8 Lesedi And Dinaledi Map
(Image: Wits Uni­ver­si­ty)

A map of the Dinale­di and Lese­di chambers

In ear­ly Novem­ber 2013, less than two months after the fos­sil dis­cov­ery, the six female Under­ground Astro­nauts” arrived at Ris­ing Star. They brought with them a range of skills in palaeoan­thro­pol­o­gy and archae­ol­o­gy, but also expe­ri­ence in cav­ing, climb­ing, the out­doors, and even first aid. 


The fos­sil cham­ber was named the Dinale­di Cham­ber”, mean­ing Cham­ber of Stars” in seSotho. Once with­in the cham­ber, the sci­en­tists scanned the exca­va­tion sur­face with an Artec Eva 3D scan­ner before cau­tious­ly remov­ing the loose soil from around the fos­sils, using del­i­cate tools like plas­tic spoons, paint­brush­es, and tooth­picks. Mil­lime­tre by mil­lime­tre, the sur­round­ing soils were removed, reveal­ing the bones nes­tled with­in. These frag­ile fos­sils were then scanned, labelled, and pho­tographed before they were trans­port­ed care­ful­ly back up the Chute and through the wind­ing pas­sages to the surface.

Case 2A Containers For Fossils

Pack­ing the fossils

The sci­en­tists care­ful­ly placed each fos­sil into a clear plas­tic bag and then into a sec­ond bag with a label. That label con­nect­ed the fos­sil back to the exca­va­tion, using the excavator’s name, the site num­ber, a unique num­ber for that bone, pho­to num­bers, and a ten­ta­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. These pack­ets were then wrapped in bub­ble wrap and placed in plas­tic con­tain­ers for the long and dif­fi­cult jour­ney out of the

Case 2A Flags For Marking Fossils In The Deposit

Flags for mark­ing fossils 

When the first sci­en­tists entered the Dinale­di Cham­ber, there were fos­sils every­where. The team used colour­ful flags to mark every bone frag­ment on the sur­face to pre­vent them being over­looked or dam­aged. By the time they were fin­ished, the cham­ber was a sea of colour but it ensured every fos­sil was collected.

Case 1 2 Helmets

Cav­ing gear Hel­met and oth­er gear too

Cavers use a vari­ety of spe­cialised equip­ment when explor­ing under­ground. Light is essen­tial in the dark recess­es, so every caver wears a bright head­lamp and car­ries extra bat­ter­ies. Hel­mets pro­tect cavers from rock falls and knocks to the head, while safe­ty har­ness­es pro­tect them from falls when climb­ing with the aid of ropes. The equip­ment dis­played here was used dur­ing the orig­i­nal Ris­ing Star Expe­di­tion in 2013

Hm N Me Using Scanner Ef

Artec Eva scanner 

Look­ing a lit­tle like a cloth­ing iron, the Artec Eva™ can pro­duce high-res­o­lu­tion three-dimen­sion­al scans of almost any object or sur­face. Dur­ing the Ris­ing Star exca­va­tions, these scans record­ed detailed infor­ma­tion about each fossil’s posi­tion in the exca­va­tion area, pro­vid­ing impor­tant clues as to how the bones got to their final location.

Camp Panorama Me

The Camp dur­ing the Ris­ing Star Expe­di­tion, Novem­ber 2013