In South Africa, a group of researchers excavated the fossil remains of an unknown primate human race.
They found the creature in a cave known as Rising Star, 50 km northeast of Johannesburg, and also exhumed bones of 15 hominids. The primate discovered was named Homo naledi . Naledi means star and Homo is the genus to which modern humans belong.
“I am happy to present a new species of the human ancestor,” said Lee Berger, a researcher at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, at a news conference in Moropeng, where the Cradle of Humanity stands.
As peculiar as they were, the Homo naledi were loaded with plethora of strange characteristics. They are really a matter o f the past, covered by the sands of time. Here it is for you, ten facts about Homo Naledi that no one really had a clue of.
1 The Unusual Discovery
In 2013 and 2014, scientists found more than 1,550 bones belonging to at least 15 individuals, including infants, young adults and older people. The thing common was a homogeneous morphology and a family of new unknown species of the human kind. The London Natural History Museum called the discovery extraordinary.
2 Homo Naledi & Homo Sapiens: The Study Of Similarities
Chris Stinger, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, authored an article on the subject that accompanied the Berger study, published in the eLife journal.
In his view, a noticeable feature of Homo naledi was its similarity to Homo sapiens. Hands, fists and feet were very close to those of modern man. At the same time, brain and the shape of the upper part of body was closer to a pre-group human being called Australopithecus.
One of the main reasons for stardom is the unique mosaic of characteristics of the species, with features considered modern and archaic. Of modest stature (an adult would measure just under 1.50 m), Homo naledi could walk, run and manipulate objects as efficiently as a person of today.
In addition to the brain, only one-third the size of ours, the species had strongly curved toes like those of the great apes. The fingers, although long and curved, were also equipped with pads at the end, a typical trait of the present humans that facilitates the fine handling of objects, not found in the great apes.
The discovery allowed a better understanding of the transition millions of years ago, between the primitive Australopithecus and the primate of the homo genus, our direct ancestor.
3 Survival Of The Species
If more than 3 million years old, the species would have lived with the Australopithecines, previous to the homo genus. If it is more recent, less than 1 million years old, it is possible that it coexisted with the Neanderthals – closest cousins to Homo sapiens – or even modern humans.
National Geographic Society, USA, and the National Research Foundation of South Africa sponsored for further research by the discovery.
4 Identity Game With The Extinct Cousins
The paleoanthropologists in South Africa were taken aback when they discovered the fossils of Homo naledi, a new species of extinct cousin of the human being.
Now just imagine yourself standing face to face with someone identical, and hands, legs, and feet the same as everyone else on the street, but a tiny brain the size of a gorilla. The paleoanthropologists working on the project were equally amazed.
5 The Excavation Of Rising Star
The creature’s discovery was a triumph of studies on human evolution. There were bones of more than 15 individuals in a cave chamber known as the Rising Star, in the South African province of Gauteng. Both sexes and age groups were represented, which allowed scientists to study in detail how H. naledi lived and died.
6 Birth Of The Cradle Of Humanity
The fossils were found in a deep and difficult area of the cave in the archaeological area known as Cradle of Humanity, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because it is located in a sedimentary deposit where the geological layers mix in complex ways, scientists have not yet been able to date the discovered primate, which could have anything between 100,000 and 4 million years.
7 Publication Of The Study Of Fossils
The study describing the fossils was coordinated by Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In general, findings with this impact come out of the world’s top scientific journals, such as Science or Nature, but the group ended up publishing their work in a relatively modest open-access digital publication named eLife.
8 The Skepticism Enveloping Classification
There are doubts in the scientific community about the characteristics that justify the classification in this genre and for some scientists, it would be more logical to demote certain specimens to other genres. It is unclear where the new species fits into this confusing scenario, though Stringer, for example, sees similarities between it and certain smaller H. erectus specimens found in Georgia near Russia.
9 Failure Of Berger And Company
What does not help much, moreover, is the fact that Berger and company failed to date the fossils. If they are more than 2 million years old, they can become serious candidates for more primitive members of the genus Homo and direct ancestors of man. But they may also be more recent and in that case they could be seen as African survivors of an archaic phase of human evolution.
For now, it’s early to hit the hammer, although the general scenario indicates that our lineage has gone through several simultaneous evolutionary experiments without a simple progression from one form to another.
A mystery apart is the very concentration of so many hominid bodies in a single rocky chamber about 30 meters deep. During a US news conference, some of the study’s authors suggested that it was a ritual behavior, in other words, members of the species would have developed the habit of burying their fellows there.
10 Clueless To How To Fit In
The problem is in the fact that it is difficult not to be perplexed by the puzzles connected with this fossilized treasure. No one even has a clue as to how to fit the new species into the family album of the human species. The authors of the discovery failed to accurately date the fossils, another hindrance in understanding its evolutionary meaning.