New Hominid Species Discovered in South Africa

The species, Australopithecus sediba, strode upright, but still climbed through trees on apelike arms, scientists said.

Comments: 121

  1. So cool! We have so much to learn still, but each piece brings us closer to understanding our origins. Lucky kid!

  2. Walked upright and climbed trees? Must have been kids.
    Just having fun! Maybe they didnt kill each other proving we are devolving.

  3. This is very exciting, and further discoveries could be more so. Slowly we piece together proof of our really ancient roots, and our relationship with other primates.

  4. "Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" wonderful positive news to drown out the negativity from South Africa over the past few day. Certainly an amazing find.

  5. So, does Matthew get an honorary -- or real -- degree from an anthropology program at a university? He does deserve it.

  6. Wonderful news with a number of aspects I find very interesting. Of course, our relationship to our ancestral past is boundlessly interesting to many of us, but it was also interesting that this researcher, and many others in this and other geologic field studies used Google Earth as a tool by which they could generate a more comprehensive and, in this case, rewarding approach to their field research. As for that dog Tau, I hope he wasn't too disappointed by the excitement over bones well past the stage where it might have been interesting to him.

  7. If it where draught that brought the other animals into the pit or cave in search of water......what brought the hominids there......were they searching for water.....scavaging......or hunting? One wonders if the animals where forced or stampeded over the edge into the cave like at buffalo jumps? It sort of makes me wonder about the hominids diet at that time. These are probably questions that can't be answered but it does get me thinking! Ken C. Arnold Santa Monica, Ca

  8. This is AWESOME!!!!

  9. And like Johnson said about Ford, not able to do two things at once.

    A ancient Darwinian example proving there were early protoypes of today's small tenters.

  10. "The species sediba, which means fountain or wellspring in the Sotho language, strode upright on long legs, with human-shaped hips and pelvis, but still climbed through trees on apelike arms. It had the small teeth and more modern face of Homo, the genus that includes modern humans, but the relatively primitive feet and “tiny brain” of Australopithecus, Dr. Berger said."

    Sounds like a transition species to me. I would like to see creationists debunk this.

  11. The boy should be named either Tau or Matthew or Matthew Tau. Thank you to the Times for reporting on the latest developments in the history of our ancestors for as long as I can remember (since the 60's).

  12. Fascinating story.

  13. Truly amazing! Makes me wish I could leave my cubicle and join them in clambering through caves. I hope to hear of their future discoveries.

  14. This is a neat find but I'd like to see better photos. What a jumble early hominids are!

  15. thanks for putting this on page one!

  16. we are forever getting closer(or perhaps further?) to the origins of man.

    but how do you explain my former in laws?

  17. Darwin's theory of evolution will someday be accepted by everyone as fact. This find illustrates the subtlety and elegance of that theory and, (dare I say it?) of God's creative power.

  18. This is awesome! Always exciting to read new discoveries of our ancestors!

  19. Reporting the cranial capacity would be helpful. I assume in the Science paper that the scientists point out features that distinguish this new species from Homo habilis or Australopithecus gahri, two species known mainly from East Africa that existed about the same time. Also, is that phot of the skull shown on the Frankfort Plane? If not, the image may distort the apparent similarities to Homo.

  20. There is a degree of serendipity in this that makes the discovery extra special. I am grateful to all the scientists that spend years in anonymity, working in less than ideal conditions to broaden the knowledge and understanding of mankind. To a certain extent they are continuing the process of our evolution. I hope and pray (yes there is room for God in all of this) that our journey will ultimately be one that brings good to the world.

  21. It does make you wonder why folks of a certain religous persuasion would want to deny this wonderfull history and all it's possibilities for opening up our understanding of our origins. Of course everyone wants to be special and the thought of being related to a monkey might cause concern for some. I find our evolution and survival of the species a fasinating process. We modern humans made it. Considering all the possible variations we might have morphed into and the competition amongst other species that could have wiped us out of existance, the fact that we are here with the brightest brains should humble us, not cause shame.

  22. Which will come first; the PBS Nova special or the Law and Order homage?

  23. Congratulations to Matthew!

  24. This is the kind of story we've all dreamed about, especially as children - stumbling on a discovery, exploring hidden sites...

  25. A fascinating article. Just wonder why the photos taken in the field were so dark...

  26. Darwin and before him, Gregor Mendel, who built on work by many others before them and inspired the work of many after them may be looking down on Matthew with envy for his potential as a future paleoanthropologist whose curiosity is at least not unlike theirs.

  27. How about they name the new hominid...Mattau?

  28. It's a perfect transition from the primitive bipedal australopithecines to the genus Homo. It has the small brain, anterior pillars (vertical ridges under and on each side of the nose) and small teeth of the more human-like Homo habilis. The face is shorter and less ape-like (less prognathic) than the typical australopithecus, yet still far from human. Perfect transition. Darwin is championed yet again.

