Rising Star Expedition: Hominid fossil discovery in the Cradle

The Rising Star Expedition was rapidly assembled during October 2013 to recover ancient hominid fossils discovered in a cave in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. 

With the bones hidden 30m underground, only accessible via a chute just 18cm wide, it was necessary to assemble a select team of capable researchers with excavation experience, and the unlikely caving skills and particular size required to reach the inner chamber.

Directed by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand, and supported by cavers from the Speleological Exploration Club of South Africa, researchers brought up over 1 200 hominid fossil elements over three weeks.

The project on the ground has since closed, and excavations stopped on 27 November. The project will now proceed in palaeo labs across the country.

The hominid fossil cache could add significantly to our understanding of human evolution.