A whole new perspective

DINALEDI CHAMBER VR EXPERIENCE

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VR Experience

Experience the South African cave where a team led by internationally acclaimed paleoanthropologist professor Lee Berger discovered Homo naledi, a new species of ancient human relative. #DinalediVR brings the Virtual Reality Dinaledi Experience beyond the walls of the Perot Museum and features six scientists describing the cave in their native languages.

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VR Experience
360 Degrees of Wonder
The landscape around the Rising Star Cave System.

An App that will change the way you explore science!

Scientists went on an incredible expedition deep into the cave system to recover more than 1,500 fossil bones belonging to at least 15 individuals - exceeding any other human ancestor site in Africa. VIEW APP INSTRUCTIONS

An In-Museum Experience you don't want to miss

Developed by the Perot Museum in collaboration with the UNIVERSITY OF WITWATERSRAND (South Africa) and GROOVE JONES, the Virtual Reality Dinaledi Experience is a key exhibit within the Museum's Being Human Hall.

Download on the App Store. Get It On Google Play.

We Suggest Using Google Cardboard

DinalediVR is designed for Google Cardboard. You can make your own Cardboard Viewer from a box, some Velcro, and a soda bottle!

VIEW INSTRUCTIONS

 

To get Cardboard viewers for your classroom, CONTACT US or order from Google.

 

The Scientists Involved
Explorer-in-Residence with National Geographic

Lee Berger

University of the Witwatersrand

Lee Berger is an American-born South African paleoanthropologist and Explorer-in-Residence with National Geographic.

Graduate Student

Nompumelelo Hlophe

Georgia Southern University

Nompumelelo Hlophe is currently doing a Masters in Anthropology at Georgia Southern University, USA. She worked as an exploration technician and caver for the Dinaledi project. Mpume narrates the DinalediVR Experience in IsiZulu.

Director and Research Scientist

Becca Peixotto

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Becca Peixotto is Director and Research Scientist of the Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey. She was on the original team of excavators to unearth Homo naledi.

Exploration Technician

Mathabela Tsikoane

University of the Witswatersrand

Mathabela Tsikoane is an exploration technician as well as photographer for Wits University. He has been part of this team for 3 years now. Mathabela narrates the DinalediVR Experience in Sesotho.

Exploration Technician

Steven Tucker

University of the Witswatersrand

Steven Tucker is a Chartered Accountant who gave up his office life after he and Rick Hunter discovered the first Homo naledi fossils in the Rising Star Cave System. Steven provided Afrikaans materials for the DinalediVR Experience.

Exploration Technician

Maropeng Ramalepa

University of the Witswatersrand

Prior to joining the exploration team, Maropeng Ramalepa was a tourist guide at Sterkfontien Caves and Maropeng Visitor Centre within the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Maropeng narrates the DinalediVR Experience in Setswana.

PhD Student

Miguel Ochoa

University of Washington

Miguel Ochoa is a Biological Anthropology PhD Student at the University of Washington interested in paleoanthropology. He is interested in studying the genus Homo, especially Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Miguel narrates the DinalediVR Experience in Spanish.

Researcher

Daniel Garcia Martinez

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales

Daniel Garcia Martinez is a Spanish Paleoanthropologist focused on the evolution of the human ribcage. His expertise is based on the use of modern tehcniques such as Virtual Anthropology and 3D geometric morphometrics, tools that he uses in order to infer the ribcage morphology of extinct species such as Neanderthals or Homo naledi. Daniel narrates the DinalediVR experience in Spanish (EU).

Researcher and National Geographic Explorer

Marina Elliott

University of the Witwatersrand

Marina Elliott is a Canadian biological anthropologist, now a researcher at Wits, working full-time with the Homo naledi material. She was also one of the original excavators of the Homo naledi material and leads the field operations for the Rising Star Cave.

FAQs (English)

  1. Where does #DinalediVR take me?

    #DinalediVR is set in the Dinaledi Chamber, a room in the Rising Star Cave system outside Johannesburg, South Africa. Dinaledi Chamber is about 32 hours on a plane, 2 hours in a car, and 30 minutes of crawling and climbing through the cave from Dallas.

  2. What will I see?

    In #DinalediVR you will sit on a rock next to the main excavation area in the Dinaledi Chamber. In front of you, you’ll see the excavation unit (square-ish hole in the floor), and some fossils. If you look up, you’ll see a bat and the beautiful stalactites hanging from the ceiling. All around you, you’ll see the walls of the cave and the entrances to the tiny passages leading out of the Chamber.

  3. What does Dinaledi mean?

    Dinaledi means "stars" (so Chamber of the Stars) in the seSotho language, one of the official languages spoken in that part of South Africa where the cave is located. It refers to the name of the cave system, the Rising Star cave.

  4. What is so special about this cave?

    In 2013, cavers found the remains (bones/fossils) of a previously unknown ancient human relative, Homo naledi, in Rising Star Cave. With nearly 2000 specimens recovered (and more to come!) from at least 15 individuals, Rising Star Cave is the largest fossil hominin site discovered in Africa to date.

