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john hawks weblog

paleoanthropology, genetics and evolution

Photo Credit: Lighting the partial skeleton feature at the base of the Chute, September 2017. Photo by John Hawks

New excavations starting at Rising Star, an article pointing to some ways to follow the expedition

Newsweek is running a great story by Meghan Bartels about our renewed excavations in the Rising Star cave over the next month, and the strategies the team is following for sharing its underground progress: “Explore the cave where mysterious human ancestor Homo naledi was discovered in live broadcasts from South Africa”. She corresponded with Lee Berger and he shared some of the motivations for integrating live outreach directly into the excavation protocols:

For Berger, that broadcast is not just about sharing cool findings, it's about making science as a whole more accessible to non-scientists. "I believe we must pull all aspects of science from the “black box” where it typically resides," Berger wrote in an email to Newsweek. He is particularly dismayed by the secrecy often surrounding subject areas like human origins, with only a limited few gaining access to information around discoveries. As he sees it, "these fossils and this science is about our shared human heritage."

The team had some tremendous successes engaging schools and the public from our expedition in September of last year, and I’m really excited about some of the ways we’ll be building on those activities over the next month.

He plans to livestream regularly to the public and to classrooms, including both conversations and footage of the actual excavation work. Other outreach projects associated with the dig include an account tweeting and streaming video updates in Sesotho and Setswana, two local African languages. The team is also using 3D cameras to film the site and wants to explore virtual reality technology as well.

That account is from team member Mathebela Tsikoane, and I encourage anyone to follow him on Twitter, where he tweets in English as well as other languages.

Building participation and engagement in African languages is so important to the project, as is engaging with technologies that work with phones, which are the primary internet tool across Africa.

I’m following along with the expedition right now, until I join the team in South Africa in a couple of weeks. They’ve already found some new fossil material of Homo naledi in an unexpected part of the cave chamber.