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AU Student Part of Major Discovery of a New Human Species

By Helen Dodson

Becca Peixotto

Becca Peixotto

It is an enormous scientific find that will change our understanding of human history, and it is making international headlines. Fossils of a previously unknown member of the human family were discovered deep in a cave near Johannesburg, South Africa. A College of Arts and Sciences doctoral student was part of the team that excavated the remains.  

She is Becca Peixotto, an anthropology PhD student and a graduate of the CAS public anthropology master's program. The College profiled her and the National Geographic Society’s Rising Star Expedition in January 2014 after she earned her master’s degree at AU. 

Scientists are calling the new species “Homo naledi.” The team found more than 1,500 fossil pieces from up to 15 individuals of this new species. The expedition was led by Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. You can read details of the discovery online

Peixotto is co-author of a paper on the findings, published in the journal eLife.

NOVA and National Geographic Explorers will air a documentary on the expedition and its discovery, beginning September 16.  

Peixotto will discuss the Rising Star Expedition on Monday, September 28, as part of the Department of Anthropology Social Justice Colloquium Series. The talk will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Katzen Arts Center Abramson Family Recital Hall.