Discovering Homo Naledi: Journey to Find a Human Ancestor, Part 2 | Nat Geo Live

Discovering Homo Naledi: Journey to Find a Human Ancestor, Part 2 | Nat Geo Live

Narrator:Rick and Steve
had no idea
what type of bones,
they were looking at.
But, they
seemed intriguing.
They took pictures and decided
to show them to Pedro.
Pedro:So, needless to say,
I called Professor Berger.
He didn’t answer his
phone and we decided
we’re going to drive
to his house.
Because now we’re all
excited, bubbling, of course.
Pedro:Arriving at his homeI rung the bell and when he
answered, my words to him was “Lee, you really
want to talk to us.” ( laughs ) Lee:I knew immediately that
that was a Fossil Hominid.
It was not a human. I could tell by the
proportions of the teeth I could tell by its size. You can see that fine
scientific scalethat I’m lucky, we have
not got in trouble for.
Because if you read carefully,
it says, “Home Sewing Aid Only”
on the side of it.
( laughs ) But I could see, that this
was something… extraordinary. Second to that, it was just
lying there on the ground. Now, that doesn’t happen
in South Africa. I assure you, it doesn’t
happen in South Africa. That skull that you saw that Matthew had found in
that hard rock that rock is like concrete. That skull and skeleton just one of them took about
22,000 preparation hours to get to that state. This is lying there. The next picture confirmedthat this was something
truly extraordinary.
Every one of those bones,
I realized was Hominid.
Believe me, they are.Anyone trained from me would
look at that and say, “My Gosh!”
And they’re just
lying there in dirt. Even more extraordinary,
there was a skull. Can you see the curvature there?Just sitting in dirt,
on a floor.
And it looked tiny.So, I decided I needed
to put someone in there that I absolutely trusted. That could take a scientific
photograph of these things. And I happened to know someone,
who fit the physiological profile
that could get down that cave. Who I trusted immensely my,
then six foot four… son who’s sitting in the
audience today. Who is
physiologically appropriate to get down a
seven and a half inch slot. Showed him how to use a
scientific camera gave him a scale and…
a few days later…We went into this cave,
a torturous route
that took us almost 50 minutesto get to the base
of Dragon’s Back.
Up we went, up this thing, where
if you slip off, you die.
We get to the edge of that
crevice and we look down it
and… down I sent Matthew
with Rick and Steve. Because I’m trying for
“Father of the Year”. ( audience laughter ) There I sat in the dark looking at this
impossible route. How in the world was I
going to accomplish an expedition
and excavation here? Forty five minutes or so go
by and I hear scrabbling. Matthew’s head pops up. Because I’m going for
“Father of the Year” I didn’t go, “Are you okay?”.
I went, “And?” ( audience laughter ) And Matthew handed me
the camera and said “Daddy… it’s amazing, It’s beautiful.”It was everything that those
original pictures had said
and that’s when I knew I
had to push the button.
Except, I didn’t know
what button to push.
‘Cause I needed people
to work in there.
I needed people to…
effectively risk their lives in a well-known cave down a seven and a half
inch slot, underground. In a fragile, relatively
shallow environment that could have gases in it. It could collapse at any time. I had no idea how I was gonna
find people with skills. They had to be
paleoanthropologists or archeologists,
they had to be able to excavate they had to have climbing
skills, all these things. I did what any one
of you would do… I put a Facebook Ad out. ( audience laughter )That Facebook Ad asked
for skinny scientists.
They had to be able to work
in underground environments
climbing skills,
not claustrophobic.
They wouldn’t tell them
what to do.
They had to drop everything be ready within
three weeks from that date to come for a month
to South Africa. I wasn’t going to pay you. Oh and by the way, you have
to have a PhD or a Masters in paleoanthopology,
archeology, etc. Hit send,
thinking there were probably three people in the world
that would fit that. Within 10 days, I had almost
60 qualified applicants. Eighty percent of which
were young women.I selected from that,
six extraordinary scientists
who just happened
to be young women.
These extraordinary scientists,
dropped everything and flew to South Africa
within three weeks. We’d put together a
60 person expedition. All the support teams you need,
the safety cavers planning this extensive
underground expedition. At the same time, this great
society took another risk. They agreed to do this
live to the world. Because I thought, this may be
the last moment in history where we actually
can bring the world the recovery of
a Fossil Hominid skeleton.And so, they let us create
this blog and website
all ready to tweet and Facebook and blog and go live on the day
we went underground. A very brave move, by the way. Because, if I was wrong this was going to be a
rather large embarrassment.On November the seventh,
that 60 team expedition
launched in the field.Over the next couple of dayswe laid three and
a half kilometers
of military grade
audio-visual cables.
Cameras, all the machinery
that we would need
to conduct this excavation,
live underground.
We would create
Command Centers, Caving Tents
a Science Tent to take
this skeleton out
live in front of the world.On November 10th, we launched
the Rising Star Expedition.
There, we sent those
scientists into this cave led initially by Matthew. And we watched these
amazing images. Very quickly,
these amazing scientists became known as
“Underground Astronauts”. And yes, I have received
enough hate mail about why they shouldn’t
be called, “Astronauts”. They should be called,
“Terranauts” or “Troglonauts” or some other version of
that and I apologize. But, I’m not that sorry,
because it really was like watching astronauts
on a spacewalk.They would get up in the
safety gear, helmets on
all this stuff and equipmentand they would vanish
from our sights.
And they would appear in
these black and white images
as they crawled through
these cave systems.
Taking often 40-45 minutes
to get to that chute
and then they would vanish
from our communications
as they went down this slotwhere they could wear no safety
gear, ’cause it’s so tight.
And they began to
excavate material.
And these are the kind of
images that we were watching.
I could communicate
live with them. They couldn’t see me,
but I could talk to them.The collection began,
we designed technology
that had never been used
before, underground.
White light, laser scannersthat were giving us real time
scans on computers like that
down to resolutions of
0.3 of a millimeter
as we were mapping underground
with these scanners.
It was amazing!And material began to come out.And by the second day,
we realized, I had been wrong.
It was not a skeleton.It was…
more than one skeleton. By day two,
we had three right femurs. I assure you, there is
no primate in the world that has three right legs. As we would go, by the
end of the first week we had discovered more
Fossil Hominid material than in the richest
site ever discovered in the search for human
origins in Southern Africa. In one week. And I could see that site,
right out my command center because it was less
than a mile away.

