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Lee Berger

Paleoanthropologist

Professor Lee Berger has made what has been hailed as the most important archaeological discoveries in recent history—two new species of human ancestors.

 

In 2008—with the help of his curious nine-year-old son—Berger discovered two remarkably well-preserved, two-million-year-old fossils of an adult female and young male, which he named Australopithecus sediba. The fossils of this previously unknown species of ape-like creatures reveal what may be one of humankind’s oldest ancestors.

 

Then, in 2013, guided by a pair of local cavers, Berger discovered ancient fossils just outside Johannesburg, deep inside the Rising Star cave, through a passage so dangerously narrow that Berger had to recruit small cavers to access them. There, 30 meters underground, in the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage site, Berger’s team uncovered more than 1,550 fossil elements, representing an unprecedented 15 individuals in what they believe to be a burial site. He named the new species Homo naledi.

 

“We’ve found a most remarkable creature,” says Berger. This new species appears to have intentionally deposited the bodies of its dead in the remote chamber—a behavior previously thought to be limited to humans. This new discovery is the single largest fossil hominin find in Africa to date. It shakes up our understanding of the human family tree and has the potential to transform understanding of human evolution.

 

Berger, an Eagle Scout and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, 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.

Highlights & Accomplishments
In 2008, Berger discovered fossils of a new human ancestor, Australopithecus Sediba
In 2013, he discovered the fossils of an unprecedented 15 individuals of a new species, Homo naledi
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
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New Human Video Poster

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3:30
New Human Ancestor Discovered
Within a deep and narrow cave in South Africa, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger and his team found fossil remains belonging to the newest member of our human family. 
Discovering Video Poster

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9:25
Discovering Homo Naledi
In 2013, Lee Berger found a new species of human ancestor that could very well change the way we think about human ancestry and evolution. 
Malapa Video Poster

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28:27
The Fossils of Malapa
Professor Lee Berger and his son stumble across an amazing find in South Africa.

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