Scientists slam decision to send SA fossils to space

Scientists slam decision to send SA fossils to space

Geologist Dr Robyn Pickering has echoed the sentiments of some archaeologists and scientists who have slammed the decision to send two fossils of ancient human relatives from South Africa into space on a Virgin Galactic space tourist trip.

The fossils, an Australopithecus Sediba clavicle about two-million years-old and a comparatively modern thumb bone of a 250-thousand-year-old Homo Naledi, were this month placed in a carbon fibre tube emblazoned with the South African flag.

The ancient bones were then taken aboard a spacecraft in the US state of New Mexico in the pocket of Timothy Nash, a South Africa-born billionaire who supports human origin research in Africa.

Pickering and her colleagues have called it an unethical publicity stunt.

“My initial response was just one of shock and disbelief but only briefly for a moment, because once I had recovered, I actually wasn’t that surprised because human evolution in South Africa has a long and pretty dark history of pretty questionable ethical practices. So, this kind of collection of bodies to collect data to prove that races were different, there’s been a lot of questionable stuff done many decades ago. Our field has this dark history.”


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