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South African Embassy, Berlin
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14. March 2012

H.E. Ambassador Reverend Stofile hands over rare fossils to the Naturkundemuseum in Berlin

Berlin, 12 March 2012. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in Gauteng (COH WHS) together with Ambassador Reverend Stofile handed over casts of the Australopithecus sediba fossil remains to the Museum fur Naturkunde in the spirit of collaborative scientific investigation and a desire to share such treasures with the world.

The event was attended among others by the South African Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Rev Makhenkhesi Stofile, the Gauteng Province of South Africa Member of the Executive Council responsible for Economic Development and Tourism Ms Qedani Mahlangu and renowned scientist Professor Lee Berger from the Institute of Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand. The donation of this cast of the A.sediba to the museum is a gift from South Africa to the German people reminding them of the origin of humanity in Africa.

This is part of a series of donations of the cast by the Institute to scientific institutions around the world.  Berger and the COH WHS believe that palaeoanthropological information and specimens need to reach a far wider audience, and the donation is an attempt to boost this objective.  The donated fossil casts will be first hand copies of the remains of two individuals – a juvenile male (Karabo) and an adult female, which could conceivably have been his mother. 1.977 million years ago, they fell into a cave and have been so well preserved as to allow researchers, with the help of incredible modern technology, to be able to tell a significant amount about them.

The mostly complete hand fossils of the child specimen of Australopithecus sediba are believed to be 1.977-million years old.

The new species represented by the specimens(which are to be donated) has already attracted more scientific attention than any other previously known species, because it provides extensive insight into the transition from the more primitive Australopithecus genus to the more modern genus Homo. In another first in the world, the foot, for example, is a fascinating mosaic of divergent toes and small ankle suitable for tree-climbing with a “modern” ankle adapted to walking on the ground.  Scans of the skull have shown that although the brain was still relatively small, the modern pattern of organization of the brain structure was already in place. 

This revelation astonished scientists, and has forced a complete rewrite of our understanding of the evolution of the brain. The astounding array of unique fossil finds at the COH WHS has made the area a scientific treasure chest, bearing testimony to the origins and evolution of humankind. In 1999 the COH WHS became one of South Africa’s first three World Heritage Sites, to which another five have since been added.

The Cradle of Humankind is the Only World Heritage Site in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. Dawn Robertson, CEO of Tourism Gauteng and the COH WHS is proud to be sharing one of the most significant pale anthropological discoveries ever made in the world.

“We want to share our scientific discoveries with everyone on the planet, to promote the awareness of the universal origins of the human race.  Every person alive descended from African ancestors, so these fossils belong to the whole world.”

"The Sediba casts specimens are expected to stay in permanent display at the Berlin museum fur Naturkunde with a detail storyline and we hope this will encourage over 250 thousand visitors per year to the museum to add the COH WHS into their itinerary of the MUST visit destination, in Gauteng, South Africa", concludes Robertson.

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