Mysterious New Species of Human Discovered in Africa –“Homo naledi Raises Questions About How Humans Evolved” (WATCH Today’s “Galaxy” Stream)




When fossil hunters unveiled the remains of a mysterious and archaic new species of human in 2015 between 335,000 and 236,000 years old, making them far younger than many scientists had anticipated. If the dating is accurate, Homo naledi may have emerged about two million years ago but retained some of its more ancient features even as modern humans evolved.

The age of the bones, and their discovery in the Rising Star cave system on the edge of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site near Johannesburg, has led Lee Berger, the lead scientist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to speculate that some ancient stone tools found in the region might have wrongly been attributed to Homo sapiens when they might actually be the work of Homo naledi, he said.


Since the fossils were first found deep inside a cave in South Africa the remnants of at least 18 Homo naledi, as the species is named have been unearthed. The most recent haul of bones, found in a cave chamber 100 metres from the first, includes a nearly complete adult “Neo” skull (which means “gift” in the local Sesotho language) shown below (John Hawks/Wits University).



“It means that this species of primitive hominid was actually around at the same time as Homo sapiens,” said Lee Berger, the lead scientist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “They are the healthiest dead things you’ll ever see.”




The Guardian reports that Homo naledi stood about 150cm tall fully grown and weighed about 45kg. But it is extraordinary for its mixture of ancient and modern features with a small brain and curved fingers that are well-adapted for climbing, but the wrists, hands, legs and feet are more like those found on Neanderthals or modern humans.

“I think the discovery of this second chamber adds to the idea that Homo naledi deliberately disposed of its dead in the deep underground chambers in the Rising Star cave system,” he said. “I can’t see any other way, other than them going into these remote chambers themselves and bringing bodies in.” To do that, he suspects, they were also able to control fire.

The Daily Galaxy via Scientific American and The Guardian 


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