Homo naledi culture or some other spectacular find being hinted at by NatGeo Explorer Lee Berger in recent interviews, on Twitter
Dr. Berger was a guest on Australian Radio on March 20. He was in Brisbane, Australia for a paleo-anthropology conference, the World Science Festival, March 24-26:
Professor Lee Berger has been leading some of the most revolutionary explorations, with ground-breaking expeditions across Africa. He joins Brian Greene to discuss the major discoveries of the last two decades in the search for human origins.
He did a series of interviews in Brisbane and prior to the trip. Berger Tweeted out on March 21:
I’ll drop this. Some #eastereggs hidden in this conversation with @SarahKonowski @abcconvos
National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Lee Berger, entered the field of palaeoanthropology when there was a one in 10,000,000 chance he would discover anything worthwhile digging around South Africa.
But this real-life Indiana Jones kept bucking the odds.
First, he found a pair of hominid teeth in southern Africa, and then after a fossil hunting dry spell, his 9-year-old son Matthew found the jawbone of a completely new hominid species.
Interestingly, Berger stated on Twitter that of all the interviews he has ever given in these past few decades, he found this one to be the absolute best.
He continues, towards the end of the interview:
You know there’s no definition of human… look it up right now. Have your people Google it. You’ll get something ridiculous, like having the characteristics of a people or a person.
My colleagues and I, more than 150 scientists involved, believe, we may have that outgroup.
They [Homo naledi] are bipedal. So they’re hominins… they have a tiny brain. They’re not adapting to the world the way we are. They are a form of an outgroup. And we’ve begun to find culture.
Konowski: So, what else?
I announced in December, that we found fire. Within the next couple of months you are going to see extraordinary discoveries that we made. We’re on the verge of for the first time in human history being able to examine, a non-human species with culture.
Berger goes on to say the discoveries will be out “within the next few weeks.” He then adds, “actually, I was hoping it’d be out by the time I took this trip [to Australia].
Note – Berger has been letting his frustration known for weeks on the slowness of the paper’s publication, both in interviews and on social media.
See our article from January, “Homo naledi paper to be published, stunning reversal: Lee Berger threatened Science Magazine to go public.” The journal has been stalling publication of Berger’s paper for unspecified reasons.
Australian Paleo-anthropologist Michael Petraglia reiterated Berger’s point on the exciting announcement in a Tweet March 28:
“There are indeed exciting things to come — though lots of science required.”
“This is pretty insane”
At least one Twitter user has ventured a guess (Replying to Lee Berger March 23):
An unknown hominid species with a rich culture. Before humans developed one. This is pretty insane. Looking forward to the actual announcement.
Berger, already regarded as one of the very top, if not thee top paleo-anthropologists in the world, just received another promotion.
From National Geographic, March 15,
National Geographic Society Names Lee Berger Explorer in Residence
Berger’s relationship with the Society began with his first grant in 1996 for the excavation and preservation of early Homo sapiensfootprints at Saldanha Bay in South Africa, but he is best known for his work at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa. With support from the Society and Lyda Hill Philanthropies, his excavations there have led to some of the most significant scientific findings of the 21st century, including the finding and documentation of two previously unknown hominin species: Australopithecus sediba in 2008 at the Malapa site and Homo nalediin 2013 in the Rising Star cave system.
Berger has a new book scheduled to come out in May (Available for Pre-order at Amazon), co-authored with his friend and colleague John Hawks. From the description:
Join Berger on the adventure of a lifetime as he explores the Rising Star cave system and begins the complicated process of explaining these extraordinary finds—finds that force a rethinking of human evolution, and discoveries that Berger calls “the Rosetta stone of the human mind.”
Editor’s note – Good intro video to Homo naledi by our friend conservative-leaning Stefan Milo at YouTube.