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2 Posts tagged with the early_humans tag
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'We have not explored this planet!' announced Professor Lee Berger excitedly earlier this week at the handover presentation here (pictured below) of the replicas of two 1.98 million-year-old early human fossil skeletons for our research.

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The remarkable fossils belong to the ancient human-like species, Australopithecus sediba, which could be the ancestor to the first humans. The two replica casts, one an adult female and the other a young adolescent male skeleton, have been donated by the University of the Witwatersrand and the Government of the Republic of South Africa. The cast of the male skull - the female skull is still missing - went on public display in the Museum this week.

 

Prof Berger (below left) is lead palaeoanthropological researcher with the University of Witwatersrand's Institute for Human Evolution in Johannesburg. In his presentation he told us how Google Earth had inadvertently led his team to new archaeological locations and the subsequent discovery of 600 caves and fossil sites around Johannesburg, including Malapa.

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Left: Prof Lee Berger demonstrates the human-like hand of the female specimens found. Right: 3D model created by paleo-artist John Gurche of the young male skull (Gurche's model recently won a palaeontology award). The male skeleton has been named Karabo (meaning 'the answer') by the local Malapa people.

Prof Berger spoke of the historic moment on 15 August 2008 when, after 17 years of digging, his nine-year-old son spotted the tip of a clavicle in the rock that turned out later to belong to one of the most complete early human skeletons ever found. 'When he pointed it out, I almost didn't want to look, for fear it would be just another antelope fossil!' Apparently as many as 250,000 antelope fossils are discovered for every one hominid fossil.

 

You can read more about the replica casts arriving here in our news story and the media. BBC News online described it as 'currently the hottest topic in palaeoanthropology'.

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Scientists and journalists gather around to view the Malapa Cave Sediba fossils donated to the Museum at the recent  presentation in the Attenborough Studio.

During Prof Berger's discussion with our own human origins expert Prof Chris Stringer it became clear that the finds at Malapa are set to reveal a lot more in the future, not only because of the light they shed on the evolution of modern humans (Homo sapiens), but because of their potentially mummified nature (the protein keratin may exist) and the way they can be so accurately dated. It is likely that they will unearth more in Malapa, and when asked what he would like to find next, Prof Berger replied, 'our female's skull... and a complete foot.'

 

You can see the Australopithecus sediba replica skull cast now on special display in Dinosaur Way at the Museum. It is one of several sets of casts that will in the next few weeks be handed over to public institutions and universities in the UK and Europe.

 

Find out more about Chris Stringer's work and human evolution online

 

Above model reconstruction image of Karabo © Courtesy of National Geographic, August 2011 issue /Reconstruction by John Gurche/ Photo by Brett Stirton

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I wonder what's going to happen on Monday evening, 28 February, when bestselling fiction writer Jean M Auel and the Museum's esteemed human evolution expert Professor Chris Stringer meet to talk about ice age cave clans? Will flint sparks fly? Will they share a drink from ritualistic skull-cups?

 

We're not entirely sure of the details of their conversation, but the theme will certainly be earthy.

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Ayla and Jondalar - the main characters in Jean M Auel's latest book - as depicted in the book's film trailer. Her popular Earth's Children series follows the epic story of Cro-Magnons and Neanderthal cave dwellers in ice age Britain. She talks to Chris Stringer about the books here on 28 February

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Our event, Jean M Auel in Conversation, marks the release of the sixth and final book in the author's popular Earth's Children historical fiction series. The Land of Painted Caves is published on 29 March and is a highly-anticipated book for Jean Auel readers - the finale they've been waiting 30 years for. The fifth book appeared in 2002, and the first, The Clan of the Cave Bear, came out in 1980 .

 

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Jean Auel (left) is well-known for her meticulous research of archaeological findings in preparation of her novels and Chris Stringer (below) is the Museum's leading palaeoanthropologist with extensive knowledge of human evolution and the ancient human occupation of Britain.

 

Chris told me: 'I first remember meeting Jean at a human evolution conference in New York in 1984. I was able to spend more time with her when she co-sponsored another conference, in Santa Fe, in 1986. I have a lot of contact with the public through the talks I give and the enquiries I answer. Jean’s books regularly come up as having first inspired an interest in prehistory or as the source of an enquiry about some aspect of our evolutionary past.


'Palaeoanthropology is a fast-moving field, where new finds make us constantly update our ideas about ancient people like the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons who feature in Jean’s books. So I look forward to discussing with her how we both meet the challenges of these advances of knowledge in our research and writing about the past.'

 

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Jean Auel's publicist, Kerry Hood from Hodder, says: ‘I know that Jean is fantastically excited about coming to London to talk about the Earth’s Children series, and the last book. She is also really looking forward to renewing her very good acquaintance with Professor Stringer.’

 

After Jean and Chris converse, the audience will get the chance to ask questions. This is followed by an author signing session.

 

I've also just heard that the Gough's Cave human skull-cup replica will be on show at the event before it goes on public display in the Museum. Chris Stringer and the 14,700 human skull-cup discoveries have been receiving lots of recent media attention. So this is a rare treat for Jean Auel fans.

 


Find out about the Jean M Auel in Conversation event

 

Book tickets for Jean M Auel in Conversation - £10, starts at 19.30 on 28 February

 

Discover more about the human skull-cups and human evolution

 

Read the recent news story about the Earliest human skull-cups in the UK

About Earth's Children

For those of you may not know Jean Auel's Earth's Children, the series of historical novels traces the prehistoric adventures of Ayla, a young blue-eyed, blonde-haired Cro-Magnon (early human) orphan girl. In the first book, Ayla is adopted by a Neanderthal clan after a cataclysmic earthquake. The story is set in a harsh ice age landscape, about 30,000 years ago. In The Land of Painted Caves - the final forthcoming book -  Ayla is now a woman and a mother. With her young daughter Jonayla and loving mate Jondalar they face new challenges in the land of the Zelandonii.

 

Find out more about The Land of Painted Caves and the series and watch the official trailer for the new book