The Standard Bank PAST lecture unveils “Karabo”

  • June 01, 2010
sediba naming competition finalists

The five finalists of the naming competition, (L-R) , Nyasha Havadi, Pule Madise, Omphemetse Keepile (winning entry), Tamsin Metelerkamp and Terry Chawirah

By Itumeleng Makgobathe

The Palaeontological Scientific Trust’s annual lecture, the seventh one to date, entitled A Child from the Cradle, was given by Professor Lee Berger, acclaimed for the discovery of Australopithecus sediba, the famous fossils found at the Malapa Site in the Cradle of Humankind.

A sketch comedy depicting the evolution of mankind started proceedings, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Despite the weight of the finding and subject, much laughter ensued that night.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, was honoured that the lecture was being given at the university, saying “In the last two to three months we really have been the centre of the universe”.

Berger, a professor and reader in human evolution and public understanding of science at the University, announced the discovery of the sediba fossils in April this year at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind.

During the lecture, Prof. Berger took the audience step-by-step through the Australopithecus sediba discovery, revealing that there are more discoveries that have been made at the site where the sediba fossils were found.

He was particularly excited at the response from children around the country who entered the naming competition.

“It was a thrilling experience to see the way that South African children embraced the challenge of coming up with a name for the Australopithecus sediba child. With more than 15 000 entries and literally thousands of stories, poems and motivations for a popular name, it gave me a real sense of how the people of South Africa, and particularly its children, have embraced this wonderful find.”

Berger added, “The name is a real African name, chosen by the children of Africa and it is an exciting moment in history when the children of Africa have picked a name for an ancient child of Africa, who himself was found by a child.”

The winning name came from 17-year-old St Mary’s School learner, Omphemetse Keepile, who submitted the name “Karabo”, which means “answer” in Tswana.

“This fossil has acted as a solution in understanding the origins of humankind. It has helped researchers to see much deeper into the information that they have and the information that they will acquire through discovery,” Keepile said.

She went on to say, “It has enabled them to broaden their former understanding of the concept of humankind.”

“Karabo” is a 1.95-million-year-old partial hominid skeleton, who would have been between 9 and 13 years old when he died.

Professor Berger, his son Matthew (who discovered the first fossil), radio DJ and TV personality Gareth Cliff, and representatives from Standard Bank, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Palaeontological Scientific Trust, judged the competition.


Omphemetse Keepile, winner of the naming competition from St Mary’s school with cricket legend, Jonty Rhodes


Prof. Lee Berger with his wife and son, Matthew who discovered sediba


The judging panel, Prof. Berger, a representatives from Standard Bank, Matthew Berger, radio DJ and TV personality Gareth Cliff, and a representative from the Palaeontological Scientific Trust


Wits Vice-Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa with Omphemetse Keepile

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