Where in the hell am I?

November 26, 2013

Expressing my love for The Rising Star Expedition

Filed under: archaeology — John @ 3:07 pm

The Rising Star Expedition is/was a hastily assembled project to investigate and recover ancient hominid fossils from a cave in South Africa. They just finished their last field day for this first season. I haven’t been following something happening in South Africa this closely since the 2010 World Cup! (Okay, confession, I followed World Cup a little more closely, mostly because it involved drinking while eating breakfast with friends and cheering for the USA…).

And yes, by the way, I did say “FOLLOW” this project! One of the most amazing elements of the Rising Star Expedition is that they’ve opened up the process to the public through blogs and Twitter and Youtube. The official blog (which i already linked above) is http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/blog/rising-star-expedition/ and the official Twitter feed is @RisingStarExped. Both are worth spending some time. But what is even better is that the project is letting (and seemingly encouraging) the scientists and cavers/excavators to guest blog and have their own Twitter accounts. So, we don’t just get an official perspective/summary of what is going on, but moment-to-moment insights and photos as well as many amazing glimpses of the lives and feelings of those involved. It’s basically my dream of what an archaeological project social media presence is, having this inclusive element and humanizing factor. A lot has also been made about how the 6-person excavation team are women (who I am extremely jealous of!), but that’s not something I feel qualified to comment on, other than ROCK ON!

I suspect a lot of that has to do with John Hawks, one of the preeminent science/paleoanthropology/genetics/evolution bloggers and tweeters (and also a guy who will share a pitcher of Pyramid Apricot Ale with you at the bar when no one else will give it a try). He has written and live-tweeted a lot about the project, as well as retweeting many of the others (it’s a lot to follow sometimes!). Lee Berger, the other lead scientist and National Geographic connection, also has been live-tweeting (note: follow the hashtag #risingstarexpedition to see most of the tweets by all those involved, as well as fans)

Obviously, they can’t share everything, and there’s still plenty that they don’t know. But it seems like much of this is going to be pretty Open Science, which is certainly rare in palaeoanthropology (and archaeology for that matter)! As has been said here before, and many times elsewhere, the field work is the least part of an excavation project. Over 1,000 fossils are now out of the cave and into the hands of the scientists who will make (and hopefully share) many new, amazing discoveries with the public!

So thanks to all involved with The Rising Star Expedition, science blogging and social media done right! You have a big fanboy here, and I will buy any/every one of you a drink (something better than Apricot Ale) if ever I meet you!

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