In the decade we live in, humans have mastered the art of exploration well. Yet, there remain mysteries beyond the realms of imagination. Lee Berger, a South African paleoanthropologist, keeps proving that with his discoveries. He rose to fame in 2008 with the discovery of Australopithecus sediba, a newfound species harbouring a close resemblance to Homo Sapiens. Half a decade later, Berger unearthed another new species entitled Homo Naledi. He has been recognized as a prime-time scientist and discoverer ever since.
Aside from being a paleoanthropologist and scientist, Lee is also the author of best-selling non-fiction books. Possessing a knack for making his discoveries known worldwide, Lee is especially active on social media. Other than these accomplishments, Berger has also earned a special place at the centre of controversies. Find out more about him below!
Who Is Lee Berger?
Born on December 22, 1965, Lee is a popular South African name in the domain of paleoanthropology. Though he is born in America, Berger proudly calls himself a South African resident. He strongly believes that his nation is the origin of humans and humanity. However, he hasn’t been able to prove that wholly. Berger has certainly put forth shreds of evidence regarding the first Homo species hailing from Africa. But with the ongoing thesis, nothing is certain.
After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 1989, Berger went on to explore the world of anthropology. Soon, he joined the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in South Africa to pursue his passion for “finding things” and became a paleoanthropologist. His interest in the field of discovering things became his career soon.
In 2006, Berger discovered a dwarf human species in Palau, Micronesia. The discovery stirred controversies and Berger was engulfed by the paleoanthropologists and sharks considering themselves pioneers of history. His report was deemed flawed and the link between the existing species and this new dwarf species became a hot topic. Berger’s fame dwindled for a couple of months, only to be revived by his son, Matthew Berger.
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Lee Berger’s Career Took Off Due To His Son
The then nine-year-old Matthew found a jaw and a clavicle nestled in the Malapa Cave accidentally in August 2008. The father-son duo often went to such excavation sites together and this particular trip proved to be quite special. After Matthew’s discovery, several other bones were found, too. As Berger started investigating the remnants of bones he found, new hypotheses were put forth. Lee claimed to have discovered a new species, Australopithecus sediba, that dominated Earth nearly two million years back.
His research made him the superhero of paleoanthropology because Australopithecus sediba filled the void of discoveries. The timeline has always been incomplete due to a potentially missing transitionary species between apes and Homo Sapiens. Australopithecus sediba proved t be this link. Lee’s career took off due to this discovery which opened up several opportunities for him.
Lee Berger Discovered Homo Naledi In 2013
After the gigantic Australopithecus sediba discovery, Lee went on to pen hundreds of articles and publish his finding on his blog and social media. In September 2013, two cavers, Rick Hunter and Steven Tucker, discovered a cave of bones aka the Rising Star Cave. As soon as Berger was informed of these fossils, he jumped on the opportunity. He understood the potential of those bones and was eager to connect the dots. And he succeeded in doing so just a couple of months later.
As demonstrated by the Netflix documentary film, Unknown: Cave Of Bones, Lee Berger unearthed another species, Homo Naledi in 2013. This newfound species is the first ancestor of humans as Berger believes. Again, Berger became the centre of attention due to discovering yet another significant species.
Why Is Lee Berger Always Surrounded By Controversy?
Lee published his findings regarding Homo Naledi, a new hominin species, in research papers and books. The Wits professor then started to star in the National Geography documentaries and garnered traction due to it. Lee also boasts a position on 2016’s list of 100 most influential people put forward by Time.
Yet, despite bearing such precious accolades and significant discoveries under his belt, Berger has been a target of heated controversies. It is a well-known fact that Lee is a skilled marketer who enjoys sharing his discoveries with the world. Most renowned scientists and anthropologists object to Lee’s marketing strategy, calling him self-centred. These critics believe Berger is more into self-promoting than any scientist should. Moreover, his decision-making skills remain a subject of controversy.
However, Lee doesn’t agree with these claims. So far the strategy has been working in Berger’s favour.