Rare discoveries from the Cradle of Humankind are making their way to the international stage for the first time.

Two the country’s most celebrated sets of fossils are leaving South African soil for the first time for an exclusive exhibition at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in the United States.

Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi fossils are considered invaluable national treasures that help piece together the puzzle of human evolution.

The exhibition of these two collections of remains is the result of a collaboration between the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the Perot Museum.

Professor Lee Berger, a distinguished Wits University paleoanthropologist and head of the exhibition, says these fossils are an opportunity for Wits to showcase its extraordinary discoveries to the world.

“These fossils act as ambassadors for tourism and science in South Africa, and have the potential of bringing significant awareness about our country and its heritage to people in the Americas,” said Berger.

Perot Museum director and research scientist Dr Becca Peixotto, who has been excavating and researching these fossils with the Wits team since 2013 ssays the exhibition is an opportunity for a shared human story to touch other communities outside South Africa.

Peixotto said, “An exhibit like this offers a unique and special opportunity to show the South African story of exploration and discovery in the Cradle of Humankind and how the scientific process helps us make sense of our shared human origins to a new audience who may not be exposed to it in other venues,”

The benefit of seeing the fossils in the flesh as opposed to looking at reconstructive models or photographs is all part of the experience.

“The shared experience of seeing rare, authentic fossils can elicit a more profound sense of connection with the discoveries and the science, with our common human roots, and with each other,” said Peixotto.

“It is quite uncommon for hominin fossils to travel for display outside their country of origin and we have worked closely with Wits and SAHRA to secure permission for this temporary loan,” said Peixotto.

“We are extremely grateful to Wits, and the government and people of South Africa for this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I’m excited because the fossils are travelling to Dallas, they don’t have similar fossils and it’s something good for us and them,” said Bongani Nkosi, casting technician at the Evolutionary Studies Institute where these fossils are housed.

The Perot Museum will host the fossils in an exhibition called Origins: Fossils From the Cradle of Humankind that will begin in October for a limited run of five months.

FEATURED IMAGE: Casts of the Australopithecus sediba skull reconstructed at the Evolutionary Studies Institute. Photo: Busang Senne.