Accountant found Homo naledi while caving

2015-09-10 14:23
Irene Kruger, the fiancée of Steven Tucker, who is one of the first people to lay eyes on Homo naledi. Kruger is also one of the few people to have made it down inside the chamber where the fossils were discovered. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

Irene Kruger, the fiancée of Steven Tucker, who is one of the first people to lay eyes on Homo naledi. Kruger is also one of the few people to have made it down inside the chamber where the fossils were discovered. (Ahmed Areff, News24)

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WATCH: Professor Lee Berger introduces Homo naledi

2015-09-10 12:56

The discovery of a new species of a human ancestor was announced at the Cradle of Humankind on Thursday. WATCH

Johannesburg - A chartered accountant who was exploring the Rising Star cave for fun stumbled onto the Homo naledi bones by accident, his fiancée told News24 on Thursday.

He and his friend had the sense to take photographs, and then decided to head to paleoanthropologist Professor Lee Berger's house to show him the pictures.

"I am a chartered accountant, and my fiancée Steven [Tucker] is also a chartered accountant. But he works with Wits now," Irene Kruger, a member of the Rising Star expedition, told News24.

"He is the first person who laid eyes on the fossils. It was him and Rick [Stevens]. This was in September 2013.

"The point wasn't to discover fossils, they just went to do caving, and they found this chute."

She said the pair took photos and went to see Berger.

"At first he [Berger] was like, 'Oh my word what are they doing at my house'. And then when they showed him the pictures he said: 'I think I'm going to get you guys a beer'."

'If you freak out you are going to get stuck'

Kruger is one of the few people, aside from the six-woman team chosen by Berger, to actually make it down the 12-metre long, 18-centimetre wide hole into the chamber where the fossils of Homo naledi were found.

"I was part of the expedition and I did have the opportunity to go down into the chamber once," she said.

"That [chute] is one of those spaces that you go down and you need to breathe and remain calm. If you freak out you are going to get stuck."

To get down the chute you had to go feet first, and feel your way down.

"There's no real technique, it's more of a 'let's feel where we can go'. When you look down in the chute, you can clearly sort of see a pathway of where to go."

Kruger said the discovery was amazing.

"We have been waiting for it [the announcement of the discovery] for two years now. Finally we can talk about it. "

The discovery was announced at the Cradle of Humankind on Thursday morning.

Read more on:    lee berger  |  johannesburg  |  homo naledi  |  palaeontology

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