  29. That decides it! When (not "if") I hit the Powerball, I'm chucking it all and going on a dig! I can't imagine anything more exciting or rewarding than a find like this. Congratulations to everyone involved.

  30. I would change but one phrase in this beautifully written piece on these beautiful events -- the article says that Matthew "tripped over a log and stumbled onto a major archeological discovery". No doubt he tripped, no doubt he stumbled, and perhaps without the trip and stumble there would have been no discovery. But it seems more accurate to acknowledge that "discovery" was not made by trip and stumble, but by the quick-witted, no doubt well-tutored insight of a 9 year old boy that enabled him, despite the jarring experience of the trip and stumble and face down on a chunk of rock, to know at once that,“Dad, I found a fossil!”

  31. You refer to these fossil remains individually "a man" or "a woman". Wouldn't it be more appropriate to refer to them as male or female? They are hominids, but not Homo Sapiens. Or is it customary among experts in the material to use the terms man or woman?
    Be that as it may, it's a wonderful article.

  32. For once, it would be nice to discuss a science article without bringing up supernatural concerns.

  33. anyone still sitting on the fence about evolution needs to jump down and look at this find as well as all the others that prove the truth of evolution. to those still standing on the creationist side of that fence - well as einstein once said: "two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity; and i'm not sure about the universe."

  34. This doesn't prove anything. Sorry.

  35. Good more nail on Adam and Eve

  36. Yet no one can explain, how Neanderthals invented Haute Couture and French cooking?

  37. Another Australopithicus, cool. Send the dental impressions to that cultural fossil on the Texas school board. How does one manage to become a dentist without a basic understanding of scientific method? Worse yet, he must have said to himself, "I'll put the correct answer on the test, but I refuse to believe it."

  38. How exciting! Thanks NYT for giving this news a prominent position. More! more!

  39. With respect to all, this story is so non-scientific it rivals 'Alice in Wonder
    land', nothing new for the theory of evolution.
    ists. Rife with supposition, conjecture, estimation,
    and pure speculation, in a court room setting
    it would not begin to make the cut for factual examination,
    not even on a preliminary basis.

    For examle terms such as "side branch", "possible ancestor', and "a surprising and distinctive mixture of primitive and advanced anatomy", render the
    account almost hilarious - (what is 'primitive' and what is
    'advanced' anatomy, there is no such 'distinction' in science. Or how about; “It reminds us of the combining and recombining of characteristics, the tinkering and experimentation, that go on in evolution.” The only real
    'tinkering and experimentation' takes place solely in the active imagination of those who refuse to acknowledge the Creator of our amazingly complex human body and mind, a mind that is even capable of spirituality, as no other creature on earth can even imagine. A Creator who gave meaning and purpose to mankind from the very beginning, a purpose which the mythical theory of evolution strives unsuccessfully to undermine.

  40. I found it interesting that the BBC has been broadcasting about this discovery around the world and the only fact they didn't see a need to mention was that the anthropologist is an American working in South Africa. I wonder if evolution can explain the political pettiness of some people in the modern world.

  41. It makes me wonder what is next for our species, as it is clear that we continue to change and develop different capacities. Can we evolve faster than we destroy the habitat that wrought these wonderful adaptations? It will also be interesting to see what the cultural anthropologists do with this find.

  42. I'm sorry. This story is just a little too cute to be true. I hope that this man's colleagues thoroughly vet this find (and his story).

  43. More monkey men? I love it!

  44. I'm grateful to the Times for always reporting these astonishing discoveries. And I'm deeply moved by the experiences of these scientists. It's impossible not to think of the Leakeys, who spent 30 years in Olduvai Gorge searching for the origins of man. For thirty years Louis and Mary Leakey were convinced the first man would be found in Africa, and Mary found him, and their original theory has been validated over and over again by other scientists. At this point there can be no question man first originated in Africa. I wish the Leakeys were still alive. They are giants in this field. Another amazing discovery!

  45. I liked how he used Google Earth to locate promising regions to search. Chalk another one up for pure science and technology working hand in hand.

  46. I loved this story or anything related to filling in gaps in our knowledge of our historical cousins/ancestors. Thank you for putting this in a prominent position. Transports one away from the provincial homo sapiens worries of the day to something bigger and ultimately more significant. Now that's news.

  47. This discovery is fascinating. I can't wait until more details are released. As for the religiously brainwashed who will not allow their fairy tale world view to be corrupted by facts so be it. If you're against abortion, don't have one. If you want to say a prayer in school, knock yourself out. If you're against evolution, stop evolving.

