May 12, 2014
The Skull in the Rock by Lee R. Berger and Marc Aronson
The Skull in the Rock
by Lee R. Berger and Marc Aronson
National Geographic Books
Are you the kind of person whose gaze can pass over a scene and spot the anamoly? If you have the skill for spotting what is different or what doesn’t belong, than paleoanthropologist Lee Berger wants you (or your young reader) in the field. He’s not overly concerned about who makes the next great find — he just wants to see whatever it is.
Paleoanthropologists look for fossils that belong to the ancestors of mankind. Berger is the scientist credited with finding Australopithicus sediba, but he makes no secret of the fact that it was actually his son Matthew who spotted the bit of bone that turned out to be a sediba clavicle. The skeleton is one of the most complete ever found and of a new species as well.
Berger and Aronson together tell the story of Berger’s childhood, growing up in small town Georgia and collecting every scrap of nature his mother would let him bring into the house. He loved exploring and the thrill of discovery and daring-do, joining the Navy and even saving a woman’s life when he was a news photographer.
When he went into paleobotany, he went into it with the same zeal throwing himself into it but disappointed that his work yielded no major finds. Then he came upon a app called “Google Earth.” With it he surveyed the South African countryside that he already knew so well, knew but had never seen from the air. Soon, he was marking various places that might be caves, one of the best places to find fossils.
As if all of this isn’t enough, Berger is part of a new breed of scientist — one of those who welcomes collaboration and the input of many minds. That is why he and Arsonson are trying something new. Whenever a scientist discovers something about sediba and publishes about this research, Berger and Aronson will summarize the findings on http://www.scimania.org. They hope that, fresh eyes will make fresh finds and add to the knoweldge we are gathering about long ago.