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Santa Monica Broad Stage Presents 'The Mystery of Our Human Story'  

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By Lookout Staff

March 28, 2017 -- Four years ago a pair of recreational cavers in South Africa stumbled on a find that has been hailed as one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the past half century.

On April 6 and 7 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, South African explorer Lee Berger will discuss the dramatic discovery that led his team to conclude that the trove of bones found deep within the cave "represents a new species of human ancestor" called Homo naledi, event organizers said.

"The Mystery of Our Human Story" -- a 70-minute presentation by Berger, who is a the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Paleoanthropologist -- begins at 7:30 p.m. and is followed by a Q&A. Tickets for the National Geographic Live Series event can be purchased online.

Image of Homo nalendi

"Homo naledi appears very primitive in some respects, with a tiny brain and apelike shoulders for climbing," wrote National Geographic. "But in other ways it looks remarkably like modern humans.

"By bringing Homo naledi to light, Berger and his team have made world-class impact on our understanding of human evolution."

(Photo by Robert Clark)

The cavers -- who found the bones in a hidden chamber 40 feet down a very narrow chute -- snapped pictures and took them to Berger, the Research Professor in Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, according to National Geographic.

The photographs "revealed that the bones did not belong to a modern human being," according to promotional materials for the event. "More bones waited to be found; likely whole skeletons."

Berger contacted National Geographic, which immediately provided a research grant.

"Weeks later, Berger’s team had excavated 1,550 bone specimens from at least 15 different individuals of all ages," event organizers said.

The bones gathered at the site remained a mystery since "only Homo sapiens are known to have treated their dead in such a ritualized manner," they said.

"Having exhausted all other explanations, Berger and his team were stuck with the improbable conclusion that the bodies were deliberately put there at time of death by other Homo naledi."

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