Homo naledi finds its home at Wits vault

The Homo naledi fossils have been carefully placed in the highly secure Phillip V Tobias Fossil Primate and Hominid Laboratory, which houses most of the world’s information on human evolution. We take you on an exclusive tour.

The Homo naledi fossils, which were recently discovered in the Dinaledi Cave in Gauteng, have been given a new home at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The fossils are now housed in the vault at the Phillip V Tobias Fossil Primate and Hominid Laboratory on campus, after spending a month on display at the Cradle of Humankind in neighbouring Mogale City.

The new species, Homo naledi, was named after the chamber in which it was discovered, in the Rising Star caves. The underground room where the fossils were found was called the Dinaledi Chamber, which means “chamber of stars” in SeSotho.

At a recent Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) media tour hosted by Brand South Africa, local and foreign journalists were given exclusive access to the vault.

Archaeologist Lee Berger, an American based at Wits’ world-renowned centre, said the vault was home to almost 60% of the world’s fossils, including the recently discovered Homo naledi. Berger and his team of excavators were on hand to show and explain their experiences during their discovery of the Homo naledi fossils.

At its opening in July, Berger said the vault held more scientific information on how humans evolved and where we came from than any other facility worldwide. “Right here in this vault, this word-class vault, is the majority of their assemblage. It’s held in high security because this is all of human heritage.”

“This is a very special place,” he told the journalists on the FOCAC tour earlier this month. “We don’t allow anyone other than scientists to enter here.”

But the press members were given a chance to view the Homo naledi remains up close.

And now, we present to you exclusive pictures from the vault taken during that media tour.

Images by Shamin Chibba

  • This article was originally published on 15 December 2015 in Media Club South Africa.com
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