Rising Star expedition to lift hominin fossils from deep cave in Cradle of Humankind (South Africa) started

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, a cave complex 40km north of Johannesburg, is the world’s richest hominin find spot. It is home to world famous sites such as Sterkfontein, Kromdraai, Swartkrans and Taung. The most recent finds include several fossils of Australopithecus sediba at the Malapa cave site. Professor Lee Berger (University of Witwatersrand) and his team are now undertaking an expedition to further explore a cave chamber deep underground. During an initial exploration a team led by Pedro Boshoff was able to access this chamber which is 30m underground and at one point only 18cm wide. They noticed the presence of hominin fossils on the surface of the cave floor. The species of the fossils is still unknown but an expedition to lift them out of the cave has now started. Professor Berger recruited six highly-trained scientists with caving experience, and with small body postures, to excavate the finds. This is a spectacular undertaking and their progress can be followed through an online National Geographic Explorer’s Journal. The team hopes the new fossils will help answer a list of questions about human evolution, and they hope to publish their findings in late 2014.

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