oldest-known member of the human lineage that began after an evolutionary split from the line that led to chimpanzees, our closest living cousins.
They found dental root development that possessed telltale human characteristics not seen in chimps and their ancestors, placing Graecopithecus within the human lineage, known as hominins.
Until now, the oldest-known hominin was Sahelanthropus, which lived 6-7 million years ago in Chad.
Berger said such assertions could not be made based on such a scant body of evidence.
"That is not enough evidence to make such an extraordinary claim. The headlines overstated the facts," Berger said.
"I think on Africa Day, it's still safe to say, that humanity owes its origins to this continent," he said.
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