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It remains one of the most dramatic human fossil finds of recent years. In 2013, in a tiny, cramped chamber in the Rising Star cave near Johannesburg, researchers led by palaeontologist Lee Berger uncovered several thousand bones of ancient humans. The team now concludes that these are the remains of a previously unknown species, Homo naledi.
The news made headlines around the world. However, the discovery has since become mired in controversy. Some scientists claim the bones belong to an already known species of human, Homo erectus. Others have criticised Berger for claiming that the remains come from a deliberate burial, while several have complained that he has not been able to date his finds.
But the real controversy has been over the manner in which Berger has revealed his work to the world. Palaeontology is a field of science noted for the amount of time senior experts take to study a single skeleton in isolation before publishing their results in an established peer-reviewed journal, while retaining tight control of the fossils they have discovered. Some take more than a decade to do so.
Many senior palaeontologists believe the way the Naledi finds were revealed and analysed – in less than two years – represents a dangerous precedent, “a media circus” that threatens to split palaeontology into old and new schools and which could damage our attempts to understand the path of human evolution. Others believe it could provide the field with a major boost.
Read full, original post: Scientists who found new human species accused of playing fast and loose with the truth