  48. Thank you, NY Times, for featuring this so promptly and prominently.
    I love the fact that a boy and his dog were the Discoverers.
    Vive Le Newspaper forever and ever!

  49. #43 - look on the bright side; you and Sarah Palin now know who your ancestors were.

  50. There's so much to revel in here. One of the things I appreciate most about the story is that Dr. Berger brought his son along on his Malapa search in the first place. So much emerged from the experience for all of us to marvel at. But think, too, what an amazing adventure--what stories for later!--for father and son. It's really lovely and generous of Dr. Berger to share his profession and fascinations with his child. Congratulations to them both!

  51. Shame on Lee R Berger. His son made the seminal discovery and is not an author nor mentioned in the paper.

  52. Fascinating discovery, and fascinating that the work of so many people can come together to create an understanding of our universe. Remarkable, but at the same time it really makes sense, if as Dawkins said (I think) the idea of discrete evolutionary jumps is to a large extent a function of how we have evolved--that is, to see discrete categories when the 'real' boundaries are much more fluid that "homo erectus", then "Neandertal", then "us". Or whatever order you put them in.

  53. From the way they died in a protected cave and the manner in which the bodies decomposed before being encased in a cement-like mud, is it possible that any DNA or even any soft tissue might have survived? I suppose it probably is too much to hope for but it sure would be exciting if we could look at some of the DNA sequences.

    Also, did they find any evidence of tools, either preserved wood tools or stone tools? I know it's unlikely. But if they were carrying tools with them, this sounds like a case where wooden tools, if they existed, might have been buried in the mud without decomposing.

  54. I guess that makes all Americans African-Americans. So much for labels.

  55. Once again a rush to judgment. Read pro-evolution Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" to discover—on almost every page—the chicanery of charlatans in the scientific world.

    He states that The NY Museum of Natural History in created a full-size African diorama with two hominids based on a set of footprints!

  56. RTJames (#53),
    Relax, #43 is just yanking your chain; look at the typos- this was obviously done by a young child.

  57. To those (e.g. #43) voicing concern that this and similar discoveries are in the realm of theory: Remember, the Greek root word "theo" is the same as that meaning God - "theos".

  58. Beautiful. Creationists cannot sensibly ask "Where's the lost link?" in human evolution. I imagine there have been many links along millions of years in the transition from ape to man, and more and more links like this one will likely be discovered in the future.
    Hurray for the paleontologists! Your long and hard work for science enriches us all.

  59. This flys in the face of the evidence of the Bible. It must be fraudulent or......

  60. To 'creationists', I generally respond:

    God did not invent math or science.
    MAN did, and put order on the universe, not vice versa.

  61. It must be time for the annual budget battle increase - so we have to create pseudo science void of the use of the scientific method. It takes faith to believe something that can not be observed or measured but only speculated...look for the money and the scientific slant will follow.

  62. Congratulations, Matthew Tau!!! I hope this gives you and others of your generation some reasons to carry on in your father's footsteps or go beyond. Science needs young men and women like you. To everyone else, there is no need to continue arguing over whether God had a hand in this or not. If one realizes Adam and Eve is more a metaphor as to man's beginnings in terms of learning the difference between good and evil and the necessity to gain Knowledge, you know that no one can disprove God's presence nor can he/she prove that God is so. After all Cain left and went out into the world of other people--what other ones if Adam and Eve had been the first?? Or is one to say--Christian, Jew or Muslim--that God didn't create everybody--just some people??? Which is which is which...? Science is proven by facts as those seen and proven--at least to man's ability to understand--and God is part of theology that each of us believe or disbelieve to our own ideas and experiences. Read more about the work of Matthew's father and all those to the Leakey's as mentioned above. You'll all think about man better if you use reason not prejudice as your guide.

  63. An ancestor of my home state's governor, without a doubt; or Lt Governor - I can't decide which.

  64. "Which will come first; the PBS Nova special or the Law and Order homage?"

    I'm not sure, but I think this is more along the lines of Cold Case.

  65. Would those who embrace this article with such passion please explain how an eye evolved; or how the hammer, anvil, and stirrup bones in an ear evolved; or how the capillaries that allow a single cell to pass through the lungs evolved; or how the alveoli in the lungs evolved. How about explaining that the fossil evidence reveals no (none, zero, nada) evidence of transitional life forms.

    Even the most ardent evolutionists now embrace the theory of sudden change or "punctual evolution." Of course, this concept is equally devoid of scientific evidence.

    It would be good to genuinely apply the scientific method to all of this and draw honest conclusions - unless one does not desire to be confused by the evidence.

