Discovery Rewarded Man Who Found Ancient Footprints Wins $100,000

An American scientist who discovered 117,000-year-old footprints on a fossilized sandbar in South Africa will receive the first National Geographic Society exploration and research award, the society said Thursday.

Lee R. Berger, 31, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, will receive a $100,000 tax-free, no-strings payment, the society said.

The National Geographic Society said Berger’s discovery is being honored because the rock-embedded footprints, the oldest known of an anatomically modern human, represent an important link in the uncovering of the human past.

Berger announced his findings at a National Geographic Society news conference earlier this year.

The National Geographic also announced that three other scientists will share a new $50,000 “Chairman’s Award.”

They are:

Ann Marie Cyphers of the National Autonomous University of Mexico for archaeological excavations of ancient Olmec sites at San Lorenzo, Veracruz, Mexico.

Cheryl Knott, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University, who is studying the reproductive ecology of orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo.

Tim Laman, a Harvard biologist, who is researching plants and animals in the Borneo rain forest canopy.

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