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.

Image: Homo Naledi bones on display

Source: GovernmentZA // Flickr

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 not only how this discovery has changed our understanding of our origins, but how we conduct this kind of research! National Geographic Live is curating some incredible thought leaders and spreading their inspiring finds and ideas – go check it out when you have the chance!

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.

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 number of people with misinformation and distrust for the scientific community.

12 minutes

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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

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV