From left, Kathleen Li, anthropologist Lee Berger, Keira Byno field technician Maropeng Mpete, Professor Jeremy DeSilva and Julia Cohen examine a fossilized bone found by the Dartmouth students. (Photo credit: Dartmouth College/ Eli Burakian ’00)

Students Find Early Human Fossil

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Lee Michaelides

Last fall at a Vermont Center for Ecostudies "Suds and Science" program, Norwich resident and Dartmouth anthropology professor Jeremy DeSilva told his audience he'd soon lead a group of Dartmouth students on a field trip to Malapa, the"Cradle of Humankind" site in South Africa. DeSilva is one of the leading researchers studying fossils of Australopithecus sediba, a human precursor found in the area. 

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The students didn't come back empty-handed. Beating the odds of 1 in 250,000, they found a fossil that's early human. Experts believe the fossil is a portion of a female pelvis dating back 2 million years. If that theory holds, the fossil will help scientists understand how the creature moved and gave birth.

The students' find isn't on the scale of the now world-famous Homo naledi  find in Rising Star Cave, in which which DeSilva was also a participant. However, new knowledge about human origins is something these students won't forget says the professor.

“I’m sure they had this experience, too, this feeling I had, about this creature—that she was alive, 2 million years ago," said DiSilva. "She was alive, walking around, eating, breathing, thinking, laughing, crying. I don’t like to get too corny, but these are gifts. These are amazing gifts that these creatures have left us. They have given us evidence of where we came from.”



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