A reconstruction of Homo naledi’s head by paleoartist John Gurche, who spent some 700 hours recreating the head from bone scans. The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation and published in the journal eLife. Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic PERMITTED USE: These images may be downloaded or are otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for media/news coverage or promotion of the National Geographic Society’s H. naledi announcement and exclusively in conjunction thereof. Copying, distribution, archiving, sublicensing sale, or resale of the images are prohibited. DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving these images to pay a fee determined by the National Geographic Society. Mandatory usage requirements for National Geographic magazine photos 1-10: Please note: A maximum of 5 images total may be used online A maximum of 5 images total may be used on air A maximum of 3 images total may be used in print
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The next best thing to a time machine

A “man” stands naked in the centre of the studio. In the dim light cast from a lamp on a nearby table, you can see the threads of muscles running down his arms and cording up his legs.

But something is wrong: his chest does not expand with air, he does not shift his balance, and when a white-haired man with a scalpel moves toward him, he doesn’t flinch.

John Gurche, palaeoartist and creator of lifelike hominid reconstructions, says that sometimes when he is on his own at night, looking down at his notes detailing the science of what these long-dead creatures looked like, “you look up to find your creation looking at you. Rationally, you know that it is a thing of clay and plaster, but it feels like a living presence.

“It is like writing fiction: if you wish to fool others, you first have to fool yourself.”

 

To read more of this story, find the full article, which was first published in Mail & Guardian, here.

 

John Gurche was responsible for creating the face of Homo naledi, announce on 10 September by the Rising Star Expedition. This find (and face) will be the cover story of National Geographic in October 2015.

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