It sounds like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park: Today a nine-year-old's trip-and-fall accident in South Africa has helped scientists discover a new hominid species that lived two million years ago. What's even more intriguing is how Google Earth technology contributed to the significant fossil find.
The New York Times reports that the child in question, Matthew Berger, "dashed after his dog Tau into the high grass … tripped over a log and stumbled onto a major archeological discovery." Berger's initial finding — the remains of an ancient boy — was passed along to his father, which led to the discovery of three additional individuals. The remains have been classified as Australopithecus sediba, a new species of early man that's likely a descendant of Australopithecus africanus.
So how does Google() fit into the mix? Apparently the archaeological team exploring South Africa — led by Dr. Berger — turned to Google Earth() to map identified caves and fossil deposits and to discover new caves via satellite imagery.
The crux of Google's role in the unearthing can be gleaned from the following excerpt:
"With the help of the navigation facility and high-resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth, Professor Berger went on to find almost 500 previously unidentified caves and fossil sites, even though the area is one of the most explored in Africa. One of these fossil sites yielded the remarkable discovery of a new species, Australopithecus sediba. This species was an upright walker that shared many physical traits with the earliest known species of the genus homo — and its introduction into the fossil record might answer some key questions about our earliest ancestry in Africa."
As we start to learn more about this new hominid species and its implications, we can't help being fascinated by the entire story; it has blockbuster written all over it.
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