1. The Homo naledi discovery marks start of a new era of research

The Homo naledi discovery marks start of a new era of research

The story behind the discovery of a hitherto undescribed species of early humans, Homo naledi, also marks a new chapter in academics

By: | Updated: September 14, 2015 3:54 PM

The story behind the discovery of a hitherto undescribed species of early humans, Homo naledi, also marks a new chapter in academics. South African palaeoanthropologist Lee Berger posted on social media nearly two years ago that he was looking for experienced excavators to retrieve remains of ancient humans from the Rising Star cave system. Today, thanks to that crowdsourcing, 1,500 bones and fragments, belonging to at least 15 individuals buried in what could be the oldest known deliberate burial in history, are available for the entire palaeoanthropology fraternity to study.

How this has been transformative for Berger and palaeoanthropology—and by extension, hopefully, for the academic world—is that with his research team busy at other sites of discovery, Berger posted once more on social media, and this time, recruited 30 early-career scientists to help analyse the findings. Nature reports that researchers the world over would get a chance to study the Rising Star remains for themselves now that Berger’s team has uploaded data, including 3D scans to the MorphoSource repository. This could be the beginning of a more open form of collaboration in a profession known better for its closed-door style of functioning.

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