SA scientists unveil fossils of new species

FOCUS OF ATTENTION: Local and international media get closeups of a new species of hominid, believed to be early ancestors of human beings, at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind, west of Johannesburg. Pic.PETER MOGAKI.  08/04/2010. © Sowetan.

20100408PMO:Scientists from Wits University unveiling the fossils of a new species of hominid, believed to be early ancestors of human beings at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind.PHOTO:PETER MOGAKI
FOCUS OF ATTENTION: Local and international media get closeups of a new species of hominid, believed to be early ancestors of human beings, at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind, west of Johannesburg. Pic.PETER MOGAKI. 08/04/2010. © Sowetan. 20100408PMO:Scientists from Wits University unveiling the fossils of a new species of hominid, believed to be early ancestors of human beings at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind.PHOTO:PETER MOGAKI

SCIENTISTS yesterday unveiled fossil remains of a new species - believed to be ancestors of modern-day humans.

SCIENTISTS yesterday unveiled fossil remains of a new species - believed to be ancestors of modern-day humans.

Palaeoanthropologist Lee Burger of Wits University, who led the team that discovered the remains, said the fossils were "extraordinary" because they had not been found anywhere else in the world.

The fossils are believed to be of a "transitional species" named Australopithecus sediba, from which human beings have evolved.

The remains were revealed at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind, west of Johannesburg, where they were discovered at a cave site in 2008.

Speaking at the unveiling, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the discovery proved that Africa was the site of human origins and would "spur scientific debate for years to come".

The scientists discovered well preserved and almost complete skeletons of a boy estimated to be about 13 years old - and a woman in her early 30s.

"This suggests that they died very close in time to each other," Burger said.

The bodies appeared to have fallen into a deep cave while in search for water and washed away into an underground pool following a rainstorm, the scientists said.

Among the hominid remains were also fossils of extinct animals such as the sabre-toothed cat, antelopes and even porcupine quills.

The bones will be displayed at the site until April 18.

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