Some researchers achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them…and some found it after spelunking is the bowels of a cave in South Africa. The news exploded September 10th and the report was out of this world (more accurately beneath it). Currently, more than 1,550 fossil elements have been recovered from Rising Star cave and many more are expected to be unearthed. Rising Star has yielded the largest sample for any hominin species in a single African site to date. Not only is the find huge, the hominin fossils were unique enough to be classified as a new species: Homo naledi (“naledi” means “star” in the local Sesotho language). Given the growing surfeit of fossils, this find may be the best-known/best represented anatomically fossil member of our lineage. To discuss our “new family member” with us and Rising Star is a member of the research team and New York University professor Dr. Scott Williams. Turn on your head lamps and belay on down as we learn about one of the biggest paleoarchaeological findings of the past half-century.
I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU and I study human evolution through the fossil record. Specifically, I am interested in the evolution of the post-cranium, the body below the skull, and its adaptation to moving around the environment. In human evolution, this largely concerns the evolution of bipedal locomotion and its evolutionary background. I received my PhD from the University of Illinois and I have worked analyses on the famous fossil “Lucy” and on discoveries and analyses of two new species, Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi.