Nine-year-old finds fossil of new hominid species

The nine-year-old son of a Wits scientist found a fossil of a new hominid species that lived 1,95-million years ago, the scientist revealed on Thursday.

Speaking at the official unveiling of two partial fossils found in the Cradle of Humankind, Professor Lee Berger said his child Matthew found the fossil of the child on August 15 2008.

Berger was mapping the cave in the area when he found a number of fossils in a cave. He took Matthew and his dog Tal to the site and gave Matthew a talk on fossils.

“I said let’s go and find fossils and a minute and a half later he called me and said he had found a fossil,” Berger said.

“I knew he had found an antelope fossil but he was my nine-year-old son and I encouraged fossil hunting so I had to go and look.”

Inspecting the fossil, Berger realised it was the clavicle [shoulder bone] of an earlier hominid.

A few days later, he and a group of scientists went to the cave and found the second fossil, a female between her late 20s and 30s.

“They may have lived together—they looked into each other’s eyes—they may have been related and they died at the same time,” said Berger.

The new species has been named Australopithecus sediba, said Berger.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe attended the unveiling at the Cradle of Humankind. - Sapa

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