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Monday, 14 November 2011
Bolton School was delighted to welcome the "world's greatest
living Paleoanthropologist", Professor Lee Berger, as he delivered
his lecture "Out of Africa…in Search of the Missing Link." A
privileged audience of members from the Bolton Lads and Girls'
Club, Warrington Youth Club and the Bolton School community were
mesmerised by the story of how, in 2008, he and his curious 9 year
old son, Matthew, discovered two remarkably well preserved,
two-million-year-old fossils of an adult female and young male,
known as Australopithecus sediba. It is quite possible that
they were mother and son.
Their discovery has been hailed as one of the most important
archaeological discoveries in history. The fossils reveal
what may be one of humankind's oldest ancestors - a previously
unknown species of ape-like creatures that may have been a direct
ancestor of modern humans. The new species fills the gap
between "Lucy" the world's most famous human ancestor dating back 3
million years and Homo erectus. The talk focused on the
discovery of the fossils, assisted by Google Earth images of the
Malapa caves just outside Johannesburg, and the ongoing work which
involves 88 scientists and is the largest archaeological dig on
earth. Berger believes the skeletons they found could be the
"Rosetta stone that unlocks our understanding of the genus Homo"and
may just redesign the human family tree.
Professor Berger concluded by reminding the audience that the
lesson from his find is that there is much yet to be discovered in
the world. The fact that he unearthed the fossils in one of
the most explored areas on the planet, known as the Cradle of
Humankind World Heritage Site, reinforces to us all that we
must look again and more closely at our world in order to discover
Berger, an Eagle Scout and National Geographic Grantee, is
currently on a world tour with the National Geographic.
He is the Reader in Human Evolution and the Public
Understanding of Science in the Institute for Human Evolution at
the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
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