  66. Very interesting. Even just from the photo it's possible to see that this ancient relative had big eyes. Maybe these hominids were more nocturnal than we previously suspected - staying up until all hours looking for food and socializing. Over time I suspect this branch of the family tree migrated to New York City.

  67. For a somewhat more scientific (if amateur) discussion of this find, it would be helpful to see some better pictures. Usually, the NYT has such wonderful photos, and yet this one is so dark and shadowy. I especially would like to see a clearer picture of the skull, and possibly the pelvis to see how Berger came to his conclusions (in the spirit of my learning something, not challenging him; like I said, I am an amateur). I am sure I am not the only one who would welcome any additional links to more photos of this amazing find.

  68. Will someone please tell those idiots in the Kansas Board of Education about this? And send a copy to those fundamentalist "creationists" while you're at it. Thanks for putting it on the front page. I hope it gets the attention it deserves in "the real America."

  69. I bet they loved their children just as much as any parents now love theirs. I imagine they and we would make hellava good friends together....Imagine the stories we could share, and the help they might now be able to give us from their life experiences back then, and the suffering they had that we have eliminated, and sadly, other sufferings we still cause by not having such friendship with "others" so "different" from (similar, essentially, to) "us," still.

  70. Maybe it's no coincidence that his name is Matthew - hey all you creationists out there - FOSSIL ALERT!!

  71. How marvelous! How exciting! I can just begin to imagine the emotions that crowded the minds of man and boy upon this discovery. And the incredible circumstance that Dr Berger should have devoted his doctoral dissertation to hominid shoulders and was thus able to recognize at a distance that his son had made a "find"! Thank you for bringing us this news.

  72. we keep getting closer to the truth. i love it.

    you won't see this info on fox news, in a texas textbook, or at a sarah palin pep rally. why are some americans so dumb?

  73. GOD Bless Darwin's Theory, and Evolution for giving mankind a proper example of just what a day is to our Creator! Nice Find.

  74. Let me ask one simple question: when you find bones in the dirt, how do you know it's related to anything after itself? In order for any animal to be related to anything after it, it has to have kids. How do you know this? Couldn't it be that it was the last of an extinct species that didn't produce any offspring? For your "relatedness" argument to work, you have to start with the assumption that it had kids in order to pass on its genes. You don't know this and CANNOT know this for sure. This is one of the many faulty logical reasoning upon which evolution is based. The only thing you know for sure about those bones is that it lived and died. Period. Everything is faith and assumption, imagination. Evolution is simply the biggest hoax and a fairytale for grown ups. It's as much a faith-based religious view as any other religion. I just can't imagine how logical folks don't ask themselves this question. I think it's because they want this religious view to be true so badly that they ignore all logic and scientific reasoning.

  75. So much for continental Africa as the Cradle of Humanity.

    Now what is the West doing to protect and preserve the dignity and socioeconomic and cultural development of indigenous "Homo Sapient" Africans?

    Or are we also to be callously left to slowly die of starvation, political oppression and penury, only to be morbidly celebrated two million years hence?

  76. To # 69- read a comparative anatomy book.

  77. Dear #69. No, I won't explain it here. There is entire field of study called "evolutionary biology". Universities across this country have entire departments devoted to it. You could try taking a course or reading a book. You will learn that many of the phenomena you have question about (such as those you listed) are readily consistent with evolutionary theory. That said, the level of detail that current theory can provide in its explanations may disappoint you on some questions. To be sure, it is still a very active area of investigation and no amount of evidence gathered consistent with the theory will ever prove absolutely that some other process didn't make life as we know it. But I would be wary of discounting the evidence as "merely" consistent - which is how I interpret your comments. Consistency is very powerful. Of course the evidence is also consistent with supernatural theory such as creationism, but any stream of evidence would be since one can always invoke magic as an explanation to explain apparent inconsistencies. Evolutionary biologists don't get to do that.

  78. This discovery and article remind me of Michael Crichton's book "Next".

  79. They should have made little Matthew a co-author! I wonder if that would have broken an age record for Science...

    Discoveries like these provide us with wonderful insights into the history of our world. Such important studies must not be obscured from the rest of society, only accessible to those in academia. As a scientist, I would like to thank the New York Times for placing this story on the homepage. Hopefully this will cause people to contemplate a topic which they would not normally spend much time thinking about, and perhaps even inspire a few of them to learn more about the history of our planet.

  80. Another missing link. Refreshing news in light of that which we've been hearing lately.

  81. Dear Reality,

    If you would care to look, there have been explanations put forth to describe many of the processes you question. Read. You can start with this:

    On the other hand, since you embrace the scientific method, why not apply it to your ideas?

  82. Great. So when they dig out our bones millions of years from now what do you think they'll say? "Savages, all of them."

    Always fascinates me how we are interested in where we came from rather than where we are going.

