Have you ever experienced a moment where the ground beneath you felt as though it had shifted?

For science nerds and the general populace alike, last year, many felt that kind of shift. In 2015, news broke that paleontologists had discovered and excavated a treasure trove of ancient hominid bones in South Africa. More importantly, they belonged to a never before described species, Homo Naledi, that carried a unique range of traits.

The discovery of Homo Naledi was an incredible find (check out our article on it). In October of 2013, cavers stumbled across a chamber containing a wealth hominid remains. In the subsequent excavation, a team of scientist discovered 1500 bone fragments from 15 individuals in an area the size of a child’s sandbox.

This was truly an unprecedented discovery.

Today, we bring you an incredible talk from Marina Elliott, the first scientist to enter the chamber that housed the massive collection of Naledi remains. In this remarkable talk from the National Geographic Live stage, she explains how this discovery has changed our understanding of our origins, but how we conduct this kind of research!

The Lessons of Homo Naledi…

There are so many critical insights in this talk, I’ve listened to this a dozen times and each time I hear something new.

Not only does this discovery reframe our understanding of our origins, but it has forced a shift in the way we think about research.

By opening up the research to larger teams, and making the findings open to the world on resources like MorphoSource, the discovery of Homo Naledi is completely shifting models.

60 minutes

New Light on the Dawn of Humanity

As scientists continue to uncover the origins of our humanity, this discovery in an unlikely place by an unlikely team may be the missing link to our ancient ancestors.

Read More

As Marina Elliott points out, discoveries mean nothing, and can even seem scary, when we don’t make them accessible to all. If we make science only for the scientifically-minded, we leave an enormous amount of people with misinformation and distrust for the scientific community.

With major discoveries come major paradigm shifts. Whether we are speaking in terms of understanding our own origins, or talking about how we bring science to the masses, there is something to be learned from Homo Naledi on many levels.

As science continues to reframe our understanding of the world, it is critical that we strive to make science understandable to the masses, and give young scientist the tools to express their discoveries in ways that can inspire wonder in even the least scientifically inclined. There is such an abundance to learn, our next great leap will be in ensuring that that knowledge is spread to the world.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!



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  1. Elliott, Marina. “How Finding This Human Ancestor Is Making Us Rethink Our Origins – Nat Geo Live.” Youtube. National Geographic, 29 Aug. 2016. Web. 3 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5LjV-cPJk0>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO Ever Widening Circles

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—yoga lover. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV