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5 June 2016
Advanced techniques used to find more about Homo Naledi

As part of the discovery of the Dinaledi chamber and the Rising Star Cave in the Malmani dolomites, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa, Professor Lee Berger's team was faced with a challenge. The opening to the cave containing the 1500 Homo Naledi fossils was only 18 centimetres and lead into a 12-metre vertical chute. This led to Professor Berger to call for skinny underground astronauts to help traverse the cave.
     Using aerial drone photography, high-resolution 3D as well as other techniques, the all-female team was able to map the cave entirely and make real time descisions concerning the excavations. Kruger stated that: "This is the first time ever, where multiple digital data imaging collection has been used on such a scale, during a hominin excavation," adding that "These methods provided researchers with a digital representation of the site from landscape level right down to individual bones."
     Ashley Kruger, a PhD candidate in Palaeoanthropology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, used the mapping technologies on site, stating, "These methods provided researchers with a digital representation of the site from landscape level right down to individual bones," says Kruger.
     Homo naledi is an extinct species of hominin, assigned by the anthropologists to the genus Homo, found the Rising Star Cave by recreational cavers Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker in 2013.
     Kruger's publication has already come out in the South African Journal of Science, with a number of papers planned for publishing. The research will continue on site, hoping to answer the question of how the site was formed, if anything can be gained from fossil positioning, as well as answer how the bodies came to the cave.

Edited from Past Horizons (3 June 2016)

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