Exploring ORIGINS at the Perot Museum

Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind exhibition at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Sitting in the Hoglund Foundation Theater at the Perot Museum yesterday, I listened as Professor Lee Berger explained that the discovery of Australopithceus sediba began with his then 9-year old’s comment:

“Dad, I found a fossil.”

That moment would eventually lead to this moment at Perot Museum of Nature and Science. They, in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) and the National Geographic Society, have brought the 1.97 million year old specimen to Dallas for a Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind.

Speaking a museum membership holder, I can’t wait to bring my family back to explore this exhibition!

Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind

The exhibition, which runs October 19, 2019 through March 22, 2020, feature the fossils of two recently discovered ancient human relatives, Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi.

skull of Au Sediba from Origins exhibition

Origins will mark the first (and likely only) time these fossils will be on display in the U.S.. It is also the first time that ancient hominin fossils have been transported for public display in North America since “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) toured the US between 2007 and 2013.

The Origins exhibition will tell the stories of these amazing discoveries, from Professor Lee Berger’s young son coming upon the first specimen of Au. sedibato the breathtaking journey of six female scientists – dubbed the “underground astronauts” – who excavated the bones of H. naledi from a deep and dangerously narrow cave complex in the Rising Star Cave System near Johannesburg, South Africa.

naledi hominid fossils in the Origins: fossils from the cradle of humankind exhibition at the Perot museum.

One remarkable fact about this particular exhibition? The actual fossils – not casts or replicas – are on display.

The exhibition showcases the wealth of the discovery, and how it will generate research opportunities for many years to come. A scan of this block pulled from the cave system contains a wealth of fossils yet to be uncovered.

fossils requiring further excavation in the Origins exhibition at the Perot Museum

In the exhibit, you’ll find a glass-encased visiting scholar lab. This lab will allow scientific researchers access to fossils they might not otherwise have an opportunity to study. It was fascinating to watch their research in real-time. 

National Geographic photos of the South African caves, located in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site, are on display. You’ll also find videoes which further inform and enhance the experience.

video screens from the exhibition at the Perot Museum

Could You Be An Underground Astronaut?

You’ll even have the chance to try to squeeze through “The Chute” yourself! This crevice the scientists had to pass through is only seven inches wide at its narrowest point.

Random fact: I am far more than seven inches wide. (This reminded me of attempts to go through Fat Man Squeeze in Giant City State Park back when I was a much thinner college student. This was much tighter than that!) It was fun to try, but I can’t fathom crawling through the real thing.

But I digress.

I was grateful to have the opportunity to talk to Dr. Marina Elliott, an Exploration Science Researcher from The University of the Witwaterstrand. She was one of the scientists who spent 21 days excavating in the Dinaledi Chamber. She noted that it takes more than just being petite to access the caves! It takes a certain mindset as well to squeeze into the tight spaces and remain underground for hours.

Image of a simulation of "the Chute" at the Perot Museum's Origins exhibition

Origins” Will Take You On A Fossil Dig

The exhibition will also feature a simulated excavation site. It will provide a hands-on experience using the same ground-penetrating technology that paleoanthropologists and archaeologists use for fossil exploration.

dig like a paleoanthropologist at the Origins excavation at the Perot Museum

I was completely blown away by this special exhibition. If you are at all curious about where we came from, about who we are, please make time to visit the Perot Museum and Origins: Fossils From The Cradle of Humankind.

Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind will be a historic opportunity to explore our shared human history by coming face-to-face with the actual fossils of our ancient ancestors. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is proud to be part of the discovery story that is shaping our understanding of the roots of humanity.”

Dr. Linda Silver, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer of the Perot Museum

Origins: Fossils From The Cradle of Humankind opened October 19, 2019 and will run through March 22, 2020. This is likely the only time these fossils will be seen in North America!

Tip: Tickets to Origins are timed entry and visitors are encouraged to purchase advanced tickets at origins.perotmuseum.org

The Perot Museum is located at 2201 N. Field Street in Dallas, Texas. Museum general admission is free for members. For ticket information, parking maps and other details visit perotmuseum.org or call 214- 428-5555.

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