DALLAS -- Digging up a groundbreaking discovery is what paleoanthropologists like Dr. Lee Berger dream about.
"I knew from the first photograph we had something special. The science of looking for human origins has been a science of scraps," Berger said ahead of a talk scheduled at the Perot Museum of Science and Nature.
The "scraps" Dr. Berger and his National Geographic crew found in South Africa turned out to be a previously unidentified species call Homo Naledi, a pre-human relative in our family tree.
"Homo Naledi pretty much bridges that last gap that we thought separated humankind from nature," Berger explained.
Yep, and to recover hundreds and hundreds of these fossilized bones, Dr. Berger had to enlist the help of a team of scientists, like Hannah Morris.
"They're calling us underground astronauts or primary investigators," Morris said.
The #1 requirement? Scientists had to be small enough to squeeze through spaces only 7-inches wide, with sharp, jagged rocks waiting for them at every turn.
"These six women and the cagers who were assisting them were risking their lives every time they entered the chamber," Berger said.
"You just work your way around those rocky bits and it was hard, but it was fun. And we knew there was something interesting on the other side," underground astronaut Marina Elliott said.
That "something interesting" is the largest discovery of human bones in Africa -- EVER -- and could help folks better understand the evolution of the human race.