  83. What amazing imaginations they have, to create such a rich and varied explanation from some rocks in a hole. I'm going to look in my backyard after work: who knows what I'll find?

  84. Better hope that the Texas school book police don't hear about it.

  85. Send the Bible back for a re-write. Fundamentalism, we got a problem!

  86. Things get really interesting about 2 million years later when Neanderthals ,Cro Magnon ,and Rhodesia man compete for the first human . In fact science hasn't got that one quite figured out yet except in theory only. Many theories don't equate very well so its probably a little of each. While the early cave dwelling societies colonized much of what is now Europe the high brows and low brows each ascertain ,One, maybe example of Rhodesia man is claimed to have been found near Israel and rumoured to be the descendant of Moses .,anyway ,although even different geneticists have opposing opinions.

  87. Adam and Eve's handlers declined to comment.

  88. This is the time to explore the reality of human existing science has already discovered some ancient evidences about Hominids Species. And there are many levels of finding that they were established. “4.4 million And 8 million and 1.78 million yet these conclusions were part of the so-called established findings. Since all physical matters can discover base of on limit of research.
    MDGC has explained it that under the era of man it is about to 24.15 million years, however, this thought not by physical evidences but by symbols through mathematical and Holy Scriptures combining processes. When it comes to man’s existing, it doesn’t means that in 24.15 million years man has been exists actually. Instead the cover period is part of man’s life, like for example, in one project; from the planning up to the perspective design is to long in process. Then the installation is a physical process as part of visible evidences before the peoples.
    Science therefore, maybe right or maybe not yet explores the ultimate process of human life. All in all, it is very interesting to participate in such issue for further understanding of many about life.

  89. What a neat discovery.

    My father-in-law, one of the Great Generation and a war veteran, loved to watch "The Ascent of Man". My mother took me to see Mary and Louis Leakey many years ago at Stanford. It was an age when Americans were proud of discovery and achievement. To be "great" was American.

    Now we have a conflict between those who would be great and those who would be petty. The small-minded see "dirty apes" and no glory.

    But there is greatness in our lineage. We have evolved through millenia and fought to live - from caves and bogs to great cities and rockets to other worlds. We have risen from savagery to sapience.

    To those who would reduce our species victorious greatness to the mediocrity of pathetic folk tales, I say pity them but do not countenance them. Our history is full of embittered foolish naysayers as well as the great. Fortunately, only the great in the long-run survive, and the ignorant and envious are always doomed to irrelevance.

  90. I appreciate that responses to the comments by #69 (Reality) and #79 (Rick Ramdon) are pointless, but I will respond, anyway. There are excellent popular discussions of current scientific understanding of the phenomena that "Reality" says lack a scientific explanation. Nick Lane's "Power, Sex, Suicide" and his "Life Ascending," as well as Richard Dawkins's "The Ancestor's Tale," have very good discussions of the development of complex organs, such as eyes and the mammalian inner ear. (Moreover, as an aside, Lane's "Life Ascending" has an excellent discussion of recent research about the origin of life on earth and includes what are, to me, compelling ideas about it.)

    As for the supposed absence in the fossil record of transitional life forms, "Reality" is wrong. The fossil record abounds with them, no matter how he or she chooses to define the concept. (Dawkins's "The Ancestor's Tale" also has a nice discussion of a related phenomenon of transitions between salamander species at pages 299-310.) The assumption that there is a consensus among biologists and evolutionary scientists about punctuated equilibrium is also wrong. And, even if there were such a consensus, a continued effort to understand the phenomenon would signify nothing about the fact of evolution, that is, the fact that life has evolved on earth over the past roughly 4 billion years. Finally, as to "Reality," the fact is that creationism, creation science, and intelligent design, explain and predict nothing. There is no there, there. In contrast, science does explain and predict things, which is what makes it such a powerful tool for understanding our universe.

    As for Mr. Ramdon, he also misunderstands the nature of science and its value to our species. No human was present when the universe began roughly 13.7 billion years ago. Hence, there is no way to be certain about the origin of the universe, if certainty depends on human observation of a phenomenon (which, of course, would not necessarily establish it to be true, either), just as there is no way to be certain about most other phenomena and their explanation, including the multibillion-year evolutionary process that led to our existence. However, fortunately, our species happens to have the capacity to perceive things about the universe and to attempt to make sense of our perceptions. We work to make sense of the available information, as the body of information continues to increase through human effort.

