It’s not every day you see a Facebook post that changes your life, but that’s exactly what happened to Leakey Foundation grantee Alia Gurtov. Gurtov was checking her Facebook feed one morning and saw a post from paleoanthropologist Lee Berger. He was looking for archaeologists who were “…skinny and preferably small. They must not be claustrophobic, they must be fit, they should have some caving experience, climbing experience would be a bonus. They must be willing to work in cramped quarters, have a good attitude and be a team player.” Gurtov had never seen a job description that fit her more perfectly.
A few weeks later she was in South Africa inside a cave chamber strewn with ancient bones. The fossils she helped recover there have changed the story of human evolution and added a strange new relative to our family tree.
In this episode of Origin Stories, Leakey Foundation grantees Alia Gurtov and Will Harcourt-Smith tell the story of the Rising Star Expedition and the discovery of Homo naledi.
“Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.” eLife
“Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.” eLife
“The Foot of Homo naledi.” Nature.
3D models of the Homo naledi fossils
“Meet ‘Neo’, the Most Complete Homo naledi Fossil Ever Found.” New Scientist
National Geographic Education Explorer Classroom
“This Face Changes the Human Story. But, How?” National Geographic.
“The Dawn of Humanity.” NOVA/National Geographic.
Editor Julia Barton
Series Producer Meredith Johnson
Associate Producer Shuka Kalantari
Sound Design Katie McMurran
Theme Music Henry Nagle
Intern Yuka Oiwa
Additional Music Lee Rosevere