News FocusProfile: Lee Berger

Paleoanthropologist Now Rides High on a New Fossil Tide

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Science  09 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6048, pp. 1373-1375
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6048.1373

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This week, Science publishes five papers by Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand and his colleagues, featuring details and analysis of the 2-million-year-old remains of Australopithecus sediba (see pp. 1370 and 1402). Berger hopes the fossils will confirm his controversial views about the role of southern Africa in hominin evolution and the place of Au. sediba as a link to our own genus, Homo. But he will have to work hard to convince the field that his team's interpretations are correct. His career has been dogged by controversy, and some of his peers find Berger, whose background includes a stint in TV news, heavy on style and light on substance. They say he has made exaggerated claims and serious errors. Yet even critics acknowledge that Berger's strength is his passion for paleoanthropology.