    The most sensible explanations of the existing data establish that quantum mechanics, general relativity, and evolution describe fundamental features of the universe and of life on earth. All of those explanations are necessarily provisional. They represent the best explanations of the existing data. Nothing else comes close. Better and more complete understanding of our universe and of life on earth will come during the time that our species exists and, perhaps, through equivalent efforts by successor species. However, there is virtually no possibility that that understanding will coincide with or support the ideas embodied in creationism, creation science, or intelligent design. No one serious about understanding the universe and our place in it can take creationism, creation science, or intelligent design seriously. Those who believe in creationism, creation science, or intelligent design are immune to reason and argument about those ideas because their beliefs are based on faith rather than data and reason. And, frankly, their beliefs are silly.

  91. When they look more closely, they will likely find evidence that they had been talking on their cell phones when they fell into the deadly pit.

  92. Why do evolutionists and creationists go at each other as soon as anything like this turns up? The best either can ever hope to achieve is to tell the other, "I told you so."
    What it does prove is that whatever path either takes, the first pair were undoubtedly Black, and even more probable, is that they were pygmies. Look at the Andaman Islands just off India, a people all but extinct, I think about 30 remain. Negro in appearence, yet always been there. Fascinating stuff. Yet, the modern Human (so-called) has an average cranial capacity of about 1400 cc, and lo! collectively stupider and more barbaric than ever.
    The ancients had fire, a devouring, magical and insatiable substance - sacred to some, - but WE; WE have nuclear fire, and BANKS! Indeed, We are the pinnacle of universal wisdom!

  93. To see this fascinating story become a catalyst for (presumably liberal) atheists to spew their hatred and disdain for people of faith is unfortunate...

  94. This is not new. Back at a small college in an eastern state, I worked under a dean who fit the description of the creature here perfectly.

  95. The power and beauty of science illuminating the distant past of how we became who we are. Awesome. At the same time there is the amazing reality that many Americans think that cavemen chased dinosaurs around a few thousand years ago. What an incredible contrast in the level of intellectual understanding, goaded on by politicians who see an electoral advantage in ignorance. Texas school book committee, this means you.

  96. Undoubtedly my opinion will generate a number of hostile replies (I do not care) but this is just another false attempt (no reflection on the young man or any individual)to foist upon us the "missing link". With a few pieces of bone and a whole lot of imagination they will "construct" what this creature looked like and declare him one of our forefathers. How does anyone know this creature wasn't a malformed version of some other creature already found? In the words of a famous person of the past, "much learning hath made (scientists) mad". ~ a believer in Creation Science, not humanistic science

  97. How beautiful the universe is! A young boy stumbles across the very ancient remains of a... young boy! Even cooler, what if the boys are related? I think one of the greatest aspects of this story is the connection between children over the span of eons.

  98. Yes, species,(all)are capable to adapt to enviroment, but to conclude human ancestry jumps over to apes/apelike creatures, and link humans to, is specious science. If one believes in God, and his Divine Word, one cannot be a little pregnant. No fence sitting option. (Second Tim.3:16; "All scripture is inspired of God...". Keyword all. Genesis 1:26 tells us God went on to went on to say, "Let us made man in our image, according to our likeness,...". Divine or evolutionary origin.
    It would be disrespectful to picture God as anything even remotely and at the very least, at the best we are capable of.
    Paul Coulter,
    Kincardine, Ontario

  99. What a wonderful discovery! But the mystery widens: yet another hominid find demonstrates how lucky we are to even have one species (us) left. And so the deep question is: will we even be around 1,000 or 10,000 or, indeed, 500,000 years from now to wonder about our luck? Who knows. When it comes to our history, it seems to be the case that one should not confuse investigating and explaining what it was with predicting what it will be. Sediba had no reason, no doubt, to doubt his continued existence.

  100. Oh no! More tea-baggers on their way to the polls.

  101. Your headline erroneously led me to believe that a new LIVING species was found. Sadly, I was disappointed to find out they lived almost 2 million years ago.

    Would have been much bigger news if a tribe of hominids were living in South Africa undiscovered all these years.

  102. What a fantastic discovery has Profesor Berger legacy to humankind!I think than all of these studies who bring to scientific comunity be nearer of the knowing of our origines,contribute so much by clearing where and why,our ancesters had evolutionated from original apes climbtrees to modern human race.Wich was the cause who carry out this giantistic change,because it's necessary a strong stress by understand the more significantly of all these changes:the dawmn of human intelligence.Was the fact of upright position that put togheter all the pieces for brain development?It's fascinanting to treat of imagine wich was the life's way who bring that primitives apes on start ages of develop.Modern studies and investigations over primates can put in evidence their capacities for learn simples procedures,like solve little complex problems,but nothing could even clearify about the jump to reasonable thinks logic.The rising level on brain growing since Pithecantropus to homo erectus until homo sapiens,talk us of an increasing in habilities,but nothing about the logical minds,that is for me the most important of the miracle from our earth appareance.

