Berger (PhD (Science) 1994) discovered the original fossils in 2008 in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site outside Johannesburg. Announced as a new species of early human ancestor, the fossils lived between an estimated 1.95 and 1.78-million years ago in the early Pleistocene.
Berger handed over two complete copies for public display and two copies for research to Dr Rick Potts, Director of the Smithsonian Human Origins Program. This unique exchange of information aims to foster closer research collaborations between the researchers and institutions of the two countries.
“The gift represents a free exchange of scientific and cultural information - in a field generally known for its lack of free exchange of information - and forms part of the mission of the Malapa team, the Institute for Human Evolution at Wits, and South African scientists in general, to share the unique and priceless heritage of human origins in Africa with scientists and the public around the world,” said Berger.
Australopithecus sediba consists of an adolescent male, named Karabo, and a mature female, found relatively close to one another. The first specimens described represent the two most complete skeletons of early hominids ever discovered. They are hailed as one of the most important discoveries ever in the search for human origins in Africa.
“The discovery of Australopithecus sediba is a powerful reminder of how much remains to be unearthed about the ancestry of humans. The fossils are significant because they comprise a new species that may tell us about the emergence of our own genus Homo. The generous donation of the replicas significantly widens the opportunity for the public and researchers to explore these spectacular finds,” said Potts.
Berger was born in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, but grew up in Sylvania, Georgia. He has lived in South Africa since 1989. He graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1989 with a degree in Anthropology/Archaeology and a minor in Geology. He undertook doctoral studies in palaeo-anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand under Professor Phillip Tobias.