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March 1, 2013 thru June 29, 2013

Australopithecus sediba, a sensational new fossil find from South Africa was amongst the last of the Australopithecines, a group of hominids. The species appears to have died out around two million years ago, but its anatomy approximates that of the earliest humans, the genus Homo. Anthropologists hypothesize that as sediba died, so Homo was born.


Australopithecine is an exhibit featuring two casts of fossilized specimens of the controversial Australopithecus sediba, a human-like primate with an estimated brain capacity of a third of that found in anatomically modern humans (also known as Homo sapiens sapiens).


The nearly 2-million-year-old specimens, one a child and the other an adult, are the center of ongoing debates in the scientific community because of the possibility of them being an evolutionary bridge to the genus Homo in the hominid family. Opportunities to examine the differences between humans today and A. sediba in terms of brain size, diet, and other aspects of life will be explored in the exhibit. It will also walk visitors through the possible cause of the deaths of the individuals, their relationship to each other, and the challenge of preserving the original fossils for the future.


Discovered in 2008 in South Africa, the fossils arguably offer a new set of possible implications in the study of evolution and could shed light on how early humans migrated from Africa to other continents.


On exhibit in the Virginia Museum of Natural History Lobby beginning March 1, the exhibit features fossil casts on loan from the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, Washington, D.C. The VMNH Lobby is free and open to the public, as is the Museum Store and PALEO Café.