KRUGERSDORP, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 26 (SOUTH AFRICA OUT): Professor Lee Berger at the cave entrance on November 26, 2013, in Krugersdorp, South Africa. The skeleton of an ancient hominid was found in a small cave near the Cradle of Humankind in September 2013. An international team of archaeologists, palaeontologists and cavers - all able to fit through the 20cm opening that leads to the discovery, have been excavating the site since November 6, 2013. The National Geographic film crew are present to document the progress of the Rising Star Expedition. (Photo by Herman Verwey/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
At 50, Lee Berger might as well be in the paleoanthropological Hall of Fame: He’s discovered two ancestral humans—Australopithecus sediba and homo naledi—in addition to numerous other significant findings. He gives hundreds of lectures a year, and makes numerous appearances on National Geographic programs. It’s an unusual level of fame for a paleoanthropologist—one that has made Berger the target of critics, some of whom seek to discredit his findings.
One of Berger’s earliest discoveries—that of dwarf-like fossils in Palau in 2006—was widely disputed. And with each new discovery, more critics seem to come out of the woodwork, many saying he’s overstated the significance of his findings. The New Yorker‘s Paige Williams, who profiled Berger for the magazine, notes that “[The] field [is] split, largely between those who consider Berger a visionary for sharing data and those who consider him a hype artist.”
Is this genuine criticism or jealousy? (Paleoanthropology has been described as “a swamp of ego, paranoia, possessiveness, and intellectual mercantilism.”) To find out more, read the full story here. See images of Berger’s findings below.