1.) The discovery that I think is the best would have have to be the skeletal remains found in the cave near Johannesburg. The fact that they not only found a missing link on the evolutionary scale between australopithecines and early humans, but found so many different specimens and individuals is rather astonishing.
2.) Specifically what was found were more than 1,500 specimens from at least 15 individuals of a previously unknown species which is being called Homo naledi. These skeletal remains were found by cavers who informed a paleoanthropologist from the local university named Lee Burger. He in turn was too large to enter the area in which the remains were found, so a team of “diminutive, non-claustrophobic” female scientists was put together.
3.) From the remains that were found, it has been determined that Homo naledi had a tiny brain (about the size of an orange), but an overall humanlike skull. Additionally, it had hands that were made for manipulating objects and feet made for walking upright. That being said, it still had shoulders and fingers built for climbing. This mix of features is a new discovery and was rather unexpected to be found. With this big find, it places Homo naledi as one of the earliest members of the genus Homo as it most likely existed 2.5 million years ago. But, and this is a big but, they have not been able to date the remains just yet. So any confirmation of how old these remains actually are has yet to be made.
I picked this as my #1 because I think that not only is it fascinating, but it also shows how much important information is still yet to be found. If this find does get its timeline confirmed, it will continue to validate theories such as evolution. This, in turn, will reinforce the important of fieldwork as who knows what other treasures are left to be discovered that will aid in scientific theory and discovery. This is why I found certain entries into this top 10 list more interesting than others. The other discovery that I debated about putting as my number 1 was the dating of the cave art in Indonesia. The question that was posed at the end about whether or not cave art in the East and West developed separately or descended from an ancestor in Africa is exactly what I was thinking while reading the first part of it. Questions like this open up entire new avenues for doing research and to me, that is what makes certain finds so important and exciting. The quest for knowledge is never-ending as long as people/scientists don’t stop looking!