Friday, September 18, 2015

Underground Astronauts.


The discovery of Homo naledi is the kind of story that makes me happy and vicariously proud (see here and here).

("Tiny Cavers". source)



I am not qualified to evaluate this finding from a scientific perspective. At one hand, to find 15 fairly complete skeletons of the same species, in the same place, is obviously exceptional; at the other hand, I understand the fossils have not been dated. I trust the team led by Prof. Lee Berger, from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), responsible for the discovery, will in time answer that.

What I find really exciting, however, is the way the recovery of the bones was achieved. To make it snappy (read the links above, it's a great story!): Berger had to recruit a team of trained, qualified, experienced, fit individuals, who -- on top -- had to be skilled in extreme sports, to access the bones deep inside a difficult cave, as nobody in his group could do the job. Think of a team of really clever Indiana Joneses; but instead of hunting for the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant, searching for paleoanthropological finds in pitch-black darkness.

And, what do you know, he not only found 60 candidates, but the top 6 -- which he recruited -- were all young women (Marina Elliott, Elen Feuerriegel, K. Lindsay Eaves, Alia Gurtov, Hannah Morris, and Becca Peixotto), and one of them (Feuerriegel) is from Australia!

Congratulations to Prof. Berger, the University of the Witwatersrand, National Geographic (who funded the expedition), and very especially to the "6 Tiny Cavers"/"Underground Astronauts": best wishes for your success.

Elen, we're proud of you. Chicks rule!

[public domain]

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