Archaeologists criticize the organizers of the flight of bones into space

A number of archaeologists and anthropologists have criticized the flight of fossilized bones of human ancestors into space aboard the Virgin Galactic shuttle. It was organized to honor the human aspiration to space. But now experts are talking about disrespect, misleading and inequality of researchers in access to these artifacts.

Bones of Australopithecus sediba, because of which archaeologists made a fuss. Source:

Bones flying into space

The campaign to send fossilized bones of human ancestors into space has been subjected to devastating criticism from many archaeologists and anthropologists. The suborbital flight of the fossils took place aboard the Unity shuttle belonging to Virgin Galactic. In this way, the organizers tried, in their own words, to honor the eternal aspiration of people to go into space.

However, not all scientists who are engaged in the study of the past of mankind approve of this event. At the same time, their criticism is mainly directed not so much at Virgin Galactic as at the direct organizers of the flight.

They were the outstanding anthropologists Lee Berger and his son Matthew. He is also the discoverer of the hominid Australopithecus sediba, whose bones flew into space. South African billionaire Timothy Nash, who took them into space in his pocket, was also criticized.

What are archaeologists worried about?

The full list of claims against Lee Berger and his entourage was summed up in a post on the X network by Alessio Veneziano. According to him, they can be divided into four groups.

  • lack of scientific justification for the flight
  • ethical problems related to the lack of proper respect for human ancestors
  • Berger’s access to fossils that other researchers don’t have
  • distortion of the practice of anthropology

The essence of the first point of the accusations is quite simple to understand. Berger Sr. received the bones from the museum, assuring everyone that he was taking them for scientific purposes. However, space flight simply has no value for research.

The second group of questions is related to the fact that the bones flying into space are not just fossils but belonged to the ancestors of humans. In this case, it is also impossible to take them out of the museum and send them on a risky journey according to modern legal and ethical standards. Apparently, Berger simply ignored most of the requirements, believing that the bones do not belong to people but to animals.

Did Berger have the right to dispose of the bones

The third and perhaps largest group of claims concerns the fact that Berger, along with all of the above, also indicated in the justification of the possibility of flight that bones are repeatedly described in articles. At the same time, he forgets to indicate that this concerns only himself.

The rest of the researchers still have almost no access to the fossils, and to the areas where they were found. In addition, anthropologists and archaeologists blame Berger for the fact that none of them could simply organize such an action.

The fact is that Timothy Nash is the son of a South African tycoon; he was one of the first to buy a ticket. At the same time, he has been a friend of the Berger family for many years. That is, the old archaeologist organized a PR campaign for himself using his personal connections.

With all of the above, paleoanthropological researchers associate the fact that the land where Berger found all the bones for many years belongs to him personally.  And he clearly aimed to turn it into an object of paleotourism. Hence, the rest of the scientists conclude that his act distorts paleoanthropological science and turns it into his personal business.

According to

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