About the author


  1. @1:32 "believe me, they are"

    No, I don't believe – that's 100% incorrect. I'd rather look at the truth.

    So they take bits and pieces of different scattered fossils and then "reconstruct" a fairy tale because they can't find it whole. Don't be deceived by this video.

  2. We were all born in the image of GOD, not morphed from an "ancestor". Our body's and skulls adapt or are altered depending on the original tribe or people. Not evolved. There is NO truth beyond circular theory on a basis of MACRO evolution. None. It's 2016, what will it matter. There is Wisdom and there is intelligence, choose wisdom. God Bless, these people risking their lives for a theory. Seek truth.

  3. He definitely made a huge discovery…and was very smart to organize the expedition the way he did . ..

  4. What you discovered was a primitive jail cell where they were most likely sent to starve to death (Because let's face it, they didn't go down there to live) and probably with guards. I wonder if they excavated the surrounding parts of the cave to look for tools, weapons or even utensils for eating.

  5. The people of 'Ad and Thamoud. Huge Giant tribes. For more info check the Qur'an. Nations of huge giants, all whiped because of there ignorans to the one and only God.

  6. Google ; Lucy evolution hoax, it's been tried over and over again. Sorry, but humans didn't evolve from a bacterial that somehow macro evolutioned into a ape like being over 3 million years ago. The Hoax will be exposed. Why is it so important to link humans to ape like beings? Ask your self that question. There lies your answer. Shove the square peg into the circle. Feel better?

  7. Amazing foresight to film it .I applaud you.
    Oh, and for all you creationists who left comments, you sound scared. Does this shake your faith?

  8. The remains don't look at all like fossils the femur had a lumen which would fill in if it were fossil and different colors in the cross-section and the superficial surface .Also there was a clear difference in the color and texture of the teeth and bone which could not be the case with a fossil .

  9. The comment regarding burials pales into insignificance when realising
    these early hominids must have been able to use fire in order to access
    the inaccessible cave. investigation of the cave for deposits of soot
    must now be an urgent priority.

  10. Have you investigated whether the dragon's back could have fallen from the ceiling and blocked an easier entrance at the bottom of the cave, leaving behind the difficult upper access?

  11. I love these amazing adventurers that can also tell a great story. Not all (but most) Nat Geo folks can. This guy is top notch!!! Nat Geo when are you going to take me on one of these adventures?

  12. coran said that god chose adam …. i think that means there was others adams existent at that time
    إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَىٰ آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ zoom
    Transliteration Inna Allaha istafa adama wanoohan waala ibraheema waala AAimrana AAala alAAalameena zoom
    (Word by Word) Indeed, Allah chose Adam and Nuh, and (the) family (of) Ibrahim and (the) family (of) Imran over the worlds

  13. Is very frustrating to watch this guy get all the credit when he never went into those holes and he is not the one that actually discovered what was in there. Of course he is going all around giving his speeches and how he amazingly found this new hominid species. Yes I understand he was a critical part in making it happen but slow down and give some other people the credit they deserve.

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