Homo naledi: The hands that are rewriting human history?

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Friday 7 September


The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Fossil hands of Homo naledi, and a facial reconstruction
    Credit: Berger et al. (2015) via eLifescience.org (L) , Cicero Moraes (Arc-Team) et alii, Wikimedia Commons (R).


Free for Ri Patrons

Standard £16

Concession £10

Ri Members £7

About the event

Meet Homo naledi - a newly discovered species of extinct hominin from the Rising Star cave system in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. What can the curvature of a finger bone tell us about this mysterious new ancestor, and what can this landmark discovery tell us about human evolution? 

Tracy Kivell and Chris Stringer will answer these questions and more as we discuss whether Homo naledi is rewriting human history. 

About the speakers

Tracy Kivell is a professor of palaeoanthropology at the University of Kent who studies the function and structure of the wrist and hand in living and fossil primates. Her research focuses on modern and fossil apes, including fossil hominins, to further our understanding of how hands may have been used for locomotion and tool use throughout our evolutionary history. Tracy aims to understand the relationship between the bone shape and function of the hand through analyses of development, internal (trabecular and cortical) bone structure, and the biomechanics of primate locomotion.

Tracy Kivell (University of Kent)

Tracy received her PhD from the University of Toronto, and was previously a Research Associate at Duke University and a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Having studied nearly 150 hand bones from the Rising Star cave system, Tracy is an expert on the hands of Homo naledi

Chris Stringer is Research Leader in Human Origins and professor of palaeoanthropology at the Natural History Museum. Chris's early research focused on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, but through his work on the Recent African Origin model for modern human origins, he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists, and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally.  

Chris has also held a Visiting Professorship in Archaeology at University College London since 2015, and a Visiting Professorship in Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, since 2005.

The discussion will be chaired by broadcaster and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota, whose documentaries have been featured by the BBC, Discovery Networks, Animal Planet and Channel 4.

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'Ri Patrons present' events explore the intersection of science, culture, innovation and society with leading thinkers and decision makers. These events are supported by Ri Patrons, a group of philanthropically motivated individuals that help to ensure that people of all backgrounds can build a lifelong interaction with science.

After this event, there will be a private drinks reception for patrons. 


The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm. There will be time for questions after the talk.

Following the talk, a private drinks reception for Ri Patrons will start at 8.30pm. 

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.

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