  103. Wonderfully written and clearly explained piece. Thanks for the great reporting.

  104. Texhardin:
    I wonder why you do not have the same level of skepticism towards your beliefs as you exhibit towards these discoveries?

  105. wonderful that matthew was riunning when he found this jewel of the past. in Greek Theos meant 'RUNNER' as in the Runner Achilles (poorly translated as the 'godlke Achilles'). Running was Achilles battle technique. our ancestors ran and ran and ran. go to the MasaI mara and get the feel of the experience. Evolution menas we adapt, we change, we grow. maybe the Roman Church could begin to apply that FACT to its stubborn moral code. A way of thinking that has put it in its present state. EVOLUTION OR DEVOLUTION! THAT GOES FOR OUR CULTURE TOO.

  106. Clearly this is another amazing find, showing a world full of life that existed eons ago. The lynchpin of evolutionary theory remains elusive, however. With reams of fossilized evidence covering billions of years, a single example of one species becoming another has yet to be found. No half-gilled, half-lunged creatures. No fins that become the stubs that legs grow from. What we find instead are mass extinctions and explosions of life at various points in time. In fact, if evolution is truly at work, I have to think we'd see a lot of odd creatures milling about even today, with various stages of transitional change evidenced.

    Indeed, there are plenty of examples of change within a species, also known as 'natural selection'. Fossils of small horses becoming big horses over generations showcase that. But 'evolution' where one species morphs into another? Not yet.

    Of course, what I am pointing out does not square with six days of creation six thousand years ago either. Call me an equal opportunity offender.

  107. I have the deepest reverence for the Creator. The beauty and mystery of our arrival on this planet along with all the other wonderful creatures in such a perfect place astounds me. How miraculous that we should find ourselves on this blue earth when all around us, as far as the eye and telespcopes can see, we find no others like ours.

    And yet, I fail to see how fossils millions of years old that connect us to our monkey brothers disproves in any way the hand of God in our creation. The Bible is a wonderful book, but if we were to take every passage literally, we would have to allow incest, slavery, the rape of our daughters by visiting guests, and resign ourselves to the fact that only 144,000 of us, those who did not defile ourselves with women, will ever get to heaven.

    The Creator is infinitely more vast and mysterious than any book written by man would have you believe.

    Perhaps some day when we truly begin to honor his gift to us on this most beautiful place, we will cease this petty squabbling about our origins and start to focus on our common ground. We might want to look into the eyes of our enemies and understand they are more like us than we would like to believe. We might want to look into the eyes of a shark, see his beauty and his place in the grand scheme of the Creator.

    I find this amazing discovery of huminoid fossils, millions of years old, a beautiful manifestation of the divine unfolding.

  108. This is just more evidence that the past changes more rapidly than the present.

  109. In reply to:"Biotech exec's post #55: -

    Shame on Lee R Berger. His son made the seminal discovery and is not an author nor mentioned in the paper."

    It is SCIENCE mags shame - not the fathers

    In Science Science 9 April 2010:
    Vol. 328 no. 5975, pp. 154 - 155 it stated:

    "Matthew was originally included as a co-author on one of the papers, but Science's reviewers nixed that idea, Berger says."

  110. Nice article. Can't believe the number of comments you had to remove. Even the heaviest debated political issues don't seem to get as many removed.

  111. Inferring speciation from anatomical similarities is unscientific. Any real scientist knows that.

  112. What is becoming clearer is that the principle of adaptive radiation applies to hominids as well as it does to other groups of species. Generally, once an ancestral species makes a breakthrough into a new habitat or mode of living (like the first flowering plant or the first turtle) a whole series of new ecological niches is made available (for hominids this breakthrough was bipedalism). There is a rapid proliferation of species dividing up these new niches. The resulting bunch of ancestral and descendant species is less like a ladder and more like a tree. We are just one branch of the tree. Fossils we have found may represent other branch tips, or they may represent species from farther down among the nodes, like this species.

    That is why the idea of a 'missing link' is erroneous. It is not a matter of just arranging the known hominid fossils in a line and expecting a linear series from us to the last known common ancestor with chimps. In order to do that we would have to discover many more fossils tracing at least our branch tip and its links to the other nodes in the tree all the way down to the root species. The chances of doing that are slim. If I have a quibble with this article it is that the species in the graphic are presented in a way that gives the illusion that there is some kind of linear progression of species over time from the ancestor to us. This is not how it works with any group of living things. Instead, imagine a tree buried in the sand, with only one branch tip (us) sticking out. As we excavate the tree we find other branch tips, but we have only a rough estimate of how they are actually connected down below. Occasionally, we uncover a species like this, which is like finding a branch further down that shows how two parts of the tree are connected. Still, most of the tree remains buried.

