The Rising Star Expedition
By: Chrissie Sievers, 24 November 2013

After only a day and a half at Rising Star Cave, an international team of cavers and scientists uncovered the fossil remains of multiple ancient hominids. The cave is a deep underground chamber is in the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site situated about 40 km north of Johannesburg. The fossils promise to enable huge strides forward in our knowledge of hominid evolution. 

The Rising Star Expedition, assembled under the direction of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Professor Lee Berger of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and supported by cavers from the Speleological Exploration Club of South Africa, is a hi-tech palaeoanthropological expedition of unprecedented technical and physical challenges. The findings appear to be similarly spectacular.

The chamber is about 30 metres underground, with a choke point only 18 cm wide, which meant that Prof. Berger had to find “tiny and small, specialised cavers and spelunkers with excellent archaeological, palaeontological and excavation skills.” Six petite women were chosen from the many respondents to a call for these specific attributes and daily they are uncovering and sending fossils to the surface where various local and international experts are analyzing the finds.

Headlines like the NBC’s “Cave women unearth skull of unknown human ancestor” and National Geographic's "The Skull Man arrives" encourage further reading of the media reports on the extraordinary finds. For an unprecedented view into this exciting and on-going research, follow daily updates on a blog managed by National Geographic at andread about many events, sometimes as they are happening, by following senior scientists on Twitter and Facebook @LeeRBerger   @RisingStarExped   @JohnHawks