  5. Which fossils are in #DinalediVR?

    You’ll see a skull, a hand, a foot, and part of a mandible (lower jaw) of Homo naledi.

  6. Are the fossils all from the same individual?

    No. Scientists found bones from at least 15 individuals of all ages. In some cases, scientists have been able to determine which bones go to which individual, but in other cases, we don’t know yet.

  7. Was the skull really just sitting there?

    Alas, no. Scientists found several broken pieces of skulls and were able to put them together like a puzzle for this reconstruction.

  8. Are the bones in #DinalediVR in the spots where they were found in real life?

    Sort of. They were all in the excavation unit but not exactly where they appear in the VR. We had to move them around a little to make them easier to pick up.

  9. How accurate is this virtual cave compared to the real one?

    The VR was created from laser scans of the cave, 3D images, and regular digital images. According to people who have been to Dinaledi Chamber in real life, #DinalediVR looks almost exactly like physical Dinaledi but the lighting is better and it’s easier to get to.

  10. Audio Transcript

    [Dinaledi Chamber 30 Meters Underground]

    [Becca Peixotto, Perot Museum]

    Here we are in the Dinaledi Chamber. We have just a few minutes to explore before we need to return to the surface. Unfortunately, you didn’t get to crawl, climb, and squirm your way through the dark cave to get here. That’s one of the fun parts. Behind us is the narrow passage we just came through to get here from the Hill Antechamber and, though you can’t see it from here, we had to squeeze down that nasty 12m high fissure called the Chute just to get to the Antechamber. The first time we scientists came to this spot in Dinaledi, all we could see were flashes of white on the dark brown sediments which were bits of bone scattered all across the floor. If you look around you may see more.

    [Excavation Unit 1500 Fossil Specimens]

    Our first job was to mark each bone with a flag so we could collect them later. Look, there’s one of the original orange flags. If you find any new bones you can mark them with a flag with your controller. We were really interested in the area under the overhanging rock. The excavation unit- this square hole under the overhanging rock- doesn’t look like much today. But back in 2013, it was filled with sediment and bone. We could just see part of a skull peeking up from below the surface. We collected about 1,500 fossils from this tiny area: the space was dense with bone! It was like playing pick up sticks underground except we had to do it on our hands and knees and work around each other- sometimes 3 of excavating this tiny unit at a time. A little like playing science yoga-twister for 5-7 hours a day. Can you imagine?

    [Cave Passages Leading Into Other Chambers]

    This entire cave system is really beautiful. Dinaledi has a tall cathedral like ceiling with stalactites hanging down. And, if you look past the overhanging rock and the excavation unit, you can see the start of more passages leading into other chambers. We’ve been exploring back there and in other parts of the Rising Star Cave too….

    ((headlamp flickers))

    Woah! It looks like we are just about out of time. We should go back to the surface now.

    ((bat flies by))

    ((Screen goes black))

     

  11. Transcripción de audio- ESP

    [ ] indicates what appears on screen

    ((Fly from outer space to earth to Cave))

    [Cámara de Dinaledi, 30 metros bajo tierra]

    [Daniel García-Martínez, Investigador postdoctoral, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales]

    Estamos aquí, en la cámara de Dinaledi. Solo tenemos unos minutos para explorar la cavidad antes de tener que volver a la superficie. Desafortunadamente, no habéis tenido que arrastraros y retorceros a través de la oscura cueva para llegar hasta aquí. ¡Esa es una de las partes más divertidas! Detrás de nosotros está el pasaje estrecho que atravesamos para llegar aquí desde el Hill Antechamber, y aunque no lo podáis ver, nosotros tuvimos que apretarnos para bajar de una abertura muy desagradable que está a 12m de altura. Esta abertura se llama “The chute”, que vendría a ser algo así como el tobogán o el conducto. La primera vez que los científicos vinimos a este sitio de Dinaledi, lo único que podíamos ver eran zonas blancas entre los sedimentos oscuros. Lo blanco eran pedacitos de hueso que estaban dispersos por todo el suelo. ¡Si miráis a vuestro alrededor, puede que encontréis más!

    [1500 especímenes fósiles excavados]

    Nuestro primer trabajo fue marcar cada hueso con una banderita para poder recogerlos más tarde. ¡Mirad! ¡Allí esta una de nuestras banderas naranjas originales! Si encontráis nuevos huesos, podéis marcarlos con una bandera usando vuestro controlador. Nosotros estábamos muy interesados en el área debajo de la roca colgante. Este área de excavación, que ahora es un cuadrado debajo de la roca, no parece muy interesante, pero en 2013 estaba lleno de sedimento y huesos. Podíamos ver parte de un cráneo que asomaba un poquito debajo de la superficie. Nosotros recogimos cerca de 1500 fósiles en este pequeño área: ¡El espacio estaba realmente lleno de huesos! Para nosotros, eso era como el juego de recoger palillos, solo que teníamos que hacerlo apoyados sobre manos y rodillas, y a veces incluso estando tres personas al mismo tiempo en esa cámara tan pequeña. ¿Os lo podríais imaginar?