    That is why the demand by people of faith for a 'missing link' is a sysyphian task that will never be fulfilled. It would be the equivalent of excavating the entire tree, at least from our branch down to the root. An enormous number of just the right fossils would have to be discovered to do this, and would require both incredible good fortune and a huge amount of effort. That does not mean that we aren't getting a pretty sound idea of human history.

  113. Why are you people attacking others who have a different interpolation from you think is a solid fact? You shouldn't be so close minded. This is America where we all embrace different ideas no matter how radical you might think they are. For all you know they might be right. For God's sake’s there are so many theories on reality of what and who we are. These type of slanderous assaults on people with faith is just very naive.

  114. The mosaic of hominid evolution will never be complete but this exciting discovery by Lee Berger is very important. The more we find, the more we know about our evolutionary past. Only bad thing for those of us teaching biological anthropology is that the moment we get a new edition of a textbook, it's already out of date. But, hey. We can live with that.

  115. #98 Phil - It fascinates me also that we conceive this ancient species to be primitive,but they did not have nuclear bomb. Homo sapiens/ or modern humans are the primitive ones in my opinion. For example,how do you explain India and China 's population of more 1 billion people each.
    Truly tragic.

  116. This article is one of the reasons I read this paper. How exciting!
    What a find and what a site with tremendous potential. And look and the wonder it created in the readers who have commented! That is a very important kind of postive creation in human culture. Compare that to responses on articles about this war torn world. I am so tired of opening the paper to look at pictures of illiterate unshaven turbaned men making self serving violent decisions that kill our kids.

  117. Anthony N., #61: Actually the word "theory" does not derive from the Greek word "theos," meaning a god, but from "theorein," meaning "to look at" (same root as our word "theater"). The two Greek words are unrelated. And, jg #111: No, the word "theos" has nothing to do with running; it goes back to an Indo-European root for the divine that includes the Latin "deus" and various Romance-language words for "day."

    J. Daniel, #87: Because the past deeply affects the present and the future. If more Americans had been taught proper history, for example, fewer of them would have become teabaggers.

    Jack, #99: And no thread like this would be complete without some "person of faith" whining about those mean ol' atheists who insist that natural history be based on boring ol' facts.

    patg00, #116: My hunch is that some of the comments removed were racist.

    Peter, #119: You're entitled to your own opinions. Not your own facts. I feel no need to "tolerate" scientific nonsense, nor the martyr complex of believers who demand that everyone else take their nonsense seriously.

    Finally, to various people: Matthew may deserve credit for the find, but as a "co-author"? Let's keep the cutesy sentimentality out of science, shall we?

  118. Susan McClees, #122: I guess the functionally literate, shaven men who fly planes into buildings or threaten Congresspeople, and probably belong to churches, don't bother you as much?

  119. Chipmunks, cockroaches, amoebas and even early humans knew nothing about science, but they all managed to survive and evolve for many millions of years. Although a scientific understanding the physical world has certain advantages, it has only recently gotten the attention of the human brain. So it is probably understandable that in making their way through everyday life, people do not rely on higher mathematics and quantum mechanics.

    But the strategy that got us here, the gut feelings and snap judgments that evolved slowly and worked for us for millennia when we did not yet have language, or symbolic thought, or even self awareness, must be displaced if we are to embrace a scientific model of the world. It is not surprising that pre-scientific peoples held simplistic, superstitious beliefs, but I’m often struck by level of misunderstanding of science that religious people demonstrate today when debating their case.

    When not constrained by physical laws, all things are possible. There is magic in the world. You can ally yourself with the Supreme Being, claim to know His mind, and be His earthly arbiter of Truth and correct behavior. Science is complex, and requires aptitude and study. There are tests, with right and wrong answers. Religion makes the insecure take no test that they might fail, so one can see the appeal.

    Magic takes root in ignorance. The answer would seem to lie in reducing scientific ignorance by any and all means necessary. Evolution Deniers or Holocaust Deniers or Round Earth Deniers should not be involved in setting educational policy any more than one would let someone who denies Germ Theory set hospital policy. They should especially not be elected to high office. Magical beliefs about invisible souls and their precise moment of entering zygotes should not be driving the abortion debate or affecting insurance coverage of legal medical procedures. Religious dogma must not be allowed to trump rational thought, no matter how benign it seems on the surface, as it just legitimizes irrational thinking.

    It would be nice if one day, a long time from now, future humans will look at our skulls not be embarrassed to have had us as their ancestors.

  120. @Reality: none of this confirms or denies the existence of a Creator - Abrahamic or otherwise. What it does do is throw another handful of dirt on the tomb of Young Earth Creationism and, with it, literal interpretations of Bereishit/Book of Genesis.