    [Pasajes que conducen a otras cámaras]

    Todo el sistema de cuevas es realmente maravilloso. Dinaledi tiene un techo alto estilo catedral, con estalactitas colgando. Si miráis más allá de la roca colgante y de la unidad de excavación, podéis ver el comienzo de más pasajes que conducen a otras cámaras. Hemos estado explorando allí y en otras partes de la cueva Rising Star también...

    ((La lámpara de cabeza parpadea))

    ¡Woah! Parece que ya se nos acaba el tiempo, deberíamos regresar a la superficie.

    ((Murciélago pasa volando))

    ((La pantalla se oscurece))

  12. Transcripción de audio- MX

    [ ] indicates what appears on screen

    ((Fly from outer space to earth to Cave))

    [Cámara de Dinaledi, 30 metros bajo tierra]

    [Miguel Ochoa, Estudiante de postgrado, Universidad de Washington]

    Estamos aquí, en la cámara de Dinaledi. Solo tenemos unos minutos para explorar antes de tener que volver a la superficie. Desafortunadamente, no tuvieron que arrastrarse, subirse, y retorcerse su camino a través de la cueva oscura para llegar aquí. ¡Esa es una de las partes más divertidas! Detrás de nosotros está el pasaje estrecho que atravesamos para llegar aquí desde el Hill Antechamber, y aunque no lo puedan ver desde aquí, tuvimos que apretarnos para bajar por una abertura desagradable que está a 12m de altura llamada el Chute, o el conducto. La primera vez que los científicos vinimos a este sitio en Dinaledi, lo único que podíamos ver eran manchas blancas entre los sedimentos oscuros. Lo blanco eran pedacitos de hueso que estaban dispersos por todo el piso. ¡Si miran alrededor, puede que ustedes encuentren más!

    [1500 especímenes fósiles excavados]

    Nuestro primer trabajo fue marcar cada hueso con una banderita para poder recogerlos más tarde. ¡Miren! ¡Allí esta una de nuestras banderas anaranjadas originales! Si encuentran nuevos huesos, pueden marcarlos con una bandera usando su controlador. Estábamos muy interesados en el área debajo de la roca colgante. Esta área de excavación, este hoyo cuadrado debajo de la roca, no se mira muy interesante ahora, pero en el 2013 estaba lleno de sedimento y huesos. Podíamos ver parte de un cráneo que se asomaba un poquito debajo de la superficie. Colectamos cerca de 1500 fósiles de esta pequeña área: ¡El espacio estaba lleno de huesos! Teníamos que estar sobre nuestras manos y rodillas, a veces hasta tres de nosotros, para poder excavar esta unidad. ¿Pueden imaginar?

    [Pasajes que conducen a otras cámaras]

    Todo el sistema de cuevas es realmente hermoso. Dinaledi tiene un techo alto estilo catedral con estalactitas colgando. Si miran más allá de la roca colgante y de la unidad de excavación, pueden ver el comienzo de más pasajes que conducen a otras cámaras. Hemos estado explorando allí y en otras partes de la cueva Rising Star también ...

    ((la lámpara de cabeza parpadea))

    ¡Woah! Parece que ya se nos acabó el tiempo, deberíamos regresar a la superficie.

    ((murciélago pasa volando))

    ((la pantalla se oscurece))

Lesson Plans that compliment your curriculum

Educators: we’d love to see how you are using #DinalediVR in your classrooms. Tweet us at @PEROTMUSEUMCEHJ. We also invite you to share your Lesson Plans with us!

SUBMIT YOUR LESSON PLAN

Exploring Excavations in the Classroom and the Cave (A Dirt-Free Adventure)

Grades: 3-5

Students are introduced to the concepts of archaeological fieldwork by examining artifacts left in their classroom by a mystery population. Students use evidence to learn about the people and what their lives were like. Then, students take a virtual trip to the Rising Star Cave to visit the excavations there and find fossils of a mysterious human relative, Homo naledi.

Download Lesson Plan

Submitted by:
Drew Montgomery, Science Communication and Outreach Fellow

Where Am I supposed to Dig?

Grades: 3-8

Students learn how archaeologists identify potential excavation areas and are introduced to the basic principles of archaeological fieldwork.

DOWNLOAD LESSON PLAN

DOWNLOAD SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

Submitted by:
Drew Montgomery, Science Communication and Outreach Fellow

Take a Deeper Look

Introducing 'Neo' – a Homo naledi skeleton

Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand talks about the latest discoveries in the Cradle of Humankind. WATCH THE VIDEO

Single largest fossil hominin find

Wits University announced the discovery of a new species of human relative, and named it Homo naledi in 2015.LEARN MORE

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Visit Being Human Hall

We are thrilled to reveal our first completely transformed exhibit hall since opening five years ago. With twice as many interactive displays, and innovative content and experiments, you'll be transported through the human journey as you explore the traits and abilities that are essential